Individual differences, Guidance and Counselling in Educational psychology

Individual differences, Guidance and Counselling in Educational psychology
Individual differences and guidance and Counselling 


Content outline: Individual differences – Inter and Intra – 

Role of Nature and Nurture – Gender differences – Catering to individual differences. 

Individuals are not created equal, nor do they become more alike as they grow older. By the time they enter school, physical, intellectual, social and emotional differences have increased substantially. Then as they move upward these differences steadily increase. Each of us is a unique individual, with a distinctive pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviours. One of the central 

tasks of psychology is to map these differences between people and to explain how they come about. No two people are identical, even identical twins develop quite different patterns of behaviour. 

Each individual is a special and unique assortment of traits. 

Individuals not only differ from one another, but each individual differs greatly in his ability for several tasks or fields of learning. 

Individuals differ from one another in physical, social, intellectual and emotional growth and development. The major areas of individual differences are intelligence level, physique, achievement, aptitude, interests, personality dimensions and gender differences. 

Two major factors which contribute to individual 

differences are heredity and environment- nature and nurture. An individual's height, the size of his bones, the colour and texture of his hair, the colour of his eyes, the shape of his face, nose, mouth, hands and feet, the nature of his entire physical structure in fact all that he is physically and mentally is determined largely by his

inheritance. Even within the same family children differ from one another because they do not develop out of the same combination of genes. Heredity is often described as a stream of potentialities of numerous traits passing from one generation to another so that children inherit not from parents but through parents from the huge stock of potentialities of numerous traits. 

The human nature is shaped through the interaction 

between the human organism and environment. Our environment is our habitation in the fullest sense. Not only our physical surroundings, but also people around us, social customs and traditions, culture, education and training all constitute our environment. What we call social heritage, ideas and ideals, is a part of our environment. 

Research studies on the relative influence of nature and 

nurture on the growth and development of the individual reveal the following major findings: Heredity does not completely determine any trait. Training and life experiences may have profound effects on many traits. Heredity influences some traits more than others. 

Inheritance is apparently more potent in determining the level of intelligence, physique and temperament (a vital component of personality). 

Environment has greater influence in shaping specific 

habits, personality characteristics, attitudes, beliefs and values. 

Poor environment can suppress or even nullify good inheritance but good environment, unfortunately, is not a substitute for good inheritance. An improved environment does not produce a remarkable increase in basic mental capacity but with better teaching and more intellectual experiences the mental abilities of 

the students come nearer to approximating their inherited mental capacities. Heredity determines what an individual can do and environment what he does do within the limits imposed by heredity. Though heredity (nature) seems to play a vital role in determining the degree of intelligence of an individual it is 

environment (nuture) that plays a vital role in determining the personality of an individual. This fact is fairly an encouraging one since the ultimate objective of education is development of 

personality of the learner and educational institutions constitute a potent dimension of environment. Individuals differ from one 

another since they differ not only in their inheritance but in their environment as well. 

Let us now briefly discuss the psychological differences 

between the male and the female. Some of the differences-physical are obvious. However physical differences do not have much to do with men and women's personalities or with their social and 

occupational roles. The disparities between the roles that men and women play - the likelihood that the man is the wage earner andthe woman is the child rearer and he is the boss and she secretary – 

are not based on physiological differences at all. Rather they are 

often based on assumptions about psychological differences between men and women. Such psychological differences are often

taken for granted. Maccoby and Jacklin reviewed and integrated the extensive research literature on psychological gender differences, reading through some 2000 books and articles in the process. They concluded that many of the differences that are commonly believed to exist between the male and the female are in fact myths. For example there is no good evidence that boys are more independent, ambitious, or achievement oriented than girls or that girls are more nurturant, sociable or suggestible than boys. If many of the stereotypical differences between gender are myths, then why are they perpetuated? There are two answers to this question. The first is that our perception of other people is selective. When someone behaves in an expected way (a boy running and shouting, a girl sitting and playing quietly) we take note of the behaviour and assume that it reflects the person's underlying temperament. When, 

on the other hand, some one behaves in an unexpected way, the behaviour may go unnoticed or may be passed off as a fluke. An active shouting girl may be viewed as imitating her brother, a quiet little boy as being tired. The second reason for the perpetuation of the myths concerns the different opportunities that society provides 

for men and women. The differences that we observe probably 

result from social values and opportunities rather than from basic 

psychological differences. These observations of Maccoby and 

Jacklin must be eye openers for parents, teachers and educational 

authorities and others who function in the field of education. Here 

is a case for equal opportunities for boys and girls in all areas of 

academic activity. Selection for any course of study is to be based 

on aptitude, attitude and interest and not based on gender. 

The inter differences and the intra differences among 

individuals in intelligence, achievement, aptitude, attitudes, 

abilities, interests and other personality dimensions seem to pose a 

challenge to equalization of educational opportunities. But 

equalization of educational opportunities does indeed mean 

providing opportunities to each learner in accordance with his abilities and interests. But this task is not an easy one because for this we will have to: 

- Construct valid and reliable tests for the measurement of abilities 

- Provide opportunities to the learner so that he may experience success in learning. 

- Provide desirable environment so that the learner may get 

opportunities for the development of his native ability. 

- Employ effective teachers who can teach boys and girls in accordance with their individual differences. 

- Structure a flexible curriculum 

- Obtain co-ordination between the formal and non formal agencies of education. 

Perhaps the first task of a teacher should be to identify and 

analyse individual differences among his learners. How many of 

them cluster around the average, the range of difference and how many are at the extremes of the distribution. 

There are four characteristics of individual differences 

which a teacher must keep in mind. The first is variability of the 

series of scores - the extent to which scores are spread along the 

scale from an average value such as mean, median or mode. If any 

group is measured with respect to a given trait the group will be 

found to vary and the range of this variation should be studied by the teacher. 

The second characteristic of individual difference is 

normality. Measurement of large groups with respect to any traits 

usually follow the same bell shaped curve, called the normal curve, 

that is generally speaking a large majority of the group cluster 

round the average about 2% are at the each of the extreme ends;

and 14% are placed between the average and the highest and 

between the average and the lowest end. Measurement of traits usually takes the form of this normal curve. 

A third characteristic is that the rate of growth and learning 

differs from individual to individual. There are differences in maturation, some mature early; others mature late, and there are 

differences of development, some developing faster than others.

A fourth characteristic of individual differences is that traits 

and abilities are interrelated that is variations in one trait or ability 

affect others. It is obvious that changes within the physical and 

mental make-up of an individual affects his work and life. 

Equipped with a knowledge of such interrelations the 

teacher can make his work more effective. There are always some

pupils who are slow to catch up with the programme and whose 

progress is retarded. Diagnosing the learning difficulties the 

teacher will be able to devise remedial programmes of instruction 

that will help such slow learners achieve better results. 

No recent movement in education is so prominent as the 

attempt on the part of modern educational institution to adjust itself 

to the student rather than expecting the student to adjust himself to 

the institutions. In attempting to meet the varying needs, interests 

and abilities of students, several teaching procedures and types of 

student classification and promotion are being extensively used in progressive institutions. This recent attempt provides for all 

degrees of intelligence, both inferior and superior. 

Students of education are inclined to think of individualized 

instruction as a ready solution to the problem of individual 

differences. The advantages of individualized instruction are 

obvious. It helps to concentrate attention on the work of the 

individual rather than on the average work of the class, and the 

teacher can acquire intimate knowledge of each student's interests 

and vocational tendencies. The slow learner is allowed to work at 

his own rate and shows more satisfactory results. The bright, 

instead of marking time with the mediocre, can go ahead and work on more advanced assignments. The teacher gets an opportunity to 

develop diagnostic skill in observing how different pupils respond 

to a task or a problem. Thus individual instruction seeks to meet 

individual differences through a personalized system of instruction. 

But individualized instruction misses the social value of 

group work and therefore group instruction is advocated. It has

obvious advantages in so far as it is more economical. Group work 

provides for the social values of education. The slow learner is 

stimulated to do better by the example of brighter learners. 

The practice of grouping students for the purpose of 

instruction is almost as old as the school and usually the basis of 

classification is the student's accomplishment. Homogenous grouping has been strongly criticized and harmful socially and 

psychologically, and this is injurious to social development. No doubt such homogenous grouping will meet the divergent needs, 

interests and abilities of individual students but it will foster class differences and divisions. 

Student with special disabilities and handicaps will have to 

be given special attention. In large institutions psychological

service should be available to identify such students and provide 

learning experiences for them according to their needs; they may 

have to be taught in special classes and suitable programmes may have to be devised for them. 

In schools and colleges the election of courses offers a 

basis for great adjustments to individual differences but it should 

be accompanied by provision for educational and vocational 

guidance. A beginning has been made in this direction but much 

more needs to be done. If we select students for different courses 

not on the basis of their or parental preference but on the basis of their aptitudes, interests and abilities, learning would be far more effective and meaningful. 

The inter differences and the intra differences among 

individuals in intelligence, performance, aptitude, attitude, 

abilities, interests and other personality dimensions seem to pose a 

challenge to equalization of educational opportunities (not only 

educational but other social opportunities as well). Equalization of 

educational (or any other social) opportunities means providing

opportunities (educational or social) to the individuals in 

accordance with their abilities and characteristics. This requires an 

effective measurement and evaluation programme through valid 

and reliable tests, inventories and such other modes of assessment. 

Evaluation Programme:

Any educational (Formal / Non - formal / Informal) 

programme will have objectives. These objectives must be 

realised through training / treatment / exposure to learning 

experiences. At every phase of the evaluation (entry / enroute / 

exit) there must be assessment to study the degree of realization of 

objectives. The purpose of evaluation is to find the extent to which 

the objectives of the programme are realised. 

At the entry phase individuals are assessed to study their 

readiness to the treatments. It is prognositc evaluation followed by 

guidance to cater to the individual differences. 

At the enroute phase individuals are assessed periodically 

to monitor learning progress (Are they on the right track?) ; further 

they are also assessed to identify learning difficulties, if any, through diagnosis (Diagnosis is followed by remedial programme of action). 

At the exit phase, individuals are assessed through global 

achievement tests (and personality inventories and such other 

modes of assessment). The results of such a summative evaluation 

throws light on the extent of realisation of programme objectives 

and provide valuable feedback to the programme organizers. 

The Problem of individual differences is a major factor 

which drew the attention of Psychologists to Guidance and 

Counselling. Psychologists who specialize in guidance and 

counselling must be experts in evaluation programmes (evaluation 

of maximum performance - Intelligence Tests / Aptitude Tests and 

typical behaviour - Personality inventories / interest inventories / 

attitude scales and such other assessment / appraisal tools) which 

will help them to identify and cater to the individual differences. 


Content outline: Guidance – Meaning and Definition – 

Sequential phases – Types of guidance – Educational, Vocational

and Personal – Counselling – Counsellor's characteristics. 

Years back, the author happened to read a book with the 

title, “Curriculum for Today's Boys and Girls” written by one Fleming. On the title page of the book you will find the picture of a child and a freelance poem underneath.. The poem seems to be an appeal made by the child to parents, teachers and others engaged in the task of educating the child. The freelance poem is fairly thought provoking: 

“Let me grow as I be 

And try to understand why I want to grow like me 

Not like my Mom wants me to be 

Nor like my Dad hopes I'll be 

Or like my Teacher thinks I should be 

Please try to understand and help me grow 

Just like me” 

The last line, “Just like me” is the key line. One wants to 

become oneself. A wants to become A. B wants to become B; C 

wants to become C. But unfortunately, parents, teachers and 

others, mostly unintentionally, prevent individuals from becoming 

themselves. We try to make A, B and B, A with the result both are 

restless and unhappy; nor are they useful to society. Here is an 

illustration: A learner has an aptitude for engineering course of 

studies. Suppose his parents impose a medical course on him. The 

result will be: society gets a bad physician and loses a promising 

engineer. It may be the other way round also in certain cases. Make one become oneself. Then only one will be happy and useful to 

society. “Becoming oneself” means realizing one's talents and 

potentialities. This is exactly the function of Guidance. Guidance is 

defined as the process of helping individuals, through their own 

efforts, to discover and develop their potentialities both for 

personal happiness and social usefulness. 

The sequential stages of guidance run thus: 

- Help the learner discover himself. In other words 

the learner identifies his talents and potentialities. 

- Help the learner develop these potentialities. 

- Help the learner make the best use of his 


- And thus help him to be happy and useful to 


To be specific, the learner will discover by himself his 

interests, attitudes, values, aptitude, motivation level and 

personality dimensions; he will choose courses of studies in 

accordance with these factors; he will choose a vocation or job

based on the degree of success in his courses of studies; he will 

work towards vocational development and self enrichment; he will 

be happy in personal and professional life and will be useful to fellow members of his society. 

Wrong decisions are taken and wrong choices made owing 

to lack of required knowledge, appropriate information or timely 

advice. Thus guidance in education refers to the process of 

presenting knowledge, information and/or suggestions to 

individuals or groups in a structured way so as to provide 

sufficient material upon which they may base choices or decision. Now let us focus our attention on the areas of guidance 

need. In other words, areas in the career of the learner where he is in need of guidance. 


There are, often, periods of transition in the educational 

career of the learner when he moves from one phase to another, 

from one setting to a new one - from pre-primary to primary; from 

primary to high school, from high school higher secondary from 

higher secondary to college and so on. The period of transition is 

often characterized by anticipation - a mixture of fear and pleasure, 

with some sadness of leaving behind known friends, teachers and

environment and the security they offered. The purpose of 

orientation is “to help the learner feel emotionally secure in a new 

setting and to provide him with the information needed to be 

successful in that setting”. Many children are capable of working through the process of transferring from one educational experience to another with little or no assistance. Orientation is to 

provide general help for all children involved and specific help for those who find change particularly stressful. 

Educational Guidance 

Another area, called educational guidance, covers 

educational measurement and testing and the way in which the 

results of such measurement are preserved and filled in some form of educational record system. 

Testing has no purpose apart from people; tests are used to 

help people to solve problems and to make decision, and they 

provide one source of information for this purpose. Unless you know what you need to decide, there is no point in giving a test. 

No measurement is useful by itself, but only when used in relation to other relevant data. 

Tests can be used in education for selection, classification 

or streaming. Tests may also be used for diagnosis, for research 

purpose and for the evaluation of individuals or groups, perhaps at 

the end of the courses to determine whether or not it was 

worthwhile, in term of its objectives. 

There are several purposes for which tests may provide 

information and there are different kinds of tests, which may be 

used. These may be divided broadly into four categories: ability 

tests, inventories, rating scales and projective techniques. 

An ability test requires a person to perform a task or answer 

a question to which there is usually right or wrong solution. 

Commonly accepted ability tests are tests of intelligence, aptitude 

and achievement, which are distinguished in terms of function 

rather than content. Aptitude and intelligence tests are predictive 

measures of intellectual capacity. An intelligence test usually gives 

a general prediction about overall intellectual capacity, whereas an 

aptitude test may provide a measure in a specific area. An 

achievement test is designed to test past performance and usually measures a specific kind of content. 

The test which forms an inventory does not have right or 

wrong answers, the person being tested being required to give 

some information about himself, about his interests, values and personality dimensions. 

In an inventory the person gives information about himself; 

In a rating scale some one else gives information about him, or he rates himself. 

Projective techniques are also used in an attempt to assess personality. They have not been demonstrated to be as valid or reliable as other types of tests, but only people with exceptional skills can use projective techniques very successfully.

The best rationale for using testing in education is that 

despite the pitfalls there is no better way to get the information 

upon which to base the decisions which people consider important. 

Most criticisms of testing do not seem justifiable when the testing 

is done and the information is used with a sense of responsibility. 

Teachers who are assigned to the task of Guidance are to be 

trained in testing and measurement to make sure that 

administration of tests, the interpretation of their results and use 

made of the information provided are all characterized by a responsible and ethical approach. 

Another area can be labeled course choice, vocational and 

higher educational choice. If boys and girls in school are to move 

from the former choice between arts and science subjects to the

wider range of subjects now available in many schools, it seems

reasonable to make provision for some kind of assistance for those 

who feel a need to make their choices on a sound basis. The same 

approach is also relevant to the vocational choices made by school 

leavers. For many it is no longer a choice of whether to go for higher education or not, but a more multidimensional choice involving the important question, “which of the several kinds of higher education now courses available suits me best?” 

Child growth and development follow certain patterns and from these we know certain achievements are likely to be learned at certain stages in a child's life. Decisions are more reasonally made at one level than at another, but there are individual differences in reaching that level. Some children can make a vocational choice and some not until their early or middle twenties, but circumstances do not readily permit that people delay their vocational choice until they are 'ready' in developmental terms. 

Choice making is a part of personality; we make choices in the light of our needs and temperament, but we need resourceful assistence in the form of Guidance. 

Three major types of guidance can be easily identified – 

personal, educational and vocational. Personal guidance is offered when one is confronted with a personal problem on how to deal with a frustrating or conflicting situation in one's personal life. 

Educational guidance is offered in terms of assistance in 

making a course in accordance with one's needs, interests, and aptitude and personality dimensions. 

Vocational guidance is offered in terms of assistance in 

making a vocational choice on the basis of academic achievement, aptitude and personality. 

These three types of guidance are closely inter-related. 

Guidance is general; Counselling is specific. 

In any educational institution we find students unable to 

take a decision for a variety of reasons. They find themselves in a 

temporary state of indecision, confusion or distress. They seek

specific assistance from some person who is willing to interact

with them in order that they may resolve their confusion or cope with their distress. This meaningful, purposeful goal oriented interaction is called counselling. 

Counselling is an integral part of guidance in the sense that it usually provides a more personal, individualized kind of help which is complementary to other guidance activities. 

Counsellor is one who uses interpersonal skills to help a 

student resolve those practical difficulties, which arise from his particular development problems.

Counselling is an accepting, trusting and safe relationship between a counsellor and one or more clients. 

The counsellor tries to understand each client's perception 

of himself (self perception), perception of his problem, perception 

of others (people around him) and perception of the situation in 

which he is placed or in which he has placed himself. 

The counsellor tries to look at the counsellor in three 

different ways – as he really is; as he sees himself and as he can 

become. Self perception, if it is correct, will be a bridge between 

being and becoming. Self perception, if it is incorrect and 

inaccurate, will be a barrier between being and becoming. 

Correctness and accuracy in self perceptions is, of course, a relative term. Still the more 'accurate and correct' one's self perception, the more likely is one to become oneself. The function of the counsellor, in short, is to make one's self-perception a means o one's self- actualization. 

The two basic elements in the process of counselling are 

the counsellee and the counsellor. 

The counsellee is the person being counselled; he is, of 

course the centre of the counselling process. He is seeking self-

realization, self- actualization; he is hoping to make his life more 

complete and satisfying. The basic assumption is that he has the innate capacity to perform this task. 

The counsellor is the next element in the situation. His 

personality and adjustment, his constantly more adequate understanding of the counsellee, his feelings about him, his skills in seeing the resources for growth within the person seeking help-are his assets. If he has learned to live with himself and accept himself he is more likely to accept other persons. If he is emotionally mature and fairly secure in his social and professional 

relations, he will be able to convey a sense of confidence to the 

counsellee. If he has faced conflicts in his life and worked through 

them, he will be able to help a less mature or less experienced

person; he will acknowledge the validity of another way of life. 

One of the unique characteristics of an effective 

counsellor is his ability to listen, to focus his attention on his 

client's needs, to exhibit genuine caring and at the same time to 

maintain healthy separateness. The counsellor encourages the 

counsellee to think through his problems and develop his self-

concept. He listens to his client as though nothing else in this world were more important to him. 

There are certain characteristics, which make a counsellor play his role effectively. The first one is empathy – feeling with 

'others' or putting oneself in another's shoes and looking at things 

from his point view or frame of reference. This means that an 

effective counsellor places himself in the socio-psychological field of counsellee. 

The second one is respect – respect for the individuality, 

the personality, the unique mode of coping or defense (adjustment) of the counsellee. Carl Rogers uses the term, 'unconditional 

positive regard' – positive regard for the counsellee with no conditions attached and exhibiting non possessive warmth; the counsellor is to be warm, cordial and friendly towards the counsellee but at the sometime he should not try to possess his client. 

The third characteristic 'Genuineness' refers to the degree to which to counsellor can reflect his true feelings; the counsellor must possess a high degree of integrity and honesty. 

The fourth characteristic 'Concreteness' refers to a precise complete response to specific feelings and experiences of the counselee Counselling is not philosophizing or advertising or sermonizing but it is suggesting a practical and concrete measure to solve one;s problem.. 

Effective counselling skills and characteristics cannot be 

achieved overnight. The process of acquiring these skills and 

characteristics is laborious, time consuming and taxing but the results will be rewarding - a sense of achievement and fulfillment in providing counselling to hundreds or thousands of learners. 

Now a final word – 

Education aims at harmonious development of the 

personality of the learner. In other words, students must discover their talents and potentialities, develop them, make the best use of them and in so doing reach self- actualization. Thus it is evident the aim of education cannot be realised without an effective programme of guidance and counselling. Further an effective programme of guidance and counselling will contain problems related to student indiscipline and regenerate and rejuvenate a student population with a sense of values, sense of commitment and a spirit of dedication to social cause.

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