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Learning Curve explained

What exactly is Learning Curve?

The term “Learning curve” was derived from the works of Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German Psychologist, who was one of the firsts to work on memory and recall. Learning Curve Theory is defined as the graphical representation of the relationship between a learner’s performance while performing a task or learning a skill and the number of attempts.

This correlation can be represent as a direct proportion on a graph. 

When we talk about the Learning Curve Theory, we combine the definition of the curve as we described above with the aspects of the Behaviorist Theory.

The learning curve theory states that a person’s efficiency while learning improves over time the more the learner performs the task.

This means that the completion of the task should take less time and effort the more the task is performing over time. 

The learning curve on graphs will show a pattern indicating that the task takes less time as the learner gains more experience via the repeated attempts.

The graph showing the relationship between the number of attempts and the performance will show diminishing returns and the graph showing the relationship between attempts and time took will have a negative slope.

When we talk about the Learning Curve Theory, we combine the definition of the curve as we described above with the aspects of the Behaviorist Theory. The theory states that a person’s efficiency while learning improves over time the more the learner performs the task. This means that the completion of the task should take less time and effort the more the task is performing over time. 

The learning curve on graphs will show a pattern indicating that the task takes less time as the learner gains more experience via the repeated attempts.

The graph showing the relationship between the number of attempts and the performance will show diminishing returns and the graph showing the relationship between attempts and time took will have a negative slope. 

Learning curve theory graph 1
The graph shows as number of attempts increase the performance(output or efficiency) would improve
Learning curve theory graph 2
As you spend more time learnig a skill, your avg time to accomplish a task comes down rapidly.

The Theory of Learning Curve can also be use as a prediction tool. This can be done using the mathematical function of the curve, the “Cumulative Average Model” (or “Wright’s Model”), which was describe by T.P. Wright in 1936. Flinkhub

Learning Curve Formula: Y = aXb

Where:

Y is the average time over the measured duration

a represents the time to complete the task the first time

X represents the total amount of attempts completed

b represents the slope of the function

A lot of times, learning and memory are use in the same manner even though their meanings are quite different.

Memory is define as a behavioral change due to experience but learning describes as a process of acquiring memory.

When we learn something, it is stored in memory.

However, in order to ensure that it isn’t forgotten, it is important to recall. Ebbinghaus in his study discovered that if learning is rehearsing and repeat at regular intervals, the chances of forgetting it are less.

Phases of Learning Curve

The Learning Curve can be divide into different phases regarding the awareness apply and competency gain.

Awareness can be describe as the attention the learner applied.

Competency is the level of expertise gain.

Usually, this is measure on the basis of time taken to complete the task or attain the skill.

Phase 1: Unconscious Incompetence

This is the initial phase of the learning process.

During this time, the learner is just starting to grasp the basics and he/she is yet to place himself on the expert scale. The learners are unaware of how bad they are and are usually driven by ignorance and unconscious efforts. 

Phase 2: Conscious Incompetence

Now that the learners have absorbed the state they are in, they start making deliberate attempts to better the skillset and efficiency they possess.

However, they still haven’t gained the competency. 

Phase 3: Conscious Competence 

In this phase, the learner has gained the expertise and now, he/she is actively completing the task with improved efficiency.  

Phase 4: Unconscious Competence or Competence with Continued Consciousness

Since the learner has gained the performance expertise, they go through either of the two phases.

They either continue implementing the learnings out of habit i.e. they already know what to do and don’t want to change anything or they complete the tasks with continued conscious attempts to better the process. 

Application of Learning Curves: 

You must have heard that the learning curve can be implemented at every point of life, in every field and that is surprisingly true.

Let’s imagine a scenario and we’ll see how the curve will be applied in the business context and then, for an individual. 

ABC Company recently launched a new product on the market. This means that the company has to evaluate the profit bracket to make sure the operations run smoothly. And train the workers as to how to produce the product. 

On the Business Front

We can apply the learning curve to the cost model of the firm. The only difference is that instead of the number of attempts and performance. The values could be unit cost or unit labor hours and cumulative production in units. Initially, the production will be done in small batches. Thus, the manufacturing cost will be high. However, if and when the product becomes a success, the firm will decide to produce it in larger batches. This means the per-unit cost will decrease. This can also be use to predict potential costs when the production tasks change. 

On the Workers’ Level

As we have stated above, the new product launch will require training for the workers. Since the product is new, the workers are unaware as to how to produce it. And thus, the production will take more time in the starting, for eg, 2 hours. However, as time goes on, the competency level increases and expertise starts to creep in. By the 100th time the product is produce, a worker takes only 30 minutes to produce. 

We have talked about the basics, the phases of a learning curve, and its application. Now, the question arises as to how can we accelerate the learning process and the learning curve. Before you think that we will come up with some shortcuts. We hate to break it to you that this is not the case. No matter how overused and cliché the phrase, “There are no shortcuts to success” seems, sadly, it is true. 

Few Tips

What we are going to do, though, is to let you know some ways in which you can fasten your learning process and learn the skills faster: 

1. Start with a Clean Slate

When you start with the mindset that you don’t know what to do and how to complete the task, it becomes easy to learn. On the contrary, when you believe that you already know the task like the back of your hand, it gets difficult to learn (or in cases, unlearn).

2. F for Feedback

Without consulting your mentors, coaches, or experts, you’ll be left at a point where the only opinion that matters is yours. While it is important to be confident and not doubt yourself. It is more significant to reach out to people who can call you out when you aren’t doing. 

3. Patience is the key

Learning can be describe as a relatively permanent change in a person’s knowledge or behavior. You cannot expect to learn a new skill in just a day. To acquire competency and mastery, one needs to be patient. We are often told that passion drives us and that makes us believe that no matter what task we’re performing if it is our passion, we will not be bored. And that is a horrible misconception. You are bound to feel bore with repeat activity and that is where patience comes to play. You need to be patient to ensure that you reach the final line. 

4. If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it

Oftentimes, we go on with our task in hand without evaluating how close we are to the desired results. This makes it easy to measure the progress and lets us know what more we should do. 

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