Stages of Learning:

Training and development will likely always be a controversial topic:

  • What methods are the most effective?
  • What is the ROI? Can we prove it?
  • How do we ensure the quality of training?
  • How do we motivate people to want to learn?
  • Are we investing in the right people? Will those people be around long enough to provide an ROI to the business?
  • Can we afford it? Does our budget allow it?
  • Do we rely on internal or external sources?
  • How much is enough?


My intention is not to provide answers to these questions. Instead, I only offer another variable to provoke your thinking and consider how to grow the competence of others through leadership, coaching, collaboration, and involvement.

A few thoughts to consider prior to a look at the information provided in the table below:

  • Understand the various stages of growth and determine what level of competency is really needed.
  • Everyone doesn’t have to acquire the same level of proficiency in every task. Suggest this be a conscious decision vs. an automatic assumption. What’s required… basic/fundamental or mastery?
  • What is the coaching style best suited for growing the capability of others at each stage?
  • How would you describe the behavior of the learner at the various stages?


World Class… Integration
Ability to identify improvements in the current task and apply the skill set to other systems, processes, and practices beyond the initial application.

Mastery… Unconscious competence
The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending on how and when it was learned.

Journeyman… Conscious competence
The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.

Apprentice… Conscious incompetence
Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, they recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.[5]

Novice… Unconscious incompetence
The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage.[3] The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.[4]


  • Martin M. Broadwell first articulated the model in his “four stages of teaching” in February 1969. Later described as “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill”, the theory was developed at Gordon Training International by its employee Noel Burch in the 1970s. It has since been frequently attributed to Abraham Maslow, although the model does not appear in his major works.
  • I have integrated information from multiple sources to offer the 5 Stages of Learning. I believe they more completely represent the learning journey while acknowledging the original contributors for the initial concept and labels.

Call to Action!

  • What can you do to take advantage of this information right now (without any assistance?
  • Please contact me with additional questions, discussions, considerations. The KLM Group is eager to assist you with your Learning and Business Performance needs.