LEARNING CURVE ITS TYPES AND IMPLICATIONS IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION AND SPORTS PRESENTATION BY DR. RAJESH KUMAR CLASS-BA 2ND YEAR P.G. G.C.G. SECTOR-11, CHANDIGARH
LEARNING CURVE Learning curve is the graphic depiction of the process of learning. As one way of understanding the acquisition of learning is to examine the course of its growth, the learning curve provides us with the means for such an examination. A student's progress in learning a given skill may be conveniently portrayed by charting a learning curve. It is a graphic representation of a person's improvement or lack of improvement in a given activity. Although learning curves do not tell us the whole story, since the acquisition of a skill must be translated into performance before it can be traced on a curve, they do provide us with some basis for understanding the process of learning. There really is no single curve, so many factors influence the direction taken by the learner that there are many learning curves. A quantitative record of an individual's performance is taken at stated intervals during the course of learning an activity, and the results are plotted on a two-axis chart. The measure of mastery or success is generally plotted on the vertical axis and the amount of practice, time spent or number of trials is plotted on the horizontal axis. The shape that the learning curve will take depends on the units that are chosen to depict the course of learning. For example, if the improvement is to be measured in terms of heights cleared in high jump, or length of throw made in discus throw, the curve will tend to rise with successive practice periods, as depicted in Figure 1.1 On the other hand, Graph Depicting Progress of a Discuss Thrower if the improvement is to be measured in terms of time needed to complete the task, for example, to run 100 meter race, the curve will tend to descent with successive periods of practice because the athlete will be running with progressively decreasing timings because of the gains by repeated practice sessions, as illustrated in Figure 1.2.
TYPES OF LEARNING CURVES • Basically, there may be three types of learning curves. • Learning curve with positive acceleration: This type of curve indicates that later gains are larger than the earlier gains. The slow movements in the early phase may be due to the fact that the learning or development that is taking place is of such a nature as not to be manifest and thus does not appear on the curve. We must not overlook that learning may consist of changes within the learner that cannot become manifest or be apparent until by accumulated practice and experience, the learning acquires a certain degree of structure of precision. The period during which this takes place is the period of little or no apparent progress. It is something like observing the erection of a building where most of the essential underground work on which the erection of the structure depends, is not visible. The teacher must be aware that a certain amount of teaching is the groundwork which must be viewed as an investment with long range returns. Children often absorb a great deal of learning and knowledge before they can demonstrate what they have acquired. • The positively accelerated form of learning may create some problems of motivation in the early phase of learning. The learner is strongly stimulated by success, and where this is lacking, he may give up before he can realize more measurable amounts of success. Generally, this kind of learning takes place in the case of a younger person who is more readily satisfied with his performance or level of learning acquired and does not clearly realize the difference between his level and the more integrated or perfected level. We must keep in mind that even though the gain so far as it can be depicted on the learning curve may be rather less, this phase of learning activity is inevitable and lays a necessary foundation for the later great or higher progress. Once the slow progress of the early part is overcome, the student can be encouraged by showing him the continuing increase in progress.
Learning curve with negative acceleration: When the improvement in the initial phase of learning is greater than in the final phases, the learning curve is negatively accelerated. It appears that the enthusiasm in approaching a new learning situation and the use of previous learning related to the present task account for the rapid gains in the beginning. When the novelty of a new learning wears off, it results in loss of interest. The difficulty often encountered in the more precise aspects of final learning also leads to slower gains. During this phase the teacher or the coach must encourage the learner by rewarding the effort and by providing feedback to continue in his learning, for the reason that all the benefits of practice and efforts are often not readily visible and even if some over learning takes place by continued use of previously acquired learning or skill, the same is also beneficial for efficient retention. Although the gains during the final phase of learning may appear to be minimal, such gains may be crucial for accepted performance. Learning curve with plateau and limits: In some cases when the rate pf learning is negatively accelerated, the progress of learning levels off and then increases again if the practice continues. This leveling off or plateau can be easily mistaken for the limits of learning, and when it is so considered both by the teacher and the learner, the chances of further progress will be quite low. Actually, in such cases the plateau should be understood as a sub-limit i.e. the limit for a particular part of the entire task. It has been observed that when the shift from one type of learning to another type takes place, the learner goes through a period during which he consolidates the earlier learning before he moves on to more complex ones. In such situations, the teacher should assist the learner to move over to the next higher level of learning. Plateau is followed by another period of gains and finally the curve approaches its limits which may be due to the stage of development of the learner or by the nature of the task. In the learning process, however, the real limits do exist, limits that can be explained or understood in terms of physiological makeup of the learner at a particular period in his development, or in terms of task to be mastered.
IMPLICATION IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION AND SPORTS • The learning curve is of great importance and has serious implications in physical education and sports. It is of immense practical value to a physical education teacher and all those involved in teaching and training programme. Physical skills cannot be learnt and mastered without repeated attempts, and uncharted, unguided attempts would prove futile and wastage of time and energy. Learning curve plays a very important role in providing direction to such attempts. According to Cratty, "The shape of a motor learning curve is a function of the spacing of the trials, and the capabilities of the performer, as well as the nature of the task" Indeed, the learning curve is an excellent indicator of a learner's level of performance. • In physical activities and sports, it is desirable to have as good a start as possible when some new skill is taken up. Thus, if the physical education teacher is well prepared to start a new skill or topic, and knows what he is going to do and how to do it, then a good beginning is more likely. Learning curve comes handy to a physical education teacher in his efforts as it is a chart which depicts the various levels of learning from stage to stage. It also reveals the speed or pace at which progress is being made. The initial state, the rate of improvement, plateau, their duration and levels, and limits apply directly to his teachings.
Variations in sports achievements is a rule and cannot be avoided, for many factors and conditions influence performance and cause these variations. If a chart is made of day by day learning and performance, great variations in the efficiency will be found. By closely analyzing these variations, a physical education teacher can monitor the athlete's performance and can suggest remedial measures by carefully analyzing these variations. Infact, the graphic depiction of one's performance is one of the most motivating force which compels an athlete to strive for higher excellence. Learning curve serves the physical education teacher as a guide. It reveals the progress made by the athletes pursuant to his efforts. If the learning curve indicates slow initial start, it may serve a caution to the physical education teacher to analyze the factors, circumstances which are hampering the proper initial start. In case the curve is indicating a rapid initial start, it conveys the message to the teacher that the training is preceding on the right path and he has to put in efforts to maintain this acceleration. We have seen in the earlier part of this chapter while dealing with learning curve that no one can continue to improve indefinitely in every given task and his improvement is bound to slow down after some time. This period or phase called plateau, is inevitable in all the learning processes including those involving physical activities. When the learning curve depicts that the athlete's learning process is slowing down or has reached the plateau
The physical education teacher can analyze the factors which were responsible for decrease in the pace of learning process. He can formulate strategies to enable the athlete to overcome the plateau and resume his upward and further progress in the task. If he finds that plateau is a result of complexity involved in the learning of the task, he can immediately device and improvise strategies simplifying the complexity involved. If boredom or fatigue is the reason for stagnation, he can introduce novelty in the activity and through innovative methods he may be able to renew the interest and enthusiasm among the athletes. Many times when the athlete is on plateau he may be feeling that he has no motive or purpose, and may not be trying very hard. A resourceful and foresighted physical education teacher may devise motivational techniques, keeping in view the peculiarities of the athlete, thereby facilitating the athlete in overcoming the plateau. There, probably, is no way of entirely preventing plateau, but it may be lessened in number and be shorter in duration if the athlete is highly motivated and his interest is well maintained. In certain cases a physical education teacher can allow the athlete to take a few days off or turn to a different task when he is failing to show any betterment in his performance. Furthermore, from the learning curve a physical education teacher can note when the athlete seems to be poorly motivated, without much interest and seemingly on plateau. He can, then, introduce new materials, try new methods, vary the activities, and consciously work to get the athlete rise above the plateau.
An important message conveyed by the learning curve is the indication that the athlete has overcome the plateau. He has succeeded in putting behind the staleness and is ready to renew his efforts for high and better performance. Sudden spurt in the learning curve after the plateau is a signal to the physical education teacher that with proper guidance and direction, the athlete is ready to strive for better performance. • Another important implication of the learning curve in physical education and sports is that it forewarns the teacher and trainer regarding the impending physiological limits, beyond which it is not possible for the athlete to make further progress. • A wise physical education teacher, with the help of athletes, can chart individual's and group's performance in the form of learning curves. When this can be done, they know what progress is being made by them. This will motivate many of the athletes. The salient features of the learning curve enables the teacher to solve many of the problems which adversely affect the learning process.