How does this happen?

This phenomenon happens regularly. First some background information. In this department we give first-year students a placement test and divide the group into three smaller classes based on the test results. Then each of those groups is split in two to make “Conversation” classes based on their student number.

Today I taught Conversation class, and as always, one of the classes is far superior in attitude and ability to the other class. I will not say which is which for privacy purposes, but I am amazed by the difference. I can think of several possible reasons; time of the class, group dynamics, people with higher student numbers behave differently from students with lower numbers. I start to cover the same content in both classes, but end up doing much more in one than in the other. What is it?

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2 comments on “How does this happen?

  1. Claris says:

    I know there’s some evidence in the US that students do better the earlier in the day they take a class, no matter how much they grumble about how they can’t do math at 8 AM. But my husband is a science education PhD student, and collects data on his programming 101-type-class students, and even when everything’s equivalent, there are inexplicably better and worse class groups. Go figure.

  2. Daniel says:

    Hey, that is intersting stuff. I always like the earlier classes, because they were easier to get, I could get done with them earlier in the day, and on Friday that meant more happy hour time.

    It’s also intersting that everthing else being equal, there are better and worse classes. Class dynamics also change over the year. I guess there is always room for hope.

    Here’s to hoping that all my classes are better in the end!

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