Educators typically use the term capacity in reference to the perceived abilities, skills, and expertise of school leaders, teachers, faculties, and staffs—most commonly when describing the “capacity” of an individual or school to execute or accomplish something specific, such as leading a school-improvement effort or teaching more effectively. The term may also encompass the quality of adaptation—the ability of a school or educator to grow, progress, or improve. Common variations include educator capacity, leadership capacity, school capacity, and teacher capacity, among others.

The phrase “building capacity”—a widely used bit of education jargon—refers to any effort being made to improve the abilities, skills, and expertise of educators. If the purpose is to reduce a school’s reliance on outside contractors or services, for example, educators may say they want to “build internal capacity.” When these terms and phrases are used in education contexts without qualification, specific examples, or additional explanation, it may be difficult to determine precisely what the term is referring to. In fact, some educational professionals, literature, and resources will call on school leaders to “build capacity” in a specified area without ever describing precisely what capacities should be improved or exactly how they might be improved.

For a related discussion, see professional development.