The term “the learning curve” has a popular, well-known meaning in American culture. In consideration of how and when you start to examine the way that term is used, most people discover that the primary and perceived meaning of the term really doesn’t make any sense. If the curve is drawn on a chart which tracks resulting knowledge against time spent learning, it might look like the Tetris© (a popular logic game) graph here to the right. By visual consideration, the chart is steepest at the beginning, when a person first starts learning how to play Tetris. The beginner usually gains knowledge quickly, learning the game in just a few minutes.
Though there is much to learn, the player will never learn as quickly as he or she did at the beginning learning how to play the game. | Here is another example: I believe that most people would consider the process of blowing leafs out of their yards with a leaf blower is very simple, but is that the instance? For many, regardless of education and or experience, it only takes about two minutes to get up and running blowing leaves. Additional knowledge milestones await most people after they have invested more time, such as “flushing corners”, “minimizing blowback”, and “blinding the cyclists”.
| On the charts shown in this article, the knowledge milestones are made up and arbitrary, however labeling the vertical axis can be challenging. For most people, learning can be a series of successes, but it can also be a slow refinement of technique. It isn’t really accurate for a person to say they are still learning to dribble a basketball when many NBA professionals with years of experience are still refining the process. | Shown to the right is an expanded timeline on the basketball learning curve. Many of the knowledge milestones on this chart can’t really be learned in an hour.
Most people can and do learn that they exist, but are not able to actually perform them for another year. | This quest for adequate understanding was spurned by my desire to identify activities which have a shallow learning curve. If steep learning curves are grueling, then shallow ones must be enjoyable, right? Shown here on the right is a graph for the learning curve of World of Warcraft. It is definitely enjoyable. Maybe the vast number of things to learn makes it so compelling, or the timed-release of new experiences.
Speed of learning is probably not the best way to determine whether or not something is fun. | Another example. Learning to drive a manual transmission. Learning to drive a manual transmission is difficult because it requires a certain level of knowledge and skill before it can be done at all. The payoff, and true measure of success, is learning it well enough to dare to venture out into real traffic on a person’s own. In consideration of the aforementioned graph, it is cognitive to most people that in many examples of learning, there is only one real milestone to be reached.
| This final graph compares the learning of two different students, and it is the only chart where the idea of a “steep learning curve” actually makes sense. The lower (green) section of the graph represents the state of being unable to perform a certain task. The upper section represents the state of being able to perform it. The orange line student can be said to have a steep learning curve. The sample student crossed the threshold into “able” after one day of learning. The red line sample student had a shallow learning curve. Said student needed four days to become able to adequately learn and or retain the learned knowledge.
Posters note: I found the foregoing article one day while doing research on different learning styles. The original post on Cockeyed. com I believe was meant to be satirical, however in my opinion the information is highly beneficial in understanding the original author’s perspective on how many people learn. In considering the authors said perspective, I truly believe he or she has captured what many people today consider the “learning curve” process. Please write me with any comments, questions and or concerns. William Lucas ([email protected] net)| |