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Educational Implications of the Psychology of Individual Difference

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The notion that individuals differ in various abilities, capacities and personality characteristics necessitates the adoption of individual tendencies in education. It compels the teachers to realize following facts:

  1. 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 his class.
  2. 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 maximum utilization of their potentialities.
  3. 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 some students have to lag behind in some or other area of achievement.
  4. All students can not be benefited by one particular method of instruction and a uniform and rigid curriculum.

Provisions for ‘individual differences’ in Schools:

Realization of the above facts or some more of their nature makes us think that we must have some provision for the wide individual differences among our pupils in our schools. Emphasizing this need Crow and Crow (1973) write –

Since we supposedly are teaching individuals, not groups of individuals, it is the function of the school within its budgetary personnel and curricular limitations to provide adequate schooling for every learner no matter how much he differs from every other learner.”

How can we accomplish this task is a pertinent question to be asked at this stage. In fact, to provide adequate schooling or learning experience for every learner according to his individuality is not a simple task. However, the following suggestions can be helpful for any teacher –

  1. Proper knowledge of individual personalities: The first step in making provisions for individual differences is not how abilities, capacities, interests, aptitudes and other personality traits of individual pupils. For this purpose, frequent assessment in the form of intelligence tests, cumulative record card, interest inventories, attitude scales, aptitude tests and measures for assessing personality traits shall be carried out.
  2. Ability grouping: In the light of results derived from various tests of knowing individual differences in terms of individual potentialities in various dimensions, the students in a class or area of activity can be divided into homogeneous groups. Such divisions can prove beneficial in adjusting the method of instruction to varying individual differences.
  3. Adjusting the curriculum: To meet the requirement of varying individual differences among the pupils, the curriculum should be as flexible and differentiated as possible. It should have the provision for a number of diversified courses and curriculum experiences so that the pupils may get opportunity to study and work in the areas of their own interests and abilities. It should provide adjustment to suit the local requirements and potentialities of students of different groups.
  4. Adjusting the methods of teaching: Considering the varying individual differences, adjustment with regard to the adoption of methods of teaching is very effective. Every teacher should be somewhat free to formulate his own plan and strategy and adopt different instructional procedures which he finds most suited to different pupils. He should follow different procedures or methods of instruction to suit the requirements of varying ability groups of his pupils.
  5. Adopting social programs or methods for individualizing instruction: Schools may also adopt some social programs or methods of teaching like the Dalton plan, the Winnekta plan, project method or use programmed learning material for enabling students to learn at their own individual pace.
  6. Other causes of individualizing instruction: For the purpose of individualizing instruction a few practical measures can also prove beneficial :-
    • The student strength of the class or section should be made as small as possible.
    • The teacher should try to pay individual attention to the group under instruction.
    • The teacher should keep in view the individual difference of his students while engaging them in drill or practice work in the class-room or assigning home-task.
    • In case where ability grouping is not possible and more specifically under the prevalent system of class teaching, special coaching and guidance program for both the dull and the gifted children are most helpful.

Thus, the problem of individual differences can be tackled with multi dimensional tasks. The teacher, school authorities, the parents and the government as well as voluntary agencies – all should join hands to meet the individual requirements of children who possess tremendous individual differences.

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