A couple of weeks ago, the lovely Lucy at Love Lucy, wrote a wonderfully honest post. In it she talked about being please with garments she’d made but then disappointed and disheartened when some didn’t wash well or fit as well as she had first thought they did.
I confessed to Lucy that I had a similar experience thirty years ago that put me off knitting for a quite while…
Young and smitten with my fiancé, I decided to knit my, now, husband a jumper. I’m afraid I don’t have any pictures, but it was navy blue with a strange white hieroglyphic type pattern – Yep, you’ve got it. It was the mid eighties.
I was very pleased with the result, but when it was washed it grew and grew and grew. I was devastated. All those loving stitches stretched so far it was no longer wearable 😦 All that wasted time! 😦
Now, a lot older and wiser, I know I should have washed and blocked a swatch of the yarn before I started. But back then I had never heard of blocking.
A lot of people commented on Lucy’s post saying they had been through similar experiences. This made me recognise, whether we admit it or not, we all go through something like this from time to time. It’s all part of the process of learning, identified by learning theorists as the “conscious competence” learning model.
The conscious competence model tells us about the psychological states involved in the process of learning a new skill. If we consider this model, we can see that when learning any craft, it’s all but inevitable, we’ll go though a stage of being really pleased with our efforts only to later realise we aren’t as expert as we thought.
Here’s the model…
Stage One: Unconscious Incompetence
This is the stage before we begin learning. We don’t understand or know how to do something and we may not appreciate the level of skill involved.
Stage Two Conscious Incompetence
We can identify deficiencies we have relating to the craft we’re learning or want to learn.
Stage Three: Conscious Competence
At stage three we know how to do something, however performing this activity requires concentration.
Stage Four: Unconscious Competence
This final stage is when a skill becomes second nature and, depending on what it is, we may even be able to perform it while doing something else.
But it’s not just that simple…
When we learn a craft, we don’t move smoothly from stage one to four. Instead we master some skills, reaching stage three or four. Using these skill then allows us to recognise we didn’t know other essential facts or skills. Lucy, and everyone who commented on her post (including me), were talking about being at stage three or four in some skills, then recognising we had been at stage one regarding others skills. This recognition took us to level two – we now saw our deficiencies in these hitherto unrecognised skills – but at the same time felt disheartened, because it felt like a backwards step. However, in reality it meant we had moved forward, learning there was more to discover.
Knowing this model and recognising we don’t just move smoothly from stage one to four, but have to go back to learn new things we didn’t know existed, helps me:
- Cut myself some slack when I make mistakes or don’t know something – even in an area where I’ve been learning for years.
- Become more confident and positive about my work.
- Look for what else I might be able to learn about the craft.
How do you feel about this sort of psychological model? Does it feel like the ‘science bit’ you want to ignore or a dog yapping in the background. Or does it help you understand and feel more positive about past or present hiccoughs in your progress? I’d love to hear what you think.
I hope all you current endeavours are going smoothly.