Individual difference is a universal phenomenon. It is said that no two individuals are exactly alike. They differ from each other in some way or the other. Such a similarity or difference between persons reveals individual differences.
According to Drever James
Individual Differences are 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.
According to Carter B. Good
Individual Difference is the the variation or deviations among individual in regard to a single characteristics or a number of characteristics, those differences which in their totality distinguish one individual from another.
According to Skinner, C.E.
Today we think of individual differences as including any measurable aspect of the total personality.
According to R.S. and Marquis , D.G.
Individual differences are found in all psychological characteristics physical mental abilities, knowledge, habit, personality and character traits.
Types of Individual Differences
In the case of learning, ‘one size fits all’ is not true. Not everyone can learn in the same manner. For example, while some students cannot study without loud music, others need a calm environment. Some learners can be comfortable with online courses, but others may prefer textbooks over online study material. Thus, there are differences among learners. Knowledge of these differences, their amount, interrelations, and causes, is very important and necessary in planning the education of a particular child. Exact knowledge of just what differences do exist between individuals and of the causes of these differences is important. These differences are discussed below:
i. Physical differences
Shortness or tallness of stature, darkness or fairness of complexion, fatness, thinness, or weakness are various physical individual differences.
Intelligence There is difference in intelligence level of different learners. It can affect their ability to grasp content. Some learners can understand quickly, while others may need to spend more time. It also affects their ability to remember, recall, and reinforce.
Aptitude This is the ability to do something. The learner’s aptitude affects his performance. In many research studies, it has been found that higher level of aptitude results in better performance in learning and retaining it. It is also related to critical thinking of the learners.
Age Age affects the curiosity to learn. We know that kids are more curious to acquire new knowledge. But as we grow older, our curiosity levels decrease.
Motivation Every learner may have different motivating force for learning a skill or anything else. It could be the desire of employment, better salary, business success, a hobby, or fulfilling parents’ wish, etc. It will help learners in staying focused.
Personality The personality of a learner also impacts his ability to learn. His interaction with others will depend on his personality. Different personality traits such as extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness are related to job performance, academic achievement, leadership, and well-being.
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.
ii. 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.
iii. Prior knowledge
Prior knowledge of the learner also makes a difference in his learning ability. A learner will be able to learn better if he is able to relate it with his prior knowledge. If a person does not know the basic mathematical operations, then how will he learn advanced mathematics? So, prior knowledge and experience of the learner affects his learning.
iv. Learning style
Every learner has a different learning style. Some need complete silence, while others may need music to concentrate. Some may learn better with discussions, while others may like to study alone. Some may prefer e-books and other online materials, whereas others may be more comfortable with textbooks.
v. 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.
Individuals differ in their attitudes towards different people, objects, institutions and authority. The attitude of the learner is also a very significant factor. A positive attitude will help in learning effectively. The different aspects of attitude such as interest, open-mindedness, cheerfulness, prejudice, and affection help in shaping the personality of the learner.
For effective learning, the learner should be in a comfortable environment. Different learners can be comfortable in different types of environment. Some can learn better in groups or if there are other learners around them, such as in a library, whereas some others may prefer learning individually. Therefore, it is necessary to provide a favourable stimulating and supportive educational atmosphere to children coming to the school. Whether it is curriculum development, teaching strategies or guidance, knowledge of one’s environment backgrounds, and their impact on an individual’s personality is very handy to teachers and curriculum developers. Educationists concerned with pedagogical issues always attach immense importance to the selection of proper teaching methods to suit the need of the students. A teacher can provide a favourable educational environment in the school to help the child develop his potentialities. A non-favourable environment is bound to be detrimental in the process of development of the student.
The health of the learner influences his ability to learn , remember, and recall. A learner with poor health will not be able to concentrate. The teacher should take extra care of a student with poor health; for example, a student with poor eyesight, can be seated in the first row in the classroom.
ix. 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.
Until the differences among the pupils in a given class are recognized, instruction cannot be on a sound and systematic basis. A significant part of the dilemma in modern education has been brought about by a failure to admit differences by treating all the pupils alike. The individual differences of the learners are not addressed in teacher-centered methods of teaching, as in these methods, the teaching activities are of ‘one size fits all’ type. But in the case of learner- centered methods of teaching, the individual needs and differences of the students are addressed and also students have the option to learn as per their comfort level. The aim of education is to enable each student to attain all-round development according to his/her own attributes. To achieve this, students should be provided with suitable assistance and guidance in accordance with their abilities and learning needs, so that they can develop their potential to the full.