In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Definitions of Individual Differences 2. Types of Individual Differences 3. Causes of Individual Differences 4. Role of Individual Differences in Education.
Definitions of Individual Differences:
1. Drever James:
“Variations or deviations from the average of the group, with respect to the mental or physical characters, occurring in the individual member of the group are individual differences.”
2. Good, C.V.:
“The variation or deviations among individual is regard to a single characteristics or a number of characteristics, those differences which in their totality distinguish one individual from another.”
3. Skinner, C.E.:
“Today we think of individual differences as including any measurable aspect of the total personality.”
4. Woodworth, R.S. and Marquis, D.G.:
“Individual differences are found in all psychological characteristics physical mental abilities, knowledge, habit, personality and character traits.”
“The psychology of individual differences is largely the study of group differences. This study classifies individuals by age, traits, sex, race, social class and so on, and observes the differences within and between those groups. Physical, mental, social and cultural differences etc. are being studied, under individual differences.” – John P.De Ceeceo
Perhaps the first task of every teacher in a class should be to know and study individual differences among his pupils. Individual differences in bodily appearance and physique, habits and skills, interests and temperaments, abilities and attainments have already been recognised.
According to Skinner, “Today we think of individual differences as including any measurable aspect of the total personality.” It is clear from this definition of individual differences that it comprehends every aspect of human personality which is in some manner measurable.
Types of Individual Differences:
1. Physical differences:
Shortness or tallness of stature, darkness or fairness of complexion, fatness, thinness, or weakness are various physical individual differences.
2. Differences in intelligence:
There are differences in intelligence level among different individuals. We can classify the individuals from super-normal (above 120 I.Q.) to idiots (from 0 to 50 I.Q.) on the basis of their intelligence level.
3. Differences in attitudes:
Individuals differ in their attitudes towards different people, objects, institutions and authority.
4. Differences in achievement:
It has been found through achievement tests that individuals differ in their achievement abilities. These differences are very much visible in reading, writing and in learning mathematics.
These differences in achievement are even visible among the children who are at the same level of intelligence. These differences are on account of the differences in the various factors of intelligence and the differences in the various experiences, interests and educational background.
5. Differences in motor ability:
There are differences in motor ability. These differences are visible at different ages. Some people can perform mechanical tasks easily, while others, even though they are at the same level, feel much difficulty in performing these tasks.
6. Differences on account of sex:
McNemar and Terman discovered the following differences between men and women, on the basis of some studies:
(i) Women have greater skill in memory while men have greater motor ability.
(ii) Handwriting of women is superior while men excel in mathematics and logic.
(iii) Women show greater skill in making sensory distinctions of taste, touch and smell etc., while men show greater reaction and conscious of size- weight illusion.
(iv) Women are superior to men in languages, while men are superior in physics and chemistry.
(v) Women are better than men in mirror drawing. Faults of speech etc. in men were found to be three times of such faults in women.
(vi) Women are more susceptible to suggestion while there are three times as many colour blind men as there are women.
(vii) Young girls take interest in stories of love, fairy tales, stories of the school and home and day-dreaming and show various levels in their play. On the other hand boys take interest in stories of bravery, science, war, scouting, stories of games and sports, stories and games of occupation and skill.
7. Racial differences:
There are different kinds of racial differences. Differences of environment is a normal factor in causing these differences. Karl Brigham has composed a list on the basis of differences in levels of intelligence among people who have migrated to United States from other countries.
On the basis of these average differences between the races, the mental age of a particular individual cannot be calculated since this difference is based on environment.
8. Differences due to nationality:
Individuals of different nations differ in respect of physical and mental differences, interests and personality etc. ‘Russians are tall and stout’; ‘Ceylonese are short and slim’; ‘Germans have no sense of humour’; ‘Yellow races are cruel and revengeful’; ‘Americans are hearty and frank’; Indians are timid and peace-loving’ and the like observations enter into our common talk.
9. Differences due to economic status:
Differences in children’s interests, tendencies and character are caused by economic differences.
10. Differences in interests:
Factors such as sex, family background level of development, differences of race and nationality etc., cause differences in interests.
11. Emotional differences:
Individuals differ in their emotional reactions to a particular situation. Some are irritable and aggressive and they get angry very soon. There are others who are of peaceful nature and do not get angry easily. At a particular thing an individual may be so much enraged that he may be prepared for the worst crime like murder, while another person may only laugh at it.
12. Personality differences:
There are differences in respect of personality. On the basis of differences in personality, individuals have been classified into many groups.
Spranger, for example, has classified personalities into six types:
(e) Political, and
Jung classified people into three groups:
(b) Extroverts, and
Trottor divided individuals into:
(a) Stable minded, and
(b) Unstable minded.
Jordon thinks of personalities into:
(a) Active, and
(b) Reflective type.
Thorndike has classified people into four categories on the basis of thinking:
(a) Abstract thinkers,
(b) Ideational thinkers,
(c) Object thinkers, and
(d) Thinkers in whom sensory experience is predominant.
Terman has classified people into nine classes according to their level of intelligence:
(b) Near genius
(c) Very superior,
(h) Dull, and
It is an admitted fact that some people are honest, others are dishonest, some are aggressive, others are humble, some are social, others like to be alone, some are critical and others are sympathetic. Thus we see that the differences in personality are dependent on personality traits. Teacher should keep in mind these differences while imparting education to the pupils.
Causes of Individual Differences:
Some of the main causes of individual differences are as under:
One of the most significant and chief causes of individual differences is heredity. Individuals inherit various physical traits like face with its features, colour of eyes and hair, type of skin, shape of skull and size of hands, colour blindness, baldness, stub-finger and tendency to certain diseases like cancer and tuberculosis, mental traits like intelligence, abstract thinking, aptitudes and prejudices. Now it is an admitted fact that heredity differences result in the quantity and rate of physical as well as mental development being different and different individuals.
Environment significantly influences individual differences. Changes in child’s environment are reflected in the changes in his personality. Psychologically speaking, a person’s environment consists of sum total of stimulation which he receives from conception until his death.
Environment consists of physical, intellectual, social, moral, political, economic and cultural forces. All these forces cause individual differences. Modern psychologists believe that individual differences are caused by both heredity and environment. Personality is the outcome of mutual interaction between heredity and environment.
3. Influence of caste, race and nation:
Individuals of different castes and races exhibit very marked differences. It is generally seen that son of a Kshatriya has a more of courage in him while the son of a trader has the traits of business.
Similarly individuals of different nations show differences in respect of their personality, character and mental abilities. These are the outcome of their geographical, social and cultural environment. Many studies have shown the existence of differences between Americans and Negroes, Chineese and Japaneese, English and Indian individuals.
4. Sex differences:
Development of boys and girls exhibits differences due to difference in sex. The physical development of the girl takes place a year or two earlier than the boys. Between the age of 11 and 14, girls are taller and heavier than the boys. After 15, boys start winning the race.
Girls are kind, affectionate, sympathetic and tender while the boys are brave, hard, choleric, efficient and competent.
5. Age and intelligence:
Physical, intellectual and emotional development is caused by the growth in age. Many individuals differ because of the differences in intelligence. Individuals who are below the average in intelligence and mental age find much difficulty in learning and the average intelligent persons can learn quickly.
6. Temperament and emotional stability:
Some people are by temperament active and quick, while others are passive and slow, some humorous and others short tempered. Emotional stability of the individual is differently affected by physical, mental and environmental factors. Differences in emotional stability cause individual differences.
7. Other Causes:
Interests, aptitudes, achievements, sentiments, character, educational and home background lead to individual differences.
8. Economic condition and education:
Individual differences are caused by economic condition of the parents and the education of the children. It is not possible for the children of two economic classes to have a similarity and equality.
Role of Individual Differences in Education:
One of the important objectives of modern education is the complete development of the individual. Individuals have different goals, different interests, different emotional problems and different abilities. We cannot afford to ignore these individual differences in imparting education to children. Since school work is planned on group basis it presents a formidable challenge to all teachers.
Hence some practical procedures for adapting school work to individual differences are suggested:
1. Limited size of the class:
Generally there are 50 or more than 50 students in a class. In such a large class, it is not possible for the teacher to pay individual attention to the students. The size of the class should be small. It should be divided into various units so that after class-room work their various difficulties may be found out.
2. Proper division of the class:
Now there are separate classes for the students, who have different intelligence. While bringing about this classification, the teacher should keep in mind the difference in age, interests, emotional and social qualities.
3. Home task:
The teacher should assign home task to the students while keeping in view the individual differences.
4. Factor of sex:
Boys and girls are to play different roles in society. Hence the factor of sex should be kept in mind.
The curriculum should be modified to suit the needs of all types of children. A large number of subjects should be included in the curriculum so that education can be provided to each child according to his interests, needs and abilities. Curriculum should not be rigid but it should be flexible.
If we lay down the same curriculum for all the students, the brilliant students will not be able to have full mental diet, and the backward students and the students of lower I.Q. will lag far behind in the class, and they may start playing truancy from the school.
6. Methods of Teaching:
Methods of teaching should be chosen on the basis of individual differences. It is not advisable to use the same method of education in the case of all children-gifted or backward.
7. Educational Guidance:
Teacher should impart educational guidance to the students while keeping in view their individual differences. He can assist them in the selection of educational career, selection of subjects, selection of books, selection of hobbies and co-curricular activities and in many other areas connected with education.
8. Vocational Guidance:
While keeping in view the individual differences the teacher can guide the students in the vocation that they should adopt.
9. Individual Training:
Many plans and techniques for individualizing instructions have been advocated.
Some of these plans are as under:
(i) Dalton Plan:
This plan was introduced by Miss Helen Parkhurst at Dalton. According to this plan, the school is regarded as a ‘children house.’ The principles underlying the plan are freedom, co-operation and allocation of time. The pupils are free to continue without interruption the work in which they are absorbed, unhindered by time tables.
They are not taught in classrooms. They are given subjects that suit their interests. The advantage of this plan is that each pupil is allowed to proceed at his own rate and in accordance with this individual ability. Thus the instructions are completely individualized.
(ii) Morrison Plan:
This Plan was devised by Professor H.Q. Morrison of the University of Chicago. This plan is based on directed guidance and stresses unit assignment. To establish learning unit is an important task in the Morrison plan. The plan is based on individual needs and interests.
(iii) Winnetka Plan:
This plan was instituted by C.W. Washburne in the school of Winnetka, Illinois. This plan is based on the principle that the pupils should be allowed to follow his own rate of learning in each of the subjects of his curriculum. Before instituting this plan it is observed through an examination that how much an individual already knows. On the basis of it, specific learning unit is planned for him.
Progress is checked by the pupils himself by means of self-administered tests. The advantages of this plan are that the backward and the intelligent are to proceed at their own rates. Moreover, there are no failures since the pupil is measured against his own progress.
(iv) Contract Plan:
In this plan, the subjects of study are determined like the Dalton method; the pupil’s progress is measured through tests like the Winnetka method. Thus this plan is a synthesis of Dalton and Winnetka methods.
(v) Project method:
This method was suggested by Kilpatrick. In this method each member of the group can work in terms of his interest and ability. Hence this method is also in the direction of individualization of instructions.