Well, as someone accused of being a "quick learner" or a "good learner" or being "good at" whatever subject we are discussing, I'd like to refute that.
I am not a quick learner.
Learning is about incorporating new information with existing knowledge.
It follows, then, that learning is easier the more knowledge you have to build on.
Here's my learner-life-story in a condensed form.
My parents were both teachers. My mother chose to be a stay-at-home mum.
- As a child, my mum had me playing games that involved counting before I went to school.
- She taught me to play simple tunes on the piano.
- She taught me to read a little.
- She taught me to read the clock.
- On top of this, she spoke a very "standard" English, whereas the local way of speaking was a mixture of Scots and English.
- The recorder (a horrible little instrument, but cheap and accessible for a learner of music)
- Telling the time
Think about that for a moment: I had less to learn.
How can I be a "quick learner" if I'm doing less than the people around me?
Logically, it's absurd to say that.
In reality, all that happened was that I was given adequate time to learn the material given to me, based on my previous experience. Many of my classmates weren't given that chance -- they were presented with ever more new information without giving the previous information time or opportunity to be integrated with the old information.
The result is a spiral of passing tests without ever really mastering any information, and it is not the pupil's fault.
It's not really the teacher's fault either, because the teacher doesn't have any control over the students' knowledge before they come into the room, but any good teacher will tell you that it's the student's knowledge that counts, not intelligence.
Even a good teacher will still struggle with this in practice, because it is very different to account for deficiencies in prior learning for the low attainers without boring the high attainers.
So there's no easy answers, but until the myth of the "slow learner" is well and truly scotched, the debate will always be dragged backwards and true progress won't be achieved.