Punctuated Equilibrium Theory

Punctuated Equilibrium Theory

Explains why learning doesn’t progress in a straight line. Most cultural and societal development tends to take place in fits and starts – large advances then periods of relative calm.

Whilst borrowed from a conceptual framework from social theory it applies to learning and development – let me explain why

Despite how we might imagine learning and development, it is in fact not a smooth upward trajectory, but instead consists of long stable plateaus followed by steep upward rapid jumps in improvement which again is followed by a further plateau in performance [whilst new learning is assimilated into every day activities] before repeating.

Think about the way we learn to play music or sport or indeed learn language – there a periods when gains are made quite rapidly followed by plateaus in performance at which point some – stop working on the very things which have driven the improvement to this point – this is the life long battle between faith and fear [see more here]

Some tips

Some useful tips to making your learning experience better.

Have Faith

The trick here is to have faith – if you believed the training and development activity has worked to date – be true to it and wait for the next upward trend.

Look back down the hill

This is about acknowledging the progress you have already made in learning this new skill,

be it tacit or explicit – that is why it is always useful to have a learning diary.

Keep a learning diary

Which plots the progress of your development. This also helps you to identify future learning and development needs – “where to next”

Some other points to consider

Here are some potential watch outs on your learning journey

  • Bounded rationality we can’t focus on all our issues at once so we focus on a few with high risk or reward – others fall by the wayside perhaps temporarily – this is a time to take stock of what is important to us – read more here
  • Disproportionate attention we can’t and don’t concentrate on everything all the time – some things take our limited attention and some things get neglected – we might have to consciously focus on things we want to improve – this is where a learning diary comes in handy – read more here
  • Framing by changing how we think or talk about something changes its priority in terms of Bounded rationality and Disproportionate attention – we can change the effort we direct without knowing it – you may need to review what is important and keep focused on the things you want to change and how to change them this will redirect and focus effort – read more here
… there is always …

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