Aiming for unconscious competence – The British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show 2020

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  Posted by: Dental Design      7th December 2019

Learning is a factor life, especially in dentistry. As you strive to develop your skills and fulfil your career ambitions, you will tailor your learning according to your personal strengths and weaknesses. Knowing when you need to work on a skill more or when you’re ready to move on to something new is therefore important in order to truly master your fiel

The Four Stages of Learning demonstrates the different states of understanding and competence that an individual will experience when learning a new skill. Otherwise known as the Four Stages of Competence, the model can be used by professionals to measure and monitor their development. It also helps to ensure that learning progresses at an appropriate pace.

Stage 1

Unconscious Incompetence

Ever heard the saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’? This initial stage represents our ignorance about how to do something and the importance of being able to do it. It occurs when we aren’t even aware that a gap in our knowledge or skills exists. How long we remain in this state of ignorance depends on how motivated we are to learn the skill.

Stage 2

Conscious Incompetence

Once we are aware that we are unable to perform a task due to a lack of knowledge, we move into the second stage of learning and competence. We understand the importance of learning the relevant skills or gaining the right experience, and so the learning curve begins. It is at this point that we commit to developing ourselves and seek out the relevant training and education in order to bridge the skill gap we have identified.

Stage 3

Conscious Competence 

Through the appropriate training and support, we obtain the new skill. However, to perform it correctly still requires concentration and conscious thought. We can see our progress and appreciate that we have grown, but practise is necessary if we are to really master the skill. Repetition is key here, as is sticking to a pre-determined sequence of events to ensure a predictable workflow and reproducible results.

Stage 4

Unconscious Competence


Like any new skill, there comes a point when we are able to perform it almost in autopilot mode. The task will require little conscious attention as our bodies and minds are so confident and well-rehearsed in the steps involved. At this point we have mastered the skill and it has become second nature. It is often now that we might move on – either by teaching this skill to others, or by looking to develop new capabilities in different areas.

Getting from A to D

The journey from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence will be different every time. For dental professionals, the learning experience will depend on the complexity of the skill being developed, the time dedicated to learning and the opportunity to practise. The Personal Development Plan (PDP) created as part of enhanced CPD requirements is the perfect place for you to establish any skills still in the early stages of the competence model. These are usually the most appropriate areas to focus learning objectives on for the upcoming year.

Keep moving forward

When you know which fields you wish to grow within, it’s important to find appropriate educational opportunities that meet your needs. There is a plethora of training courses across all dental disciplines that offer the teaching, mentoring and support needed to introduce and master a new skill. Choosing a course that combines theoretical learning with practical experience is often beneficial. However, if you’re not sure where to start, exposing yourself to as many different fields of dentistry could be the key.

Where to start

Regardless of which stage of the model you have reached, the British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show 2020 will be the ideal learning platform for you. Presenting two days of first-class lectures and seminars, the event offers a chance to enhance your knowledge and understanding in a huge range of topics. You can tailor your visit specifically for you, advancing your existing skills or hearing about brand new areas you haven’t yet ventured into. Furthermore, there will be an extensive trade exhibition with more than 450 manufacturers and suppliers on hand to offer on-stand learning, product demonstrations and show-only promotions.

Completing the Four Stages of Learning is a necessary part of career progression in many industries, including dentistry. It helps individuals to identify how a skill may be progressed and therefore what they need to do to next. Reaching unconscious competence demonstrates mastery of a certain skill, but it requires hard work and dedication to get there.


The British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show 2020 – 15th and 16th May –Birmingham NEC, co-located with DTS.


For all the latest information, visit, call 020 7348 5270 or email


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