Driving Mastery

Turn Passion into Glory

1.2 - The Learning Process

As we work through our practices, it helps to understand the learning process. Let’s look at the example of learning to ride a bike:

There was a time when you didn’t even know what it meant to ride a bike. Then, at a certain age you felt a burning desire to ride a bike, but you didn’t know how. You soon figured out that you’d have to sit on the bike while pedaling and steering. You might have even wondered how people balance on a bicycle. Maybe you didn’t even realize that you needed brakes!

When you started to learn, you likely focused on learning one or two skills at a time. If you started with training wheels then you focused on steering and pedaling without concern for balance. If you started without pedals, then you focused on steering and balance. In either case, it took time to adapt and learn how to control the bike before you could do so without lots of concentration.

Once those skills were mastered, new ones could be added. After awhile, you were able to ride a bike without thinking about it. It became so ingrained that you started to use the phrase, “It’s just like riding a bike,” to refer to a skill that once learned is never forgotten. Then the cycle starts all over again: you learned to ride on dirt trails, you learned how to jump the bike, you learned about sprockets and spokes… each step in the process of continual improvement takes you through the learning cycle again.

The learning process is broken into four levels as defined by Martin M. Broadwell:

We run through the learning cycle over and over again throughout our lives and throughout our skills development. Keep in mind that it is possible to be in all four states at any one time with different areas of learning. For example, you might master steering discipline with unconscious competence while your brake and throttle techniques are in a state of conscious incompetence. It may be helpful to be aware of what state you are experiencing in various facets of your life so that you can look to ways to move to the next state. Or you might decide that you are enjoying being at the state that you are in. The important thing is to not get stuck in any one state while you are trying to improve. Each state has a unique sticking point, which you can overcome if you are able to recognize it:

If you get stuck, it can be extremely helpful to have someone else critique and point out areas for improvement. Reading more and observing more capable drivers can also help you to get back to basics and self-analyze the areas that you wish to improve.