Levels of "Knowing"

In popular learning theories, there appears to be 4 levels of knowing:

  1. I do not know that I do not know      (Unconscious Incompetence)
  2. I know that I do not know                 (Conscious Incompetence)
  3. I know that I know                             (Conscious Competence)
  4. I do not know that I know                 (Unconscious Competence)

An example of level 1: A child who has never seen a bicycle before and so does not even know that he/she does not even know how to ride a bicycle.

Example of level 2: The child sees another child riding a bicycle, is having fun and realizes that he/she wants to learn to ride a bicycle.

Example of level 3: The early stages where the child is learning how to ride a bicycle, where every execution of the experiential learning is a conscious effort; step the peddle down with the right feet, lift up the left feet, look forward, breath calmly … when stopping, stop peddling while squeezing the brakes etc

Example of level 4: After having a go at the bicycle for a few days or weeks, the child rides the bicycles with noticeably less effort. Maneuvering seems to happen unconsciously and in a very coordinated manner, all required actions occur in sync with one another without any apparent thinking going on. This level of knowing occurs much deeper within the child, uses the whole brain learning theory and has a longer retention span – what is learnt is not lost as quickly.

All of us go through these 4 levels of knowing/learning whenever we try to master something. We may take a little longer at 1 level over another depending on many factors such as our predisposition to certain skills, the topic to be learned , our interest in that topic/subject etc

The most obvious example for me during the program was trying to master the headstand. Although it seems that I got the hang of it early in the course, it took a lot of effort just to stay up – a frustrating example of a level 3 type of knowing. Finding that ‘sweet spot’ in the headstand where effort becomes effortless seem so elusive until the day before the test. Everything fell into place.

Everything seems to start off as a science: we test, we prod, we experiment, we reflect to see if it is worth continuing …

Eventually, it seems that with some discipline all of science eventually becomes an art form. Execution done gracefully, fluidly and I had hope, effortlessly.

In the end, I think achieving a level 4 type of knowing really depends on how deeply we can internalized our learning without being distracted by other cursory stuff lurking in the back of our heads.