It’s difficult to measure your growth when you’re learning a new skill. You may find yourself comparing your progress with others who have already mastered it. Despite putting in a lot of time and effort, this comparison may make you feel like you aren’t even close to reaching the level you’d like. So you come close to giving up.

But if you had a progress bar to show your progress as you were learning, wouldn’t it motivate you to continue on your learning journey?

Think of video games. Few complete a video game in one sitting. Whenever you open the game again, you can see your progress. This helps you understand how much of the game is left. 

Or say you’re on a certain level. You check the progress bar. It tells you you’re halfway through making it to the next level. 

Now that you know exactly how far along you are, you are motivated to keep playing and complete that level. 

Learning a new skill is a lot like this. Instead of comparing yourself to others, see where you are on your learning journey. Measure your progress to motivate yourself to keep learning until you master that skill.

This is where the Ladder of Learning concept comes in.

The Ladder Of Learning

The Ladder of Learning, also known as the Four Stages of Competence, is a tool developed by Noel Burch of Gordon Training International in the 1970s to show the different stages of the learning process. This concept helps one understand not only where they are in learning the skill but also how much further they need to go to truly achieve mastery over it. 

This tool sees the process of learning as a ladder with different rungs one can climb as they progress on their learning journey. The concept is simple: the higher one goes up the ladder, the more mastery one has over that skill. 

The different levels of the Ladder of Learning are measured using two indicators: consciousness and skill level. Think of these two parameters as the wood that makes the ladder.

Consciousness refers to one’s awareness of the skill while the skill level measures one’s mastery over the skill. 

Let’s take an example. Say you want to improve your ability to write reports. Consciousness is the effort that you put into writing a report while skill level refers to how well you can translate that effort into quality when you actually write the report.

Climbing The Ladder

When you put these two factors together you get four different levels or rungs to measure your competency level:

  • Unconsciously Unskilled 
  • Consciously Unskilled
  • Consciously Skilled
  • Unconsciously Skilled

Let’s look at each rung in detail.

1. Unconsciously Unskilled:  At the beginning of your learning journey you don’t have a particular skill, and you aren’t aware that you don’t have it. This makes you unconsciously unskilled, which is the first rung of the ladder.

Let’s go back to the example of improving your report writing skills. Think back to the first report you had to write in your professional career. You had never written a report before. You may not even have known that report writing was a skill you would need in your line of work. At that point in your career, you would have been unconsciously unskilled at report writing.

2. Consciously Unskilled: Once you know that you don’t have that skill, you become aware of the need to learn it. This is how you take one step up and go to the next rung of the ladder: Consciously Unskilled. 

If you’ve identified report writing as a skill that you aren’t good at and need to develop, you’ve progressed to this stage. You decide to develop this skill and look up online courses on report writing, which helps you climb to the next rung.

3. Consciously Skilled: After having climbed the first two rungs of the ladder, you begin learning the skill. With practice, you slowly feel that you’re getting the hang of the skill. You start seeing improvement. You are now on the Consciously Skilled rung.

Let's take the example of report writing forward. After completing an online course on report writing you have begun applying your learnings to your assignments at work. You notice a marked improvement in your writing. You know that with time, concentration and effort, you will be able to write good reports that will please your manager. You’ve reached the third rung of the Ladder of Learning. But your journey doesn’t end there.

4. Unconsciously Skilled: The last rung of the ladder is Unconsciously Skilled. To put it simply, it means having a skill you can effortlessly execute. After lots of practice, you climb the Ladder of Learning and attain mastery over the skill. 

To conclude the example of report writing, you’ve now written so many reports and have fine-tuned your skill to such an extent that writing a great report comes almost naturally to you. This is the fourth and final rung of the ladder.

The ability to learn new skills is essential to advancing in one's career. It helps you diversify your job options and equips you with the tools you need to keep up with this fast-changing world. And most importantly, constantly learning new skills will help you unlock your potential. Now that you can use the Ladder of Learning to measure your progress, learning a new skill just became much easier.

Whether it’s learning how to code, understanding how to conduct rigorous data analysis, or learning a new language, we all have the ability to learn new skills. Harappa’s Leading Self course is filled with useful frameworks and concepts that you can easily implement to improve your performance, remove the obstacles in your path and maximize your potential. The course will help you learn how to pick up the skills that you need to progress in your career. Sign up today!

Shubhayan is an Associate Specialist in the Curriculum Team. A graduate of the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, Shubhayan enjoys laughing at his own jokes and playing the bass guitar.

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