VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism
Archives Search
Ask Connie
Boards & Committees
Calendar of Events
International Volunteering
Internet Resources
Management & Supervision
Recruitment and Organization of Volunteers
Tech Tips
Volunteer Training and Professional Development
Volunteer Program Evaluation Series
Who We Are
Email Us

Find tips to oversee the work of volunteers and practical suggestions to supervise them. Everything from ideas to help you work more efficiently to the latest in research on keeping volunteers happy and productive.

~ March 2007 ~ Topics

To Learn or Not to Learn

To Learn or Not to Learn

There is a Buddhist Proverb that states, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." We all go through times when we have mastered knowledge and other times when we want or need to learn some things. As mangers, we will also spend time training others. Here are the stages of learning people pass through and tips on how to navigate through each stage smoothly:

I. Unconscious Incompetence
He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool – Shun him
This stage is where a person is so confident that they are not aware that they don’t have the needed skill or deficiency in a particular area and may deny its usefulness or relevance.

TIP: Demonstrate skill and the benefits that it will bring to learner.

II. Conscious Incompetence
He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is ignorant – Teach him
This is the stage where a person becomes acutely aware of the need for a particular skill or deficiency and is willing to acquire the necessary knowledge to become competent.

TIP: Encourage the learner. This is a frustrating stage where confidence wanes, feelings of discomfort increase and learning can be slower than one anticipated.

III. Unconscious Competence
He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep – Wake him
Basic skill level is acquired in this stage and confidence level increases.

TIP: Practice, practice, practice until skill becomes second nature and one doesn’t have to think about how to perform it.

IV. Conscious Competence
But he who knows, and knows that he knows, is a wise man – Follow him
This stage is characterized by the skill becoming an instinctual habit.

TIP: Give person an opportunity to teach others how to do this skill. Since they will be once again learning something new, this could start the whole process all over again.

These tools are to illuminate the learning process. People will all be on different levels and move at different speeds. As the student’s proficiency and self-confidence increase, the instructor’s job will be a gratifying one.

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for Secrets of Leadership by Rick Lynch & Sue Vineyard and Best of All: The Quick Reference Guide to Effective Volunteer Involvement by Linda Graff.

Details for Secrets of Leadership Book Details for Best of All Book


Washington State University offers a Volunteer Management Certification Program through the Internet. Individuals around the world can earn a certificate in managing or coordinating volunteers, without leaving home. For more information, visit Volunteer Today's Portal site, Internet Resources. Look for the Washington State University listing. There is a hot link to their Web site.

Return to Top
Liz Needham

Liz Needham is currently the Volunteer Services Coordinator for the City of Raleigh Retired and Senior Volunteer Program and Foster Grandparent Program. She has 12 years of managerial and supervisory experience in the non-profit, local government and business sectors. She can be reached by email at: elizabeth.needham@ci.raleigh.nc.us or by phone at: (919) 831-6098.

A Service of MBA Publishing-A subsidiary of Macduff/Bunt Associates All materials copyright protected ©2011
821 Lincoln Street, Walla Walla, WA 99362 (509) 529-0244 FAX: (509) 526-5595 EMAIL: editor@volunteertoday.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/NLMacduff

The content of all linked sites are beyond the control Volunteer Today and the newsletter assumes no responsibility for their content.