4 Phases of Learning. Do you know what they are?

The Four Phases of Learning

By Dr. Tony Alessandra

“The longest journey on earth begins with a single step.” (Anonymous)


Can you remember when you first learned how to drive a car? Before you learned how, you were in the “ignorance” stage.  You did not know how to drive the car and you didn’t even know why you didn’t know how to drive it.

When you first went out with an instructor to learn how to drive you arrived at the second phase:  knowledge.  You still couldn’t drive, but because of your new knowledge of the automobile and its parts, you were consciously aware of why you couldn’t.  This is the phase where most seminars leave people.


With some practice and guidance, you were able to become competent in driving the car through recognition of what you had to do. However, you had to be consciously aware of what you were doing with all of the mechanical aspects of the car as well as with your body. This third phase is the hardest stage, the one in which your people may want to give up–the “practice” stage.  People experience stress when they implement new behaviors, especially when they initially perform them imperfectly.  They’ll want to revert to the old, more comfortable behaviors, even if those behaviors are less effective.  It’s all right for them to make mistakes at this phase.  In fact, it’s necessary so they improve through practice. Training programs that include role-playing and in-the-field coaching work best at this phase of learning.

Returning to our car analogy, think of the last time that you drove. Were you consciously aware of all of the actions that we mentioned above? Of course not! Most of us, after driving awhile, progress to a level of “habitual performance.”  This is the level where we can do something well and don’t have to think about the steps.  They come “naturally” because they’ve been so well practiced that they’ve shifted to automatic pilot. This final stage is when practice results in assimilation and habit.

This four phased model for learning–ignorance, knowledge, practice and habit–is the recipe for success in learning any new behavior and having it stick.