Teaching Tips Capacity

Has the student capacity for education changed?  Perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of academic education over the past few decades is the change in attitude, accompanying the transition of thought re the capacity of students to learn and retain knowledge. One might suggest that this may have changed the face of education forever.

Capacity, according to dictionary.com is “the ability to receive or contain”.

For many years, teachers and others underestimated the “amount” of knowledge that students could process, absorb and comprehend. Interestingly, students have an amazing “ability or power of receiving impressions, knowledge, etc.; mental ability” that far surpasses our limited understanding of it.

Not only that, students have an “actual or potential ability to perform, yield, or withstand” in response to knowledge, as well as the “quality or state of being susceptible to a given treatment or action” that can result from the exposure to knowledge.  

Until the last few decades, only those students who were understood to be exceptionally ‘gifted’ had access to higher levels of knowledge. Teachers or mentors taught these students on a one-to-one basis. The rest of the students had to follow a strictly formatted academic curriculum.

One might suggest that the capacity of the human brain was probably being under-estimated.

Nowadays, current thought is that the human brain can comprehend, absorb and retain knowledge of many more different kinds than was ever thought possible. The more quickly the human brain receives it, the more retention of knowledge there is possible. Its capacity is unlimited.

What does this mean for the future of education?

Adult learners, returning to academic upgrading after many years, may find this approach to knowledge confusing, especially at first when they seem to be bombarded with excessive knowledge.

Distinctions between auditory learners and visual learners may also raise questions and create controversy about students’ capacity to learn and retain vast amounts of knowledge being ‘hurled’ at them.

In reality, beyond basic reading, writing and arithmetic lies a vast horizon of accessible knowledge, the pieces which the human brain can put together in a multiplicity of unique ways. This does not eliminate the need for reading, writing and arithmetic, but entails a different approach to learning these skills.  

Perhaps one of the reasons that the human brain has such an amazing capacity for knowledge is the reality that it operates like an ever-flowing fountain. Knowledge comes in, is processed and what is pertinent at that moment, finds its place. Time plays its own role, as the human brain categorizes knowledge in a timely fashion, with appropriate recall, later. What appears to be unimportant or non-pertinent knowledge seems to disappear but no one really knows what happens to it. Where does it go?

What does this mean for today and the future generation of students?

Perhaps one example of the implications of this kind of teaching methodology for today has to do with memory and memory loss. In elderly people with memory loss, is this somehow related to the basic education methodology used in the past? Has it adversely affected or limited their capacity to continue learning?

Is it only those who have managed to break free who will realize their capacity to receive or contain knowledge, as well as use it? No one knows.

Is today’s teaching methodology maximizing the learning capacity of the student? Perhaps only trial and error reveal what is actually happening. One might suggest that a lot more research may reveal interesting truths on the relationship between teaching methodology and capacity.

The capacity of students for education probably has not changed, but rather been discovered. The question becomes one of where does it go from here?