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Becoming a Learner - Page 11B
Return to Becoming a Learner CONTENTS  PAGE
Page 11B: The Learning Process - Memory (Knowledge) - CONTINUED
Part 2: The Adventure of Learning
Continued from previous two pages

Stages of Learning a Skill

There are four stages to learning a skill and in each of them memory works to a greater or lesser extent. They are as follows:

1. Unaware of Incompetence
- You don’t know what there is to be learnt, the very beginning.
- You don’t know what is to be learnt – nothing yet to memorise.
2. Aware of Incompetence
- You awareness grows of what is involved  - basic understanding of the skills needed – and you realise you haven’t got them – memory about to come into play.
- You now receive guidance and training and there has been much to learn (memorise) but it is not just all in the mind; it also involves doing things and you do them bearing in mind what you’ve been told. DOING is taking what is in your memory and putting it into action
- You do something and don’t do it very well and your instructor says, “Now you didn’t get that straight because you FORGOT what I told you about holding it upright.”
- Improving your technique means applying what you have been told but you do need to remember again and again what you’ve been told.
- This is often the most stressful stage when you are tempted to wonder whether you’ll ever manage it.
- At this stage you are struggling to remember all you’ve been told (in your memory) and to try to apply it.

3. Aware of Competence
- Gradually with much repetition – trying and trying again and again – you start achieving something.
- You are still thinking consciously about it, checking off your achievement with the instructions you’ve been given but, yes, you are achieving it.

4. Unaware of Competence
- Time passes and you are now doing it to a high level with no thought.
- Conscious Memory is no longer in play, you do it automatically.

Thus we find at different levels memory is being used in different ways.

At the first level – Unaware of Incompetence – we haven’t yet got anything to memorise.

At the second level – Aware of Incompetence – we struggle, thinking, “Now what was it he/she said? How did they say to go about it?”  We are struggling with our memory to recollect all they said and how to go about applying it.

At the third level – Aware of Competence – it has moved more from a struggle to a simple assessment and we use memory to check the quality of what we are now achieving.

At the fourth level – Unaware of Competence – we are no longer consciously using our memory; the actions have become second nature.  
And IS needed

As we come to the end of this section we need to emphasise that the successful person is the person who has worked at it. Yes, there are a number of techniques that you can employ to improve your memory (and memory IS a key part of the learning process) but unless you WORK at them you won’t be successful.

The brilliant piano player puts in hours of practise every day. The world class athlete similarly spends hours and hours every day training. Brilliant writers spend hours, days and months, struggling to create their next masterpiece. It is true of every area of endeavour.

Why do students, therefore, so often opt for second best and achieve less than they are capable of? Perhaps it is that in our younger years many of us are not good at self-awareness and therefore we don’t step out of our experience and view it from outside and see the possibilities. Learning at school or college is often seen as a necessary drudge to achieve qualifications to get us a job.

Think about your learning experience and see it as something to be enjoyed NOW. There are ways that we can make it easier and more enjoyable but they still involve work.

‘Work’, I seem to remember, always involves expending energy, but I always feel fitter and healthier after I’ve had a time in the Gym or in the Pool. Yes, energy was expended but it was worth it! Thus it is here in the learning sphere as well..

Yet there is one more thing. When you get it wrong, fail or make a mess of things - don;’t give up, start again and keep on going. If, in respect of memory, you struggle to hold on to things, keep at it. Many an actor has testified that learning a script was really hard going and they were tempted to give up when, suddenly, it all clicked. Inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Edison who we’ve quoted before, is known for his perseverance and struggles with failure until eventual success. He is reported to have said, “We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb”

Work on these things and may you find the reward that comes with achievement and success - even if you have to persevere and persevere!