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Individual Differences Among Learners
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Individual Differences Among Learners
CHILD DEVELOPMENT AND PEDAGOGY
INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES AMONG LEARNERS
It is not unusual to find a wide range of differences among students in a class or a group. These differences are invariably identified in terms of student’s characteristics such as physical (appearance, height, size, sex, colour, etc.), demographic (age, caste, socio economic status, etc:) and cognitive behaviour (thinking, remembering, problem solving, creating idea, etc.). The differences that exist among students due to physical, demographic, affective behaviour and cognitive behaviour characteristics are referred to as individual differences
Differences due to physical and demographic characteristics are conspicuous and easy to identify However, the differences that exist in the way they solve problem in Mathematics or in their ability to interpret and explain ideas are not easily visible but are identified through their performance. Let us examine, for instance, the answers given by Bitto and Neha, two students of the same class to the following proverb Interpret the saying, “Pen is mightier than the sword”.
It means that writing has always been able to influence mankind more than any amount of sheer physical strength; writing undoubtedly makes a more lasting impact in the minds of the people than any form of physical demonstration. In the case of the latter the impact might be forceful though less lasting. Great thinkers, writers and philosophers have from time immemorial been able to hold sway over the minds of the people by means of their profound knowledge through their writings. For example, Socrates won the wrath of a powerful state, because of his great ability to hold spellbound the young through his discourses. Similarly, the writing of Voltaire and Rousseau inspired the French to rise up in revolt.
It is a common proverb which simply means that through writing it is possible to win more victories than by using physical force and weapons. When any good book is read it is possible to retain in our memory the message it contains. On the other hand, success achieved through physical might is not for mankind.
The above illustration reflects the differences between Bitto and Neha in their interpretation of the proverb. While Bitto delves deep in her interpretation Neha states only the meaning.
According to Skinner, individual differences in learner behaviours are the result of the organism’s genetic endowment and reinforcement. Thus, Skinner believed that defective genetic endowment and/or defective reinforcement contingencies in an individual’s experience result in a failure to acquire a variety of learned behaviours.
The process of an individual’s mental activities such as remembering. analysing, interpreting, reasoning problem solving and thinking are cognitive domain behavior and are essential for learning and achievement. How we think, want and how we Remember, how we solve problems and how we create ideas are cognitive domain behaviours and individuals differ by these behaviours. Such differences are often identified by psychologists in terms of intelligence, aptitude, creating and academic achievement.
Individual differences are crucial for teachers who are responsible for guiding all forms of learning. In fact, many educators would suggest that the primary role of teachers is to provide education to meet the individual differences and to develop student cognitive process
Do Individuals Differ in Intelligence?
Well, they do differ. But how? Differences are due to the differences in the level of general intellectual ability and the underlying cognitive process among individuals
How do we identify differences in intelligence?
Using suitable intelligence tests we can measure and identify the difference. An intelligence test may contain sub-tests (sub-sections) and a catch sub-test represents a different set of abilities. The scores obtained in all sub-tests are added up to obtain a single score to represent the general ability of the student. Thus, the single score obtained for each individual in a test is expressed in terms of Intelligence quotient (IQ). IQ is a measure of intelligence and is defined as the ratio of mental age (average age of children who give correct responses answers in an intelligence test) to the chronological age (actual age) multiplied by 100 (to avoid fraction) Thus mental age is:
IQ =Mental age×100/Chronological age
IQ scores help us estimate individual differences by categorising individuals on the basis of their IQs. These differences have important consequences for learning and performance. Let us examine the different categories of students based on their intelligence level.
Gifted: Those students who possess IQs of 130 or above are called gifted students. They are superior in intelligence and have high ability to reason. As compared to other children, they can perform academic activities grasping concepts, memorising, perceiving. seeing relationships, generalising, dealing with abstract ideas, critical thinking and solving problems more effectively and quickly. They have a broad attention span that permits concentration and the ability for a high level of academic performance
They take initiative in intellectual work and follow complex directions. Such individuals are small in number as compared to normal or average children Normal groups have those children whose IQs range
from 90 to 110 and they are able to profit from regular school programmes with varying degrees of effort.
Disabled : There are children with disability due to low level to intellectual functioning or specific learning deficits. Children with low level or below average intellectual functioning are called mentally retarded. The children with inadequate levels of intelligence are impaired in their ability to learn and to adapt to the demands of society. Mentally retarded children are of different categories. They can be:
Borderline (IQ ranges 90-70) and educable mentally retarded (1Q ranges 70-50) children can perform academic activities but are slow in their learning. Special instructional strategies can help them to profit from learning activities. They can take care of themselves and live independently as adults.
Trainable mentally retarded (10 ranges 50-35) are capable of learning only certain rudimentary literacy materials and simple occupational skills. They possess some ability to take care of their personal needs and can be trained in daily living skills. Such children require special classes or schools to study in.
Severely retarded (10 below 35) have quite limited adaptive behaviour and are never found in school. They are dependent on their families for their personal needs.
Children with specific learning defects are called learning disabled group. They are normal to above average on intelligence but have difficulties in one or more psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language or numbers (written or spoken). The difficulties manifest in their ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations. These difficulties are tified as aphasia (difficulty in grasping spoken identical language), dyslexia (difficulty in reading), hyperlexia (little or no comprehension), dyscalculia (difficulty in doing arithmetic) and dysgraphia (difficulty in writing). Some are hyperactive in the sense that they are excessively active, inattentive and behave impulsively. They follow instructions poorly and do not often complete the assigned tasks.
Instructional Strategies for Handling Individual Differences
- Organise instruction for the development of cognitive process
- Use the existing cognitive level as base.
- Strengthen memory
- Formulate level specific instructional strategy
- Use individual meetings.
- Provide instructions to overcome learning disability.
Do Individuals Differ in Aptitude?
Yes, they do differ. An individual may have a mechanical aptitude, another may have an aptitude for mathematics or yet another may have an aptitude for language, music or athletics. Such differences are due to the differences in the combination related to the cognitive processes, and the sensory of abilities and psychomotor components. For instance, when we talk of mechanical aptitude, we may deal with ability for spatial relations, ability to acquire information on mechanical matters and ability to comprehend mechanical relations, besides sensory and psychomotor abilities. Similarly, when we discuss aptitude in music, we may identify ability for musical memory. pitch discrimination, loudness discrimination, time discrimination and judgement of rhythm. Likewise, abilities required for science or mathematics are different and each requires a separate set of abilities.
The differences in aptitude can be identified using aptitude tests. Aptitude tests for areas such as mechanical skills, mathematics, science, language, music and graphics can be used to identify the aptitude of students in each area of performance. You might have heard of the use of aptitude tests in medicine, engineering, business management, law or teacher training for selection of students for studies in the respective fields. The aptitude test. in fact, provides a measure of the candidates promise or teachability in a field of study, say, medicine, In other words, the test would tell whether the candidate possesses the required aptitude or readiness to profit from studies in the concerned field of study
Instructional Strategy for Handling Individual Differences
The suggested approach for handling individual differences is adaptive Instructional system. In this approach at least two alternative instructional treatments are needed to ensure academic success Which is the most appropriate instructional treatment for the student depends on his or her existing level of aptitude (learning readiness). Students with high aptitude may choose unstructured instructional strategy. With minimum guidance from the teacher, they may be encouraged to leam through the discovery oriented approach. You may use the inductive process but instructional treatment is essentially learner centered.
In contrast, highly structured instructional treatment for low aptitude learners is designed in small units through sequential steps and feedback. Frequent summary and review with simplifie illustration, analogy and precise explanation of concepts and principles to be learned will facilitate progressive learning, Periodic achievement and aptitude assessments and comparison of these scores with the aptitude scores obtained at the start of instruction would tell the degree to which each leamer in the specific treatment group has achieved.
However, for those who are unable to profit from either of the alternative treatments presented above, compensatory aptitude training is suggested. This consists of directed reading skill, study habits, self- learning skills, note taking and related activities. The main aim of compensatory aptitude training is to develop readiness for entry into structured treatment. Periodic monitoring should be formulated to identify the students who reach the required level for entry into alternative treatment.
Do Learners Differ in their Academic Achievements ?
They do differ, but how? We have seen that those who possess appropriate pre-requisite knowledge learn more effectively than those who lack such knowledge. Differences in pre-requisite knowledge possessed by students create differences in the attainment of knowledge. Further, knowledge is attained progressively. Progressive differences in knowledge attainment leads to cumulative differences in knowledge attainment and this form of differences is often called Mathew Effect. It means that academically rich get richer and those who are poor continue to be poor. Thus, differences in pre-requisites and cumulative knowledge lead to differences the knowledge possessed by the students likewise, they also differ in their capabilities to manipulate the knowledge in a given situation and the differences are identified in terms of the abilities to apply, analyse, synthesise and evaluate knowledge. In fact, ability is an essential condition for learning and the abilities related to intelligence, aptitude and creativity are important for academic achievement. We have seen the instructional strategies for meeting the differences in intelligence, aptitude and creativity through classroom situations. It means that differences in intelligence, aptitude and creativity do create differences in academic achievement.
The differences in academic achievement can be identified using an achievement test in the concerned subject. However, if the achievement test contains only knowledge level items (questions), it tells only knowledge level differences. On the other hand, ir contains items (questions) on knowledge and capabilities-comprehension, application, analysis. synthesis and evaluation the various levels of differences can be identified. Besides, the total marks, each level-wise total is needed to identify the strengths and weaknesses of every student as well as the differences among students. As a teacher, if you know the strengths and weaknesses of your students in a subject, you may be able to adopt appropriate instructional strategies to suit their strengths and weaknesses in that subject.
Apart from these achievement differences are quite often identified in terms of categories of achievers by classifying students as high, average and low achievers. Though there is no strict cut-off points, these categories can be created using marks. High achievers are those who possess higher level of knowledge and capabilities (say, with marks 66% and above) than the rest and those who possess average level of knowledge and capabilities (say, with marks 36% to 65%) are called average achievers. On the other extreme, you may find learners with low level knowledge and capabilities (with 35% and below marks). They are called low achievers. If you are interested in identifying the high, average and low achievers in a subject, say Science or language, the categories are created using the marks obtained in the concerned subject. However, categories can also be created based on the overall achievement in a class As a teacher, you may be curious to know the strategies for meeting the achievement differences in your classroom or the challenges posed by the strengths and weaknesses of the students in teaching learning situations. Let us discuss important instructional strategies.
What are Instructional Strategies?
Let us discuss the major strategies to cope up with the differences in academic achievement.
- Provide appropriate pre-requisites to organise and learn new information
- Use visual aids.
- Use analogy, example and illustration.
- Ensure learner’s active involvement in learning
- Periodic assessment
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