Understanding Student and Teacher Abilities

Students and teachers all have various strengths and weaknesses. In this post, we will look at students’ mental skills and the cognitive complexity of teachers. Teachers need to be aware of the student’s mental skills, and teachers and administrators need to be mindful of their cognitive complexity and that of their peers.

For Students

Students are frequently judge and assessed for their mental abilities. Mental abilities can be defined in many different ways. Some of the mental abilities traits are fluency, memory, verbal comprehension, inductive reasoning, and mathematical/logical aptitude.

Some of these so-called mental abilities can be influenced by studying in a second language. For example, most ESL students struggle with verbal comprehension of other people’s words and fluency. Therefore, these students may be thought of as having weak mental abilities when, in fact, they are struggling to function academically in a second language.

This means that when trying to understand students’ mental abilities, it is essential to remember that assessing mental abilities is tricky in the best case situation and that there are unique factors for individual students that need to be considered.

For Teachers

Teachers also have the same mix of ability when it comes to mental capacities. However, because of a teacher’s added responsibility of managing and leading students’ instructional experience, teachers can also be further analyzed in terms of their cognitive complexity.

Cognitive complexity is a person’s ability to sort through information and organize it to be understandable. General, people, can be viewed on a continuum from low to high cognitive complexity.

Teachers who exhibit low cognitive complexity will only see one or two aspects of a problem or challenging situation. In addition, such teachers often rely heavily on stereotypes when dealing with students, causing them to miss each student’s uniqueness. Decision making is fast as the teacher is willing to move on limited information. Lastly, such teachers with low cognitive complexity have a low locus of control, which means they often are not convinced that they have control over external conditions.

Teachers with high cognitive complexity often have a less deterministic, stereotypical view of the world. This means that alternative solutions are sought to deal with problems. The locus of control is placed within the individual, which means that the teacher believes they have authority and influence on their environment.

Teachers with high cognitive complexity are often better at dealing with rapid change and complex situations. In addition, these individuals are better at obtaining and acquiring information for decision making.

However, there are some words of caution. Cognitive complexity is steeped in cultural values. In other words, the traits that are defined as being complex are traits that are valued in a western context. In a different context, such abilities may be seen in an opposite light. What this means is that high complexity is situational, not only cultural but also for a person. For example, a person might demonstrate high complexity in one situation and not in another, such as when going into a familiar situation or an unfamiliar one.

Furthermore, another related idea is that whether a person has high or low cognitive complexity depends on who they are being compared to. Among one group of people, a person may have the highest of the low cognitive complexities. Still, this same person would be viewed differently compared to a different group of people.

Lastly, to label some people low or high in cognitive ability is somewhat discouraging for people who may be labeled as low. The points above indicate that people’s complexity can change due to the situation or who they are compared to. Probably all teachers have exhibited all of these low and high traits at one time or another. Even students can shift back and forth at times.


Teachers and students all have different abilities. It is crucial to understand how people think and work around you and how you think and work to avoid confusion. Students are judge on their mental abilities, while teachers may be judge based on their management style. When this happens, there must be great care to consider the big picture and all the influencing people’s factors so that teachers and students are not judged negatively in an unfair way.

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