The conscious competence model is one that many technology/ICT trainers are aware of. As they facilitate ICT integration by working with the teachers and model practice in the classroom in our schools they to see the full range of competencies in staff and students.
This model is based on two factors, consciousness and competence. Competence refers to the mastery of a skill and consciousness refers to the naturalness or perhaps ease by which the action or operations of the skill are performed. An example many of us have seen of the unconscious competent is the ease with which our student compose text messages with out looking at their mobile phone, a skill complicated by the use of predictive texting.
competence vs conscious
competence vs conscious

Unconscious Incompetence

competence vs conscious stages 1
competence vs conscious stages 1
This is the first stage of the process, unconscious incompetence. Literally they don’t know what they don’t know. The rapid emergence of Web 2.0 has highlighted this. There are so many emerging technologies and tools available, with so many applications in teaching and learning, but for some they are not even aware that these exist, let alone how to use them.
In some cases this is a comfortable space, since they have no awareness of these facilities they are also unaware of their skill deficiencies.

Conscious Incompetence

The second stage of the process, conscious incompetence, is often an uncomfortable one.
competence vs conscious stages 2
competence vs conscious stages 2
The learner becomes aware not only of the emerging technologies but also of their own lack of skill. This is challenging time and when presented with the new process, technique, skill or tool. The learner, recognises the need to develop the skill, and begins to develop their pathway towards acquiring it. How many teachers are now in this category with Information and communications technology? Particularly when they see the ease with which many students acquire the skills or use the tools. While acquisition of a skill maybe easier for a digital child or native, they often lack the vision of how to apply and use it to benefit their learning and development. Teachers, may not have the fluency of a native, but are much better equipped, even at this stage, to see how this technology, skill or process could be adapted to enhance learning. Moving from this stage to conscious competence is the goal of most Professional Learning programmes.

Conscious Competence - Literacy

competence vs conscious stages 3
competence vs conscious stages 3
Conscious Competence is the goal of most professional learning programmes. Here the learner has developed a degree of understanding or mastery of the process, tool or technology. The learner at this point feels achievement, they can perform the task with out assistance, but it does require thought.
This level of development is LITERACY. The best analogy for literacy is the person who can converse in a second language with some degree of flow, but to do this they must consider and construct each phrase, sentence and paragraph. They do this competently, with few errors but it requires active engagement

Unconscious Competence - Fluency

For the most part this is where training ends. The movement to unconscious competence is
competence vs conscious stages 4
competence vs conscious stages 4
best facilitated by practice and repetition or by teaching the skill to others. Schools are limited in the amount of time they can invest in training individuals and the movement to automatic or second nature mastery is beyond the scope of most.

However, having skill sets that are applied universally, in a cross curricula mode will support the learners in their transition from being literate to fluent.

Many trainers often have achieved this point where the skill, technique or use is second nature to them or so ingrained that it is automatic. This is unconscious competence. Without consciously thinking about the process or task they can perform it. Often while performing other tasks. A classic example is touch typing. A current example would be the text messaging student who is watching television (or a video on an ipod) and talking while texting.
There is a caveat here, as the technique, process or skill becomes embedded the trainer may struggle to teach it. Often we take for granted the most basic aspects of the process and can “blind our learners with science” as we effortlessly perform the task. The best trainers are aware of the different stages of learning and take this into account, simplifying the actions and slowing down the processes. This process of teaching, with awareness of components, also reinforces their own skills.

Unconscious Competency is the goal of the 21st Century Fluency project. This project attempts to develop a range of fluencies that become second nature to the learner. These are life long skills and are applicable across the curriculum and beyond. The Fluencies are:
  • Solution Fluency
  • Inforamtion Fluency
  • Media Fluency
  • Collaboration fluency
  • Creativity Fluency
  • Global Digital Citizenship


competence vs conscious 2
competence vs conscious 2

The process of learning is one we as teachers and as technology/ICT trainers and facilitators are aware of. Often the process ends with our learners being able to perform the task without supervision or assistance (conscious competence). We do need to be aware that often our learners have no (unconscious incompetence) or limited (conscious incompetence) awareness and that this stage is uncomfortable, and there may be resistance. The final stage of embedding the skill (unconscious competence) requires practice either by repetition or by teaching the process. Teachers, trainers and facilitators who have achieved this level of mastery need to be aware that the skills that are so easy for them are often far beyond the capacity of the newest learners, and they need to break down the process into simple steps and stages.
The best user or performer may not be the best trainer.
The best trainer is the best communicator who can adapt the process they have a degree of competence in, to a variety of skills and ability levels and learning styles.