Part of learning is knowing we don’t know. Psychology’s four stages of competence describe this process:
1. Unconscious Incompetence
Neither understanding or knowing how to do something, nor recognizing the deficit or a desire to address it.
2. Conscious Incompetence
Does not understand or know how to do something, recognizes the deficit, without yet addressing it
3. Conscious Competence
Able to demonstrate the skill or knowledge with consciousness concentration.
So well practiced the skill or knowledge becomes “second nature”. A person at this stage is able to teach others the skill.
Before students can progress an instructor must first lead the student towards a realistic estimate of their abilities. We tend to do a poor job of evaluating ourselves. The Dunning-Kruger effect describes the phenomena that those with little knowledge or skill tend to overestimate their skills or knowledge. Those with more knowledge or skill actually tend to underestimate their capabilities.
Training Scouts to lead is a progression through these stages.
Progressing from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence is a very big step in the process, and often the most problematic. Often those who are unconsciously incompetent will first place themselves at the level of conscious competence.
I am reminded of two stanzas from the poem “Chase them Away!” by Tibetan Buddhist master Patrul Rinpoche:
When first I heard instructions,
I had the feeling of wanting to turn them immediately into action
Like a hungry person pouncing on food:
That’s what is meant by making an experience of it.
When later I heard instructions,
I had the feeling of great uncertainty
Like words spoken far away:
That’s what is meant by not having got rid of notions.
An instructor must first bring a pupil to this state of uncertainty and then help him progress towards competence.