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Unit information: The Psychology of Individual Differences. in 2021/22

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing, student choice and timetabling constraints.

Unit name The Psychology of Individual Differences.
Unit code EDUCM5410
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2D (weeks 19 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Eagle
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Education
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit explores research and theory on the psychology of individual differences, and thus contrasts with the study of human psychological and behavioural universals explored in other units in the MSc. Differential psychologists work in domains as diverse as personality, ability, motivation, and psychopathology. In this unit, you will study main approaches in psychology for a range of topics in differential psychology chosen for their relevance in education, critically engaging with theories and explanations of how and why people are different, whether and how such differences can be measured, and what the implication of such differences are for education. In-class activities include completion and comparison of scales devised to measure differences.

The unit aims are:

  • To review research on important topics in individual differences
  • To develop an understanding and critical appreciation of current psychological approaches with respect to those topics
  • To explore implications of psychological research and theory for the wider aims and methods of education.
  • To develop a critical awareness of claims about individual differences in the educational literature.

Intended learning outcomes

Students will demonstrate that they:

  1. Understand key concepts in the theory and measurement in differential psychology
  2. Have developed skills in the evaluation and interpretation of psychological research on a range of topics in differential psychology
  3. Understand the relations between biological, social and psychological explanation in differential psychology
  4. Are able to critically interrogate claims about individual differences in the educational literature.
  5. Can apply critical skills in evaluating classroom interventions based on psychological theory
  6. Are able to evaluate the relevance of differential psychology for educational policy and innovation.

Teaching details

This unit will be taught using a blended approach consisting of a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous activities including seminars, lectures, reading and discussions

Assessment Details

This unit is assessed by 100% coursework in the form of a 2000 word essay (word count to exclude references). Students will be asked to answer a theoretically driven and practically relevant question, from a list provided by the unit tutors, that aims to capture their understanding of the psychology of individual differences. (ILOs 1-6)

Reading and References

  • Cripps, B. (Ed.). (2017). Psychometric testing: Critical perspectives. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Hattie, J., & Fletcher, R. (2011). Intelligence and intelligence testing Routledge.
  • Caprara, G. V., & Cervone, D. (2000). Personality: determinants, dynamics, and potentials Cambridge University Press
  • Sawyer, R. K. (2003). Creativity and development Oxford University Press.
  • National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2018). Understanding Motivation': 'Building the Brain Architecture That Supports Learning', 'Health, and Community Participation. Working Paper No. 14. Available from
  • Usher, E. L. (2018). Acknowledging the whiteness of motivation research: seeking cultural relevance. Educational Psychologist, 53(2), 131–144.