Learning curve

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A learning curve describes the degree of success of learning over time. The learning curve is calculated using the quotient of learning gain (amount of material) and learning effort (time).

Often many mistakes are made at the beginning of a new task. Errors decrease during the later learning phases, and a so-called learning plateau follows .

However, it is also possible that the result of a learning process only moves randomly on the learning curve, so that the learner only “believes” to have learned something (see nondeterministic experiment ).

In business , the learning curve is used to explain increases in productivity or an increase in quality in the course of production. It is also used every now and then to justify faster assembly line speeds in flow production .


Steep learning curve in its original meaning; A lot of material is taught in a short time, so that this material can be learned relatively easily

The steeper the learning curve, the greater the efficiency in learning. The slope depends on several mutually influencing factors:

Several psychological effects influence the learning curve (= learning success):

  • Frustration of the learner due to the showmaster effect (the teacher seems unattainably smart because he only deals with problems for which he has a solution)
  • Self-fulfilling prophecy : If it is explained to the teacher that the learner is a particularly intelligent or stupid person, the learning performance will be changed, just as if the learner considers the task to be particularly difficult or roles atypical. So learn z. For example, some girls may be worse off when a task is described as “mathematical” or “technical” ( gender role ).
  • Girls also learn technical and mathematical things more easily on average if they are taught in same-sex groups (→ coeducation ).

Occasionally, the learning curve is simply used to describe the difficulty of a learning assignment. Examples:

  • “The learning curve in learning English starts steeply and becomes increasingly flatter.” - It is easy to get started with the language, while advanced knowledge is more difficult to acquire.
  • “The learning curve for using an additional program from the same manufacturer is usually steep, but when changing manufacturer it is rather flat.” - It is more difficult to get used to an unfamiliar than to a related environment.

In addition, learning curves can also be classified according to how long an increase in learning is without longer or even final flattening, i.e. H. one issue offers a steady, marked increase in learning over a long period of time despite regular employment.


Historically, the concept of the learning curve comes from Hermann Ebbinghaus (1885), who was probably the first to use the concept of the learning curve in his monograph On Memory . In psychology , the concept of the learning curve is sometimes used without a strict definition of the x- and y-axis assignment, so that the question of steepness must be considered using concrete examples. Theodore Paul Wright (1936) gave the first strict definition of the term for use in business administration . The term is often used in international management to determine the determining factors of internationalization.

Alternative definition

“Blender learning curve”: Learning is difficult at first, but later it is easier.

Besides this academic as correct to be considered definition exists in the vernacular one of this standard virtually diametrically opposite understanding of the concept of the learning curve; In software marketing and the tool industry in particular , a learning curve is described as steep when learning to operate or use a tool or software tool is difficult and arduous; a flat learning curve results for efficient and problem-free learning. A corresponding curve diagram would result from the comparison of cumulative success units (x-axis) and cumulative time units (y-axis); This concept, which is widespread in colloquial terms, defines the curve steepness as the quotient of

and is an analogous representation of Wright's concept.

The difference between these two definitions of learning curves is that the academic definition regards learning as a success in a positive sense, while the slang definition regards learning as an effort or burden.

This is also how the Blender learning curve should be understood. It takes into account that learning is an uplifting process. At first the curve is very steep and the learning curve for a completely new subject is high. If the basic concepts of a subject are understood, it is much easier to learn - the blender curve is flat. To gain a deeper understanding is again difficult, accordingly the blender curve is steep. With around 85% of the subject matter, the rest of the learning material is revealed "as if by itself". The proverbial aha-effect occurs and without any effort - yes, with a certain amount of pleasure - the overall context opens up.

The name of the Blender curve is derived from the evaluation of an online tutorial on the 3D animation software Blender , which is based on empirical data from 7384 participants.

Web links

Wiktionary: learning curve  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Learning curve  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Theodore Paul Wright: Factors Affecting the Cost of Airplanes. In: Journal of Aeronautical Sciences. Vol. 3, 1936, ISSN  0095-9812 , pp. 122-128.