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All-Wales Faculty for Dental Care Professionals | 1.2.4 Development…


1.2 Identifying Learning in the Workplace / 1.2.4 Development of Skills

Development of Skills

In dentistry the development of psychomotor skills is of high importance. These are skills that that require physical action, often involving coordination, manipulation, dexterity and speed.

The conscious competence learning model (Broadwell and Martin, 1969) describes the stages of learning psychomotor skills as progressing through four stages:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence

These stages of psychomotor skills learning are explained in the following matrix:




3 - conscious competence

The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill

2 - conscious incompetence

Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, they recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.


4 - unconscious competence

The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become "second nature" and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

1 - unconscious incompetence

The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognise the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognise their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage.

By breaking down this process of learning in to its constituent parts, your ability to support the learner becomes easier by working with the learner to identify a difficulty or deficiency at one or more stages of the cycle.


Broadwell, Martin M. (20 February 1969). "Teaching for learning (XVI)". The Gospel Guardian. Retrieved 11 May 2018.