Individual Differences Factors

Each person has unique endowments, powers, responsibilities, talents, interests and capabilities based on innate, inherited and acquired characteristics. Inherited characteristics come from our genetic makeup and acquired characteristics come from education as our genetic endowments interacting with the environment. Innate capacities and characteristics are those inborn qualities that make us unique even from those who had the same parents and similar environmental influences.

The combination and interaction of these three characteristics determines individual differences. We cannot change the innate and inherited qualities since they are given to us at birth, but the degree to which we are trained educated will determine how we will develop and realize our innate and inherited potentialities. The differences education and experience can cause are very great. As this is the only area we can significantly influence, we should do our best to see that each person is equipped to fully develop their minds, wills and hearts.

Educators can help learners to understand, develop and use their unique talents, interest, capabilities, environments and limitations to their and others’ benefit. Teachers can help their students know themselves, accept themselves, trust themselves and develop themselves by helping them know, accept, trust and develop their capacities. The ultimate authority and responsibility to accomplish these goals lies with the individual. As part of that process, we begin to recognize our abilities and build our capacity for loving, knowing and willing. We can help others understand, accept and work with their unique resources and provide the means, material and methods to develop them.

Our similarities are greater than our differences, but we are each unique. Science confirms the essential oneness and unity of the human race, but also that no two people are exactly alike, even identical twins. We are alike in that knowing, loving and willing are part of our natures and purpose, but each person has unique endowments, experiences and heredity. Our capacities, subjective realities and experiences are unique.

We each bring special talents, abilities, personalities and interests to learning. We need not make our differences a source of disunity, conflict or competition. As in the physical world, the richness, health, well-being and beauty of an individual or group depends upon the principle of unity in diversity. One of the operating principles and goals of the new paradigm of education is unity in diversity. Schools and teachers should always work to appreciate diversity while maintaining unity. Diversity and the differences around us are powerful forces for developing truth, love and justice.

Some falsely fear that diversity will lead to disunity and think unity requires uniformity. Justice, love and truth help create unity in diversity. We can change our ignorance to knowledge, hate to love, injustice to justice, conflict to unity, and violence to peace as move toward truth, love and justice from our various perspectives. We can positively create unity in diversity in our communities, curricula and classrooms, and in the process, make this a better world for all of us.

We should teach according to each individual’s capacity, needs and interests and help learners become aware of their similarities and uniqueness, finding ways they can best develop their unique potentialities. The individual is like a mine filled with rich gems and minerals which educators can help uncover and polish. Just as there are basic principles of mining and learning, each must be applied according to the individual circumstances of the mine or person involved. Mines have different gems or minerals and require different methods to discover and bring forth these resources. Likewise, we can adapt our best approaches to find, refine and polish each individual’s virtues.


About rodclarken

Dr. Rodney H Clarken is professor emeritus, School of Education, Northern Michigan University.
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