Based upon the readings of this topic I would say that people are born with the power to control their ability to learn. I believe everyone has a limit to how much they can learn and achieve, but we also have the ability to control our own education. The Albert Einstein’s and Steve Jobs of the world have a larger capacity to learn than most of us, but they would never have accomplished so much without putting forth a great deal of effort. Both Einstein and Jobs had many struggles along their path to success, but did they quit? Did they stop learning? Or did they overcome obstacles and learn from their failures? Obviously they had to struggle and they decided to not let difficulties stand in their way of success.
So, how does this relate to the speed at which people learn? We all have to put forth effort into our learning, but everyone learns at a different pace which means the ability to acquire knowledge is quicker for some. For example, when I am studying Math I need to read the material over and over and then I need to practice until it finally sinks in, which could take days sometimes. But I have a few friends that can read or understand something only once and instantly learn it. Granted they have to put forth the effort to read and try to learn it in the first place, but I have to put forth more effort and more time to learn the same material. On the other hand, English class came very natural to me and was easier to learn than most of my classmates. I believe each subject has a different effect on the learning process of individuals. Most people don’t just wake up one day and get straight A’s in every subject, it doesn’t exactly work like that.
Some individuals simply learn what they need to at the moment, ace the test and then move on. They can “do” things quite easily, but they don’t exactly “know” what they’ve learned later on. I believe it is a gradual process for most people to acquire knowledge, but some individuals can acquire knowledge instantly with very little effort. So that begs the question, how is knowledge organized? This is not a simple answer, some say knowledge is organized as simple, isolated facts and others think knowledge is a complex network of concepts. I believe it’s both; we have short term memory, which is the ability to remember simple facts and long term memory which helps us organize more complex items.
Knowledge is a tricky thing, because in some cases it’s clearly black and white, such as 1+1= 2. This has been and always will be the answer and there are other truths in this world that are absolute as well like the law of gravity. If a person is on top of a 100 story building and they drop a “penny” off of it the penny will fall down to the ground. These are absolutes truths, but not everything in this world is black and white, there is a large grey section in the middle. I believe knowledge is clear and certain for some things and relative for everything else. These are the same beliefs I hold towards my own learning and the learning of others.
Unfortunately, I had many teachers who held way too many “absolute” truths and graded us based on their beliefs without acknowledging or fostering our own beliefs. For example, an Atheist teacher can’t fail a student simply because that student believes in God. If the student has to write an essay explaining whether or not God exists, they should be graded on how well they write the paper, and not on their beliefs. Some of my teachers and professors over the years held the belief that their own knowledge was absolute and when I challenged them, some become defensive and held their power over me. This doesn’t promote learning, it discourages it and it only frustrates students when they should be inspired.
In order for true learning to occur, a teacher should be aware of her own epistemological beliefs and know that these affect her teaching. Teachers should also develop in students the ability for them to search their own epistemological beliefs and understand how these affect their learning. If our own beliefs inhibit us from learning and improving then we have to be willing to change or adjust them.