Groundbreaking Press, Austin, TX – www.groundbreaking.com – © 2007, Brad Fregger
Texas State University
McCoy College of Business Administration
Management 3303 – Spg. 2008
by Brad Fregger
This paper covers the concept of
Levels of Understanding Within the Learning Process
. The objective is
to provide a more complete understanding of these levels and their role in the Learning Process so that
the learning facilitator (teacher, leader, mentor, etc.) can apply this knowledge as they attempt to move
people from incompetence to
Many years ago, when I was beginning the Training & Development Department at Mervyn's Department
Stores (Dayton-Hudson Corporation), I became aware of this concept; essentially it says that everyone
goes through four basic levels of understanding whenever they learn a new skill, task, or activity. These
(They don't know they don't know how to accomplish the skill, task, or activity.)
(They know they don't know how to accomplish the skill, task, or activity.)
(They know how, but need to concentrate to perform the skill, task, or activity.)
(They know how to accomplish the skill, task or activity without thinking about it.)
Let’s take learning to drive a car as an example; we could explain the process in this way:
If you walked into a first grade class and said, "I have a problem.
I have two cars here at school, and I
need to get them both home.
I can only drive one of the cars. Is there someone here who can drive my
other car home for me?"
You would probably get a few volunteers.
Those who volunteered would most likely be
; they don't know they don't know how to drive.
Those that didn't raise their hands would probably be
; they know they don't
know how to drive.
A few years later in driver’s training, you'd have a bunch of students who could drive, but had to
concentrate on every step of the process to be sure they got it right; they are
And, finally, there are those of us who get into the car after a day on the job and a half-hour later arrive
home without any memory of the trip, let alone driving the car; we're
Since this concept has been around for quite awhile, you’d think there’d be consensus on what it means.
What I have discovered instead, is lots of confusion around this issue, as well as little understanding of its
full significance. This paper was written to explain the levels of understanding in detail so those who find
the concept valuable will be able to take full advantage of its potential.
First, here’s a quick summary of how some others have interpreted this concept.