Just like each student, each class is different and by now we are starting to see these differences in our classes. We have the obvious tired first period, energetic post lunch period, and wild last period, but sometimes the differences are based on skill. Within the same subject, I had two classes whose average on an interim assessment were over 30 points apart. I teach these two classes back to back, so they are not at very different times of the day, both classes are large so I can't base it on that, and both classes have learned the exact same information, I didn't get behind or ahead in one of the classes. So what is so different about them. Is it the students? Is it something about me? This isn't a small difference I can ignore, there is clearly something very different about these two classes and I need to figure it out.
There are only two things I can identify right now. Number one, the lower class took the assessment first. When they took the assessment on the second question numerous kids started raising their hand that they were confused. It created a spiral effect where many kids in the class started commenting that they didn't know how to do the test. In the next period however, nobody made this comment during the assessment. When I graded their test many people still struggled on the first few questions, but attempted them and then moved on to the rest of the test where they did well. The first class that struggled, continued to struggle the rest of the test. There was clearly a culture difference in these two classes. Where systems in class different for my second period that enabled to be more confident on the test? Or did just a few people in the first class create a whole class culture of "we don't know" that day?
The second interesting thing about these classes is that in my first period, that scored lower on the test, 40% of the students I have never taught before. However in the other period, the class that scored higher, only 17% of the students I have never taught before. Does the second period just know my teaching style? Are they more comfortable in my class, which made them more successful?
These differences hadn't shown up in exit tickets or in class assingments before, so it really surprised me after the test. Part of knowing our classes isn't just their energy levels but what makes them successful. It's not always obvious, which is why need assessment or class work to examine and notice trends. Then the hard part is determining what to do with those trends. I can't change the fact that I haven't taught some of them before, but I can change culture. So my next step is to make sure both classes feel more successful leading up to the test as well as monitor each class more closely as the unit continues. Hence why I am a fan of data, but it's not the data that's really important, it's the conclusions we make from our data and what we do with our data.