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Group Differences in Child Development

Background information

Kayla is an only child who is a quiet and reserved elementary school student. She struggles to learn and participate in cooperative or small group learning activities with her peers, preferring to work alone. Kayla has no strong or close friendships with the other students in her class and has difficulty engaging her peers in meaningful conversations and gaining their perspectives. The teacher wants to help Kayla develop her social and perspective-taking abilities and emotional intelligence and become a fully integrated classroom community member. Kayla’s mother encourages her to do her best in school but only provides a little support for her to engage in social or academic activities outside school. Kayla struggles with academic areas such as reading and math and often gives up on challenging tasks, believing that she needs to improve in areas where she has done poorly. The teacher is concerned that Kayla’s sense of self-efficacy, motivation, and academic achievement may decline if action is not taken. The case highlights group differences, including social and academic skills, motivation, and self-efficacy. (from the Application Case Vignette)

Description of Concepts

Group differences in child development are important to consider to understand better the various factors that may impact a child’s educational experience. According to Ormrod et al., cultural and ethnic differences can significantly impact how children view the world and interact with others. The cultural practices and beliefs of a child’s family and community may influence their communication style, values, and aspirations (Ormrod et al., 2019, pp. 107-109). Intersectionality, which considers a child’s multiple identities, such as race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status, can provide a more comprehensive understanding of how these different factors intersect to shape a child’s experiences.

Socioeconomic differences, which encompass family income, parental education, and parental occupation, can also significantly impact a child’s development. Based on research, students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds may have greater access to resources such as high-quality education, healthcare, and extracurricular activities. They may also have more opportunities to travel and experience diverse cultures (Ormrod et al., 2019, p. 133). Conversely, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may face greater economic and social challenges that can impact their academic achievement and overall development.

Inclusion is an approach that seeks to address group differences by promoting the integration of students with disabilities and diverse backgrounds into regular classrooms. Ormrod et at note that inclusion encourages collaboration between special education experts and regular classroom instructors to support the education of all children, regardless of their abilities or backgrounds (Ormrod et al., 2019, p. 161). This approach recognizes the importance of providing equal educational opportunities to all children while also recognizing each child’s unique needs and abilities.

Concepts Application and Evaluation

In the case of Kayla, her cultural background might impact her academic and social development. As Ormrod et al. suggests, one’s culture shapes one’s values, aspirations, and abilities, as well as one’s communication skills and sense of self. Teachers must understand their students’ cultural backgrounds to provide meaningful and relevant instruction. The teacher in Kayla’s case has recognized this and attempted to learn more about her cultural background, although this has been a slow process. Kayla’s cultural background may also influence her preference for individualized instruction and difficulty in participating in cooperative or small group activities. However, cultural and ethnic differences alone cannot fully explain Kayla’s academic and social development struggles. While her cultural background may be a factor, there could be other reasons behind her difficulties. For example, she has not scored highly on achievement tests and needs help with challenging tasks. Additionally, her lack of close friendships and difficulty collaborating with peers could be due to many factors beyond her cultural background.

Kayla’s socioeconomic status could also impact her academic and social development. Ormrod et al. suggest that a student’s family income can influence academic achievement. Students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to drop out of school. Kayla’s teacher worries that her sense of self-efficacy and motivation could decline if action is not taken. However, while socioeconomic status could be a factor in Kayla’s difficulties, it is important to recognize that it is not the sole factor. For example, Kayla’s struggles with cooperative learning and social interactions with peers may not be solely due to her socioeconomic status. Additionally, while her mother may provide little support for her engagement in activities outside of school, there could be other reasons for this beyond her socioeconomic status. Therefore, while it is important for teachers to understand their students’ socioeconomic background, it is also important to recognize that other factors may be at play.

Solution Strategies

In order to address the cultural and socioeconomic differences present in Kayla’s case, one potential instructional strategy is to promote cultural competence and sensitivity in the classroom. Teachers can do this by learning about and acknowledging the diverse cultural backgrounds of their students and by providing opportunities for students to share and celebrate their unique cultural identities (Ormrod et al., 2019, p. 117). This can include activities such as sharing family traditions or learning about different cultural holidays and celebrations. Additionally, teachers can work to provide equitable learning opportunities for all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background. This can include ensuring that all students have access to the necessary resources and materials to succeed in the classroom and providing additional support and resources for students who may need extra assistance. Another strategy is to implement cooperative learning activities that promote positive interdependence and collaboration among students while also considering each student’s diverse needs and backgrounds. This can involve carefully selecting and grouping students to ensure that everyone has a role to play and can contribute to the group’s success while providing clear guidelines for effective communication and conflict resolution. While these strategies are important in promoting a positive learning environment that addresses cultural and socioeconomic differences, it is also important to acknowledge that they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Teachers must also be flexible and willing to adapt their instructional strategies based on each student’s unique needs and strengths, such as in Kayla’s case. By doing so, they can ensure that all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential and become fully integrated members of the classroom community.


Ormrod, J.E. & Anderman, L.H. (2019). “Chapter 4: Group Differences and Chapter 5: Individual Differences and Special Educational Needs,” in E.M. Anderman (ed.) Educational Psychology: Developing Learners. Tenth Edition. Hoboken, New Jersey: Pearson Education, pp. 106–188.


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