We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Learning Curve?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A learning curve is a concept used to measure how quickly a skill can be mastered. Usually shown as a simple graph, it often depicts the combination of the time it takes to learn a new idea or skill set, combined with the rate at which mastery is achieved. Learning curves are often used to measure an individual’s progress against an average.

German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus coined the term during his research on memory and memorization in the late 19th century. In his 1885 work, Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology, Ebbinghaus described his findings regarding both the learning curve, or rate at which knowledge is gained, and the forgetting curve, a related graph that measures how quickly memorized information is lost. His book is considered a groundbreaking work in the field, and quickly led to the popularity of using these curves as a means of measuring progress.

The concept is somewhat confusing in terminology, even to experts. For instance, a steep curve implies two very different graphs. Some believe that it means there is a large gain of knowledge in the early stages, displayed on the usual graph as a steep incline at the beginning that gradually tapers out. Chess, for instance, might be considered a game with a steep curve, for while the rules are simple and quickly learned, mastery over the game may take years. The term is also sometimes used to describe a particularly difficult or arduous skill to learn, as steep slopes are presumably harder to climb.

Flat or gradual learning curves are more generally understood as a concept. On a flat curve, the rate of knowledge gained is slowly spaced out over time, so the rate is generally the same. Subjects take a long time to gain complete mastery over, but provide ample time to truly imprint the procedures or skill components on the brain. They are often very difficult to learn, as they do not provide the rewards of quick, usable knowledge.

People should remember that these graphs are representational of an average rate of knowledge gained over time. As different people have different backgrounds or aptitudes, some may learn considerably faster or slower than others. A consistent failure to meet goals or checkpoints established by learning curves may indicate a problem, however, such as a learning disability or simply misunderstanding the fundamentals of a subject. In this case, remedial tutoring in the subject may be worth trying to correct the issue. If tutoring fails to help improve a student's rate of learning, he or she may want to be tested for learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, which may be impeding the individual's ability to keep up with the curve.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for Language & Humanities. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By watson42 — On Apr 20, 2011

When I teach, I try to avoid grading every little thing my students do, because I'm aware that they really are not all on the same learning curve. I teach English at a private school where there is not much room or help for kids with learning disabilities, and few of my students seem to have them. However, even without disabilities, I have students who struggle with vocabulary and others who struggle with remembering readings, and I have to find a balance in order to cater to all their different strengths.

By afterall — On Apr 19, 2011

@donna61, I think that many teachers do not understand your point. I struggle often with trying to visualize math problems. I grew to hate math in school, because often asking a teacher to help me would lead to him or her simply stating the same explanation again, perhaps slower, as though I had some sort of hearing problem or language barrier, when my trouble was with the math.

By donna61 — On Feb 23, 2011

I don't like learning curves when used in the classroom. They assume that all children learn the same way. It is one thing to say some learn at different rates, but some learn in different ways than the traditional school of memorization.

This does not mean that they have a learning disability, perhaps just another learning style.

I wonder if there is a characteristic of the learning curve equation that we are missing or that can be added to get a fair evaluation when it seems to be off consistently?

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis


With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.