Chapter 10 Individual Differences Among Learners

Chapter 10 Individual Differences Among Learners

Meaning of Individual Differences

Individual differences can be defined as the variations we observe among members of any group of individuals in a particular characteristic, such as language, culture, religion, gender, attitude etc. We are aware that no two persons are exactly alike. Thus, children born of the same parents and even twins, differ in various aspects. The two main causes of individual differences can be classified under the broad categories of heredity (i.e. traits inherited from the parents) and the environment. (i.e. what is acquired from and communicated in different cultures, communities, religions etc.) Broadly, individual differences may be classified into two categories such as inherited traits and acquired traits, as given below Each student is a unique individual, being different in cognitive and affective development, social maturity, ability, motivation, aspiration, learning styles, needs, interests, potential etc from others. Apart from this, other factors underlying student differences include innate differences in intelligence, differences in social and economic background and variations in past learning experiences. Thus, educators should not try to narrow the gap between individuals or to even out their abilities and performance. Instead, they should aim for understanding why students are able or unable to learn well and find appropriate ways to help them learn better.
Individual Differences Inherited Acquired Physical Mental Temperamental Social Cultural Educational Emotional

Understanding Differences

Educators and teachers need to understand individual differences based on

1. Diversity of Language

India is a land of a large number of languages being spoken in various communities. Thus, it is not necessary that the language used at home and neighbourhood of a learner is the same as that used as the medium of instruction in school, particularly if the language of instruction is English. Thus, children face difficulties in reading comprehension and writing skills. The low level of proficiency of learners in a language may be due to
(i) not understanding the nature and structure of the language.
(ii) not comprehending the scope of the language.
(iii) failure of teachers to consider biases taking place due to caste, creed, race and gender.
(iv) reluctance of teachers to understand the role of the mother tongue for the child’s cognitive development.

2. Culture, Community and Religion

It is well-known that learners belonging to socially and culturally poor backgrounds face problems in excelling in academics. The Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are having such backgrounds. Learners from these sections need to be brought into the mainstream of society.

3. Gender

Due to gender difference, one individual differs from another.Men are strong inmental power. On the other hand, women on the average show a slight superiority overmen inmemory, language and aesthetic sense.Women excelmen in shouldering social responsibilities, but aremore emotional than men.

4. Family

Even two children from the same family (thus, having similar genetic traits) may differ in personality significantly. This may be due to physical differences, gender and various environmental factors like treatment by parents, education etc. This causes variation in learning among people.

5. Emotion

In some individuals, positive emotions like love, affection, amusement and the like are prominent; whereas in some, negative emotions are more powerful. Some persons are emotionally stable and mature, while others are emotionally unstable and immature. This affects learning significantly.

6. 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 walking and other such native or acquired physical characteristics. These may cause individual differences in learning.

7. Attitude

Research has demonstrated that some individuals possess attitudes that are highly consistent with both their feelings and beliefs, whereas other individuals possess attitudes that are less consistent with these. Persons with highly structured attitudes provided faster affective and cognitive attitudinal responses than those whose attitudes are not well structured.

8. Personality

Individuals vary in personality and social behaviour. It is generally accepted that some of this variation is due to differences in genes and some to the environment, i.e. to differences in that individual’s experiences. This variation causes learning differences.

9. Aptitude, Intelligence and Acquisition of Core Skills

Individuals are also found to have different aptitudes. Some have mechanical aptitude, while the others have scholastic, musical or artistic aptitudes. Thus, they will differ in their effective learning of certain skills. Individuals differ in intellectual abilities and capacities like reasoning and thinking, power of imagination, creative expression, concentration etc. These cause differences among learners. Individual differences in core skill acquisition are influenced by factors like general intelligence, speed of being able to understand procedures and psychomotor speed.

Importance of Understanding Individual Differences in Education

It is important for teachers to understand individual differences so that they can create a learning environment to take care of the learners’ physical and socio-cultural differences. For effective learning, teachers have to reconcile the differences within a class of learners with regard to psychological, personal, social, religious and other factors. They should adopt the methods given below for taking care of such differences effectively

  • Divide children into groups for classroom activities with each group consisting of learners with diverse cultures and talents.
  • Develop a curriculum to accommodate learners’ individual differences. Decide teaching-learning strategies to suit the individual needs of students. This will make the students learn better.
  • Take physical differences between learners into account and control the learning environment in the classroom to ensure optimal learning opportunities for all.


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