A Learning Curve
Presented by ; Mike Culliney
What is a learning curve? According to Wikipedia, a learning curve is a graphical representation of the changing rate of learning (in the average person) for a given activity or tool. For most of us we associate a learning curve with formal education or training. I want to put forward the idea that we experience learning curves on a daily basis to a greater or lesser extent. I want to discuss my own periods of learning curves within the formal education system, within a work related situation and within personal day to day experiences.
I totally agree with the idea that it is possible for something to be easy to learn but difficult to master. A prime example of this for me would have to be the many years that I spent studying Fine Art Printmaking at the Limerick School Of Art And Design. I spent year one studying and learning the various techniques within the Fine Art Printmaking process. I then spent four more years fine tuning these techniques to the point where the technique became automatic and secondary to the idea or language being expressed within the print. When the technique becomes second nature and a tool or means for carrying ones ideas to perfection then it can be said that you have mastered the technique.
While the initial first year of activity during this period would have to comply with the concept of a steep learning curve the following four years also comply to this concept. To the outside viewer it would seem that you or I were just repeating the same process over and over, but on closer inspection it becomes clear that the perpetrator is in fact modifying and refining the process to become their own. So in terms of my formal art education the learning curve was initially steep and then constant but progressive.
Compared to this situation I experienced a completely different learning curve while working within the manufacturing industry. This curve would have to fall within the perimeters of the idea that a subject is hard to learn but with little beyond this. Having had very little contact or experience operating a computer before entering the industry the first three months of this steep learning curve proved quiet difficult for me. After this initial period of frenzied learning the remainder of my eight and a half year learning curve at times moved into the stagnant regressive category. In this situation after the initial information download was complete one was in fact repeating the process over and over again without gaining any further benefit from the process.
In the previous chapters I have discussed two very different learning curves within the formal education – training situation. What I haven’t mentioned is the personal or social learning curve which existed strongly within the two situations. This constant, steep and very progressive learning curve happens to all of us on a daily basis. The human race tends in the majority to be a social race. We need to interact with other human beings. This interaction involves the transfer of information. Information that initially was consumed then refined with personal experience and passed on with knowledge. Then consider what you learn about a person, a place, an idea ect., all within a few seconds several times a day every-day. Now that has to be a learning curve.
From birth to grave we are all on a steep learning curve. For some this curve is positive – progressive and for others it is stagnant – regressive. I am now off to a friend’s house to learn how to lay bricks and mix mortar. I am wondering is this going to be a progressive or regressive learning curve. Most people would say that I am about to embark on a ‘ being used ‘ learning curve.