Five Stages of Learning

Without an understanding of the stages of learning, a manager may think that more than enough time and resources have been spent training someone and are then disappointed when the level of knowledge is less than desired.  Or worse, the subject area being trained, if new, is discarded as being without merit because results are expected too soon.  If an organization is serious about developing its ability to create its own future, there must be a way to develop a critical mass of people at the competent level in the desired knowledge areas.  This requires an organizational awareness of its level of learning and the development of a learning plan to move forward.  Part of the learning plan is the identification of available internal training resources and acquiring outside resources when needed. 

  1. Novice - beginning awareness of subject area, but only abstract concepts and ideas.   Novices posses little or no ability to put ideas into practice in a reliable way.   They apply their learning by following a set of rules without regard for context.   
    - Situation decomposition - needs elements to be clearly and objectively defined
    - Decision making behavior - follows rules without consideration of context
    - Exercising judgment - none
    - Skills & tools - exposed and aware and able to apply if directed
    - Formal training time - 2 to 5 days
    - Training with practice - 1 to 2 months
  2. Advanced Beginner - marginal learning to an acceptable performance level after gaining experience coping with real experiences.  Start to understand the scope of the subject area and acknowledge their lack of knowledge about the discipline.  Able to apply tools, processes, and principles in contexts that are similar to well-defined cases they have studied.
    - Situation decomposition - perceives similarity with prior examples
    - Decision making behavior - matches situation to proper rule set
    - Exercising judgment - none
    - Skills & tools - recognizes and applies in structured settings
    - Formal training time - 5 to 10 days
    - Training with practice - 3 to 6 months
  3. Competent - exposure to and a working knowledge of a number of knowledge areas making up the subject.  New skills and capabilities are being internalized with the ability to go beyond rule-bound procedures in a highly structured setting.  Able to adapt their learning to different situations by analyzing changed circumstances and selecting among viable alternative.
    - Situation decomposition - considers various alternatives  
    - Decision making behavior - analytical determination of best alternative
    - Exercising judgment - consciously considers the value of alternative outcomes
    - Skills & tools - internalized and applied in more unstructured settings
    - Formal training time - 20 to 30 days
    - Training with practice - 12 to 18 months
  4. Proficient - gained from experience in diverse situations.  Tools and concepts have been internalized and can be applied to a variety of situations without great effort.   They have an intuitive, holistic grasp of a situation without having to decompose the problem prior to determining a solution.
    - Situation decomposition - internalized, now intuitive
    - Decision making behavior - focuses on choice that best achieves intuitive plan
    - Exercising judgment - moves quickly based on previous experience
    - Skills & tools - intuitive and applies consciously in all settings
    - Formal training time - as needed to address specific issues that may arise
    - Training with practice - 1 to 3 years
  5. Expert - fully internalized both perception and action into their normal work processes.   When things are going normally, all work is routine, doing "just what works."  Reaching this stage involves a close relationship with another expert where additional learning is gained through continued exposure, observation, conversation and other interaction.  
    - Situation decomposition - internalized, now intuitive
    - Decision making behavior - acts in an unconscious, automatic manner
    - Exercising judgment - unconsciously does what normally works
    - Skills & tools - intuitive and applies unconsciously in all settings
    - Formal training time - informal through interaction with other experts
    - Training with practice - 5 to 10 years
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Transformative Networking connecting change leaders to enable self-organized grassroots change.

Next Steps While still conceptual, transformative networking offers the possibility of leading change through the networking of those already interested or involved in similar initiatives, effectively tearing down existing silos of practice that exist across disciplines and fields of work.  The next step is to develop a proof of concept built on the theoretical underpinnings above, possibly using Google Wave as the collaboration platform.  Included will be identifying the minimal structure and governance required to enable self-organization within the network while not constraining what might emerge.  Join this initiative and help create the future of organizing - networking communities of interest.    

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Last modified: July 19, 2009