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Building Learning Capacity

The 3 Keys

Everone has the ability to learn; that’s what our brains do.  But not everyone has the same capacity to learn, and one’s capacity for learning can be built.

3 Keys to Building Learning Capacity

  1. Understand your student’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses and the strategies that fit their individual learning profile best.
  2. Train cognitive skills in a comprehensive and integrated way.
  3. Nurture a growth mindset.

Understand your student’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses.

Everyone has cognitive strengths and weaknesses.  When you understand what they are and how they are involved in learning, you can choose strategies to help your student leverage their strengths and support weaker processing areas.

It’s not enough to know that a student struggles in math or is a slow reader.  Students may struggle in math for many different reasons, including limited working memory, underdeveloped visual-spatial skills, or problems with sequencing.  In reading, visualization, verbal reasoning, and working memory often play key roles.  When you know a student’s learning profile, then determining the best strategies is not a matter of guesswork.

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Train cognitive skills in a comprehensive and integrated way.

Cognitive skills are the foundation for learning and include:

  • Foundational Cognitive Skills (how information gets into our brains from the outside world) – such as Attention, Visual Processing, and Sequential Processing
  • Core Executive Functions (the directive capacities of our minds) – Working Memory, Inhibitory Control, and Cognitive Flexibility
  • Higher Order Executive Functions (the skills needed for college and career) – such as Planning, Critical Thinking, and Creativity

Research is showing that cognitive skills can be developed to a far greater degree than people may think with the right kind of training – training that is comprehensive in the range of skills developed – and that works like cross-training, integrating skills as they are strengthened.

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Nurture a growth mindset.

Individuals who believe that intelligence is not fixed and that abilities and talents can be developed have a growth mindset.  A growth mindset enables students to learn from their mistakes, to be resilient when they experience setbacks, and to take responsibility for their own learning.

The first two Keys can play a significant role in supporting the development of a growth mindset.  When students own strategies to help them learn and have seen their cognitive skills expand with training, the concepts become real and tangible.

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