The Educational Importance of Individual Differences
In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of individual differences. These differences should also be taken into account due to their great educational potential.
The educational importance of individual differences is related to an education based on diversity. In other words, an education capable of achieving positive outcomes for all students, even though they’re all unique and learn in different ways.
Thus, individual differences are important because they’re associated with students’ particular needs. These needs are related to learning pace, cognitive styles, and motivation levels, which teachers must take into account in the teaching and learning processes.
What are individual differences?
Generally speaking, individual differences are related to each person’s way of being. And, in an educational context, they’re generally associated with each student’s particular way of learning.
In the classroom, teachers work every day with groups of students who have different characteristics and individual differences related to:
- Personality types.
- Learning rates.
- Also, talents and disabilities (motor, mental, sensory, and personality).
- Ways of memorizing.
- Social differences (socially disadvantaged environments or ethnic or cultural minorities).
- Likewise, ways of taking notes.
- Study strategies and procedures.
- Preferences for some subjects over others.
- Greater or lesser skills or facilities in a subject or area of knowledge.
- Finally, learning interest and motivation levels.
Educational importance of respect for diversity
Being aware of individual differences has an important educational component. Firstly, because, if you take individual differences into account, you educate with respect for diversity. And, secondly, because, in this way, you take each student’s needs and potential into account.
In other words, it’s important to teach children that we’re all different and unique. And it’s precisely this uniqueness that allows everyone to find their own way of learning and acquiring knowledge.
In addition, by working in a classroom with the assumption that we’re all different allows students to learn from how their classmates learn.
“We aren’t all the same; we don’t all have the same kinds of minds. In other words, we’re not all distinct points on a single bell curve. Education works most effectively if these differences are taken into account rather than denied or ignored.”
– Howard Gardner –
The role of educators regarding individual differences: individualizing instruction
The role of teachers is fundamental regarding considering the differences between students and working with them. It’s necessary for teachers to plan their educational activities and experiences considering the educational importance of individual differences.
In other words, educators need to develop strategies and teaching methods that suit their students’ particularities.
Thus, addressing individual differences involves individualizing education and teaching. It consists of meeting students’ particular needs and their personal and contextual circumstances (family, cultural, or economic, among others).
Likewise, this way of teaching consists of addressing students’ problems so they don’t interfere with the achievement of the educational goals.
Therefore, individualizing instruction involves creating teaching proposals that meet students’ needs and motivations. It involves an educational perspective based on coeducation and diversity so that teachers educate in a more inclusive way.
That being said, it’s also necessary to make sure that schools’ educational projects and curriculums support educators and orient and guide them in this very complex task.