A Small Way to Increase Confidence when Teaching New Skills

In my various roles in life, I often find myself with an opportunity to teach others. From coaching my clients or explaining new tools or ways of working in group sessions or helping my daughters build a fort, the teacher hat is worn a lot these days. 

In doing a little research on effective teaching strategies for various learning types, I discovered the hierarchy of competence, sometimes known as the “stages of learning”.

Find out more here!
Here, they describe four levels of competence:
  • Unconscious Incompetence: you are unaware of what you do not know
  • Conscious Incompetence: you are aware of what you do not know
  • Conscious Competence: you actively practice your skills
  • Unconscious Competence: your skills are second nature to you

In order to empower people to move through the stages efficiently, as the teacher, you must first understand where they are starting from and adapt your techniques to meet them where they are. It is perfectly reasonable for someone to be at any given stage of competence on their learning journey and recognizing where someone is in the hierarchy is a crucial step in building confidence in your students. 

When moving people through the learning stages, it is important to give time for each phase, especially between unconscious and conscious incompetence. Letting people contemplate the need for the new skill(s) and understand the importance of that skill is a critical success factor. Without understanding the importance, the willingness to learn may be jeopardized. In other words, if someone doesn’t know there’s a problem, they may not be open to change.   

Here’s an example: I recently worked with a group on the relationship building aspect of project management. Rather than solely focusing on managing tasks, budget and deliverables of a given project, there is an opportunity to engage on a deeper level that could lead to increased client engagement, business, etc.

I could see this idea was more difficult for a few group members because they were moving from unconscious to conscious incompetence. I made them aware of a previously unrealized, but now necessary skill for them to be successful in their role. They may not currently possess the ability to engage on a more personal level in a professional setting or may not feel confident in their ability to do it well. This discomfort can paralyze a person if it is not handled appropriately. By knowing this, I could sympathize with the experience and adjust my technique to better support the experience of moving into conscious incompetence, which is where I initially assumed everyone was starting.

Another pivotal moment is once someone has received training and is equipped with the knowledge to perform their new skill. They are now in conscious competence and access to support will be critical. While they have the knowledge, it takes practice, conscious awareness and hard work to perform the skill. Having access to a mentor or training materials will be important during this phase to move into unconscious competence, where a person has enough experience to perform the skill with ease.

As a teacher, we have choice in how we support our students. We can go the path of least resistance and offer a “one size fits all” approach, or we can take a moment to recognize where folks are on their learning journey and provide small and impactful guidance to build confidence in our students.

Published by Empower-Lead

Hello! My name is Karen. I am a mother, a wife, and a Vice President at a strategic consultancy in the non-profit technology space. I desire to seek change in both my personal and professional worlds through empowering positive leadership. I will share my experiences here and look forward to hearing how you empower positive leadership in your life! Personal: My husband, Kyle, and I live in Denver, CO with our two wonderful little girls and black Labrador, Riley. We spend as much time as possible outdoors either hiking, camping, off-roading or enjoying the city of Denver and mountain towns of Colorado. We moved here in 2016 after spending a decade at the beach on the east coast. If we are not in Colorado, we are jet-setting around the U.S. visiting friends and family. Pre-kids, that jet-setting included South America and Europe which we hope to begin again soon! Professional: I have spent the last decade in the non-profit space offering technical leadership guidance and analytical expertise to assist nonprofit organizations achieve maximum impact and efficiency from their technology solutions. What does this mean? I work with senior leadership teams to develop and execute strategic plans that align technology investments and IT services with the needs of national, international and regional offices. What does it really mean? I use both soft skills and analytical skills to assess needs and issues, define business processes, and lead teams in delivering value-driven technology solutions that strengthen the effectiveness of campaigns and operations. Ok, one final try: I work with a bunch of really smart people to help other smart people be better at their jobs by using technology more efficiently and effectively. I do all this for non-profits.

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