Four stages of learning driving

Written by Omid Karimi


According to the great American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, there are four stages of learning a new skill. Each stage involves some emotions, and understanding the stages and emotions attached to them means we avoid getting frustrated in the learning process. We also understand others who are in the early stages of the process. Like any other skills, there are four stages of learning driving that everyone needs to go through. Remember that no one was born a driver!

 When we start to learn anything, we face the fear of not being good enough or not doing it right. If we focus on fear rather than the end goal, we may even give up, because we don’t like to experience bad feelings and emotions.

Understanding this theory will help you to stay motivated when times get tough. It will also help you to manage your expectations, so you don’t expect to achieve too much too soon. Let’s delve into this interesting subject and expand it a bit.

The four stages of learning are as follows:

1. Unconscious incompetent:

I don’t know that I don’t know how to do this OR I don’t know that I don’t have this skill. This is the stage of blissful ignorance before learning begins. Most children think that driving is just sitting behind the steering wheel and pushing car pedals. They sometimes do this and copy their dad while the car is turned off. I remember I did this ;).

All competent drivers of today experienced this stage yesterday! At this stage it is your driving instructor’s responsibility to tell you how much you don’t know and how much you need to learn. But a good instructor uses a lot of positive words to motivate you and makes your dream achievable.

 four stages of learning driving- Emu driving school

2. Conscious Incompetent:

I know that I don’t know how to do this, yet. This is the most difficult stage in the learning process. At this stage, you realize that you don’t have the necessary skills and you get frustrated when you see others with those skills.

Many people give up learning at this stage. This is the stage when you realize that driving is not that easy, that there are many things to consider while driving and hundreds of new behaviours to learn. Hence, you get lessons packages to spend more time behind the steering wheel with your instructor.

Be prepared to make lots of mistakes at this stage and experience some (be optimistic :)) frustration before progressing to the next level. Remember that your trainer knows exactly where you are and what emotions you are experiencing and he will help you to get through this stage by providing you with lots of support and encouragement.

3. Conscious competent:

I know that I know how to do this. This stage is much easier than the second stage. You have acquired the necessary skills but you are still self-conscious when using them.

The best way to move to the next level is to use any opportunity for practicing your skills until they become your second nature. You should avoid any distractions, like listening to music while driving, because that might interfere with using your skills effectively.

At this stage you still need to think about what to do next, which might be uncomfortable sometimes, and means you are not so smooth at driving. This is the stage when your instructor gives you plenty of opportunities to practice your new skills and he just supervises you. If everything is okay, you are ready to go for your driving test.

four stages of learning driving- Emu driving school

4. Unconscious Competent:

What? You said I did something well? At this stage you can use your skills effortlessly without thinking too much about it. This is where driving becomes your second nature and you do it smoothly.

You drive to work and you don’t even remember how you did it! After many years of driving you will move to this stage. You need to bear in mind that if you don’t drive regularly, you may fall back into the previous stages of learning.

In order for you to become a competent driver, you need to go through the whole four stages of learning driving with no stage skipping, so hang in there!

At Emu Driving School, our job, as qualified driving instructors is to patiently guide you through the second and third stage of this learning process and help you become a confident driver. You can always contact us to discuss your options.

So with respect to driving, what stage of learning are you at?

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