What is Learner Variability?
On an individual scale, we start from the cognitive and social science premise that a multitude of factors influence learning. For example, processing and attention differences, mental health, cultural and stereotype threats, and socioeconomic status all contribute to one’s ability to access, process, and retain information. In a given setting, individual students widely differ in how they read, understand lectures, take notes, retrieve and link knowledge, and communicate with others. Research has demonstrated that Individual learner variability in a classroom - or any environment - is the norm.
On a larger scale, learner variability refers to the ways in which the diversity of approaches to learning can create major hurdles and deliver tremendous benefits. The fact that one person approaches a problem from an entirely different perspective than another person can be both frustrating and quintessential to arriving at a powerful solution. Learner variability necessitates deliberate and strategic approaches to learning, and the Stanford Learning Lab specializes in teaching students and faculty about these approaches.