U-shaped learning

Target audience: intermediate learners.

U-shaped learning is a developmental trajectory which commonly occurs in the development of new cognitive skills, including Second language acquisition. The name comes from the shape of the curve on a graph with time on the x-axis and skill level on the y-axis.

There are three phases:

  1. Early apparent high skill, reflecting simple memorization of unanalysed responses. (went)
  2. Middle low skill, reflecting the development of analysis. Responses are analysed but suffer from overgeneralization. (goed)
  3. Eventual high skill, representing mature analysis. (went)

U-shaped learning has been found in a variety of domains, including:

  • learning new words
  • learning mathematical algorithms
  • building muscle strength


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