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Unit information: The Psychology of Individual Differences. in 2018/19

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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 enables students to examine research on the psychology of individual differences, and consider how the study of individual differences can contribute to our thinking in education. The unit will cover main approaches to studying a range of individual differences, such as: intelligence; personality; motivation and aspiration; emotion; psychological abnormality and psychopathology; and essentialist theories about social categories. The influence of genetic, environmental, developmental, and cultural factors on individual differences will be considered. The unit will consider ways in which individual differences develop over time and situations, and the extent to which they are fixed or malleable. Sessions will investigate the relationships between individual differences and social/educational inclusion/exclusion. In the unit students will debate and critique research design and data collection methods (including ethical issues) used in research on individual differences, to help them assess how research can inform educational and social policy and practice. They will apply theory to data analysis of existing qualitative survey data, to help them critique both theory and research design.

Intended learning outcomes

Students will demonstrate that they:

  • Understand key concepts in current study of the psychology of individual differences
  • Have developed skills in the evaluation and interpretation of the psychology of individual differences
  • Understand the importance of biological, social and psychological factors in individual differences
  • Have explored the way in which different approaches to the psychology of individual differences relate to and complement each other
  • Are able to differentiate between ways in which identity(ies) is/are constructed in different cultures
  • Are able to critically interrogate claims about the psychology of individual differences in the psychological and educational literature
  • Understand the implication of recent research on the psychology of individual differences for classroom practice
  • Are able to evaluate the relevance of the psychology of individual differences for educational policy and innovation

Teaching details

The course will be delivered through whole group lectures and discussion led by research-active members of the Graduate School.

The needs of a wide range of students, including those with disabilities, international students and those from ethnic minority backgrounds have been considered. It is not anticipated that the teaching and assessment methods used will cause disadvantage to any person taking the unit. The Graduate School of Education is happy to address individual support requests as necessary

Assessment Details

An essay of 2000 words, or a research report. In negotiation with tutors, students will be expected to analyse relevant texts and synthesise concepts from the psychology of individual differences, make links/connections and recognise associations/relationships between these concepts, and draw upon current understanding of the psychology of individual differences. They will be expected to develop balanced arguments that reflect a multidisciplinary awareness and an ability to contextualise concepts, and draw appropriately upon a wide range of psychological evidence.

Reading and References

  • Briley, D. and Tucker-Drob, E. (2014). Genetic and environmental continuity in personality development: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 140(5), 1303-1331.
  • Eccles, J. (2009) Who am I and what am I going to do with my life? Personal and collective identities as motivators of action. Educational Psychologist, 44(2), 78-89.
  • Ellemers, N., Spears, R., and Doosje, B. (2002) Self and Social Identity. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 161-186.
  • Mackintosh, N.J. (2011) IQ and human intelligence (2nd Edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Mischel, W. (2004) Toward an integrative science of the person. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 1-22.
  • Prentice, D. A. & Miller, D. T. (2007). Psychological essentialism of human categories. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 202-206. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2007.00504.x