Ian Laurence Kerr

Individual, Couple & Family Counselling









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As a 5 year old, I used to fantasise that if I wanted to run away from home, I could drive away in Mum’s car, not realising that my driving skills according to the Conscious Competence model* of learning, were at a stage called “Unconscious Incompetence”, and that in order to achieve my goal, I needed to at least be consciously competent.


As an adult, one skill I’m currently involved with is teaching adults 4 part harmony singing. Sometimes it’s interesting to consider how we’re going with that, as I like our singers to achieve the Unconscious Competence stage. It’s interesting to look back on our stages of competence once we’ve learnt a skill.


The Conscious Competence model has 4 stages:

1. Unconscious Incompetence

2. Conscious Incompetence

3. Conscious Competence

4. Unconscious competence


- so I decided to think back on how I learnt to drive, by referring to this model.


1. As a 5 year old, I wasn’t really conscious of my level of competence as a driver.  In fact I was unconscious of my incompetence as a driver, and was at the Unconscious Incompetence stage.


2. When I was 17, my Dad started to teach me to drive a manual car, & I started to realise how difficult it was, to co-ordinate the clutch with the hand brake and accelerator, and I became conscious of my incompetence as a car driver. This was reinforced when I drove down to the shops for the first time, tried to turn into the carpark, but didn’t allow for a tight enough turning circle, and drove with an alarmingly violent bump up onto the gutter.  Dad was not happy, and at this time I was going through the stage of Conscious Incompetence.


3. After quite some time, and failing my first driving test, (more conscious incompetence due to a bad “reverse park”), I improved.  I couldn’t really carry on a conversation while driving, but if I concentrated on it, I started to become conscious that my driving was at least, competent.  At last I was at the stage of Conscious Competence, and I passed my driving test.


4. Now I’ve driven so much, and so many skills in my driving are second nature to me, that I’m at the stage of Unconscious Competence. I don’t have to consciously think about much of what I do. If I hire a car in New Caledonia however, everything is on the other side compared to what I’m used to. I sit on the other side of the car, and drive on the other side of the road.  For this I revert for a while to Conscious Competence, except for when I make a right hand turn & occasionally head towards the left side of the road, in which case I revert temporarily to the stage of Conscious Incompetence.


* (See also: http://www.businessballs.com/consciouscompetencelearningmodel.htm )

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