The Use of Learning Curves

Roger James (Clothing and Allied Products ITB, UK)

Journal of European Industrial Training

ISSN: 0309-0590

Publication date: 1 July 1984


Since I became a professional trainer I have encountered many people who talk about “learning” curves in a way which indicates they do not fully understand what “learning” curves are, how they are arrived at and what use to make of them. I have had queries from training officers wanting to know “what is the learning curve” for particular jobs. I have met many management students who think a “learning” curve is a statement of an absolute state of the universe in much the same way as Isaac Newton's Laws of Motion. Recently I came across a company selling synthetic work‐study data who included in their data an analysis, based on a “learning” curve, which indicated how many repetitions of the method would be necessary before the operator “learned” the job to given levels of performance. The International Labour Office's Introduction to Work Study shows a diagram of a “typical learning curve” (p. 205) but there is no discussion of the use of the curve, why it is or what it is or just how “typical” it is. It has been put in with minimal apparent understanding and minimal attempt to develop understanding. Each of the above examples demonstrates a need to make clear the background to “learning” curves and what use to make of them.


James, R. (1984), "The Use of Learning Curves", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 8 No. 7, pp. 13-16.

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Copyright © 1984, MCB UP Limited

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