- Beyond the gender and physical differences of an individual are students from different socioeconomic strata; students who come from various family configurations; students with special needs, differing interests, and abilities; students with different cultural backgrounds, different languages, different learning styles, and different attitudes toward the school.
- The psychology of individual differences is concerned with the systematic study of intelligence and abilities associated with personality of learner, learning styles and needs and interests of learner.
- According to Borich & Tombari (1997), “Individual differences are the variations we observe among members of any group in a particular characteristic, such as temperament, energy level, friendship patterns and parent-child attachment.”
- “Individual differences stand for the variations or deviations among individuals in regard to a single characteristic or a number of characteristics.” – Carter B. Good
- “The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.” – Pablo Casals
Individual differences stand for “those differences which in their totality distinguish one individual from another.
Types or varieties of individual differences
- Physical differences: Individuals differ in height, weight, colour of skin, colour of eyes and hair, size of hands and heads, arms, feet, mouth and nose, length of waistline, structure and functioning of internal organs, facial expression, mannerisms of speech and walk, and other such native or acquired physical characteristics.
- Mental Difference: Individuals differ in intellectual abilities and capacities like reasoning and thinking, power of imagination, creative expression, concentration etc. On the basis of these differences they are usually classified as idiot, imbecile, moron, border line, normal, very superior and genius
- Differences in Motor Ability: There exist wide differences in motor abilities such as reacting time, speed of action, steadiness, rate of muscular moment, manual dexterity and resistance to fatigue etc.
- Differences in Achievement: Differences exist in achievement and in knowledge even among individuals who have almost the same amount of intelligence and have been subjected to equal amount of schooling and experience.
- Emotional Differences: In some individuals, positive emotions like love, affection and amusement and the like are prominent; whereas, in some negative emotions are more powerful. Some are emotionally stable and mature, while others are emotionally unstable and immature.
- Differences in Interests and Aptitudes: Variations occur among the individuals in relation to the specific tastes and interests. Individuals are also found to have different aptitudes. Some have mechanical aptitude, while the others have scholastic, musical or artistic aptitudes.
- Differences in self-concept: Self concept reflects the images, considerations or judgement about one’s abilities and limitations usually held by an individual not only projecting himself before others but also for estimating his self in his own eyes. Low self-image can give rise to low self esteem.
- Learning differences: Some learn more easily and are able to make use of their learning more comfortably than others. For some, one method of learning or memorization is more suitable, while for others, a different method suits.
- Differences in social and moral development: Some are found to be adjusted properly in the social situations and lead a happy social life while others are socially handicapped, unsocial or antisocial. Similarly, people are found to differ in respect of ethical and moral sense.
Two Factors Effecting Individual Differences
- Heredity: (What occurs naturally as a function of the genes) includes all inherited traits.
- Environment: (What is learned and communicated in different cultures or other social groups) includes family, socio-economic status, Culture, previous knowledge, experience and gender differences.
Educational implications of individual differences
- In any group there are individuals who deviate from the norms of the group. Along with the average, the presence of very superior and extremely dull is equally possible in a class.
- Every teacher should try to have the desired knowledge of the abilities, capacities, interests, attitudes, aptitudes and other personality traits of his pupils and in the light of this knowledge should render individual guidance to children for the maximum utilization of their potentialities.
- It is wrong to expect uniformity in gaining proficiency or success in a particular field from a group of students. On account of their subnormal intelligence, previous background, lack of proper interest, aptitude and attitude etc. some students lag behind in one or the other area of achievement.
- All students cannot be benefited by a particular method of instruction and a uniform and rigid curriculum.
Role of teachers/schools in meeting the individual differences
- A teacher should be sensitive to individual differences.
- A teacher’s challenge is to acknowledge and celebrate the differences among children and work to maximize the growth in each child.
- Proper knowledge of the individual’s potentialities: The first step in making provision for the individual differences is to know about the abilities, capacities, interests, aptitudes and other personality traits of individual pupils.
For this purpose, help from intelligence test, cumulative record card, interest inventories, attitude scales, aptitude tests and measures for assessing personality traits should be taken.
- Ability grouping: In the light of the results derived from various tests for knowing individual differences in terms of individual potentialities in various dimensions, the students in a class or area of activity can be divided into homogenous groups.
Such division can prove beneficial in adjusting instruction to varying individual differences.
- Adjusting the curriculum: The curriculum should be as flexible and differentiated as possible.
It should have the provision for a number of diversified courses and co-curricular experiences.
It should provide adjustment suiting the local requirements and potentialities of the students in different groups.
- Adjusting the method of teaching: Every teacher should be somewhat free to formulate his own plan and strategy and adopt instructional procedure which he finds most suited to the particular types of pupils under him.
He should try to follow a different procedure or method of instruction suiting the requirements of varying ability groups of his pupils.
- Adopting special programmes or methods for individualizing instruction ; Schools may also adopt special programmes or method of teaching like Dalton plan, the Winnetka plan, the project method or use programmed learning material for enabling the students to learn their own individual pace.
- Other measures of individualizing instructions
- The size of the class or section should be as small as possible.
- The teacher should try to pay individual attention the group under instruction.
- The teacher should keep in view the individual differences of his students while engaging them in drill or practice work in classroom or assigning home task
- In case ability grouping is not possible and more specifically under the prevalent system of class teaching, special coaching and guidance programme for both the dull and gifted children is most helpful.
Conclusion: Thus, the problem of individual differences can be tackled with multi-dimensional tasks. As teachers, we must be aware of students’ individual differences such as differences in culture, ethnicity, intelligence, languages, learning styles, etc. It is because it may enhance students’ understanding or limit their opportunity to learn from the school environment. These factors should be taken into consideration when we plan teaching and learning process in the classroom.