Tuesday, September 07, 2010

An observation and a question

Observation: every one of the students in my morning section (8:00 a.m.) of Calc I submitted homework (which is graded) this past Friday...that's 32/32. Four students in my afternoon (12:45 p.m.) section did not submit homework...that's 30/34. Though both sections have stellar students, the homework completed by the morning section is also decidedly stronger than that completed by the afternoon section, on average: roughly 84% to roughly 70% so far.

This is not the first time I've taught two sections, one early, early morning and the other later in the day, and found that the morning section's students outperformed the later section's.

Question (two-part): Is there really something to this observation?...and...if there is, why the discrepancy?

I suspect that perhaps the folks who sign up for an early-morning class in the first place are going to be the type of folks who have the extra drive and determination to stay on top of things and see them through. Maybe there's something more, though.



Bret Benesh said...

I have noticed this over the years, too. I have not made an effort to carefully record what happens, but it seems to me like it is fairly random which section (later or earlier) works harder on the homework/participates more in class/etc.

That being said, I have rarely taught classes that are that spread apart; I normally teach two sections that are within two hours of each other.

My theory: there are student leaders who set the tone for the class. If you can get one or two charismatic students speaking up in class in the first week, the rest of the class seems to follow. If no one speaks up, if someone is very negative, or if the people speak up very timidly, then the class does not do quite as well.

DocTurtle said...

Bret: Yeah, I've had discrepancies before, and you're right in that it's generally personality-driven: strong students often help to make strong classes. But over the years I've noticed that my 8:00 a.m. classes seem to be the strongest, and I'm wondering if there's something to the hypothesis that students who sign up for such early, early courses know they're going to have to represent and do a great job.

Gillian said...

I love the swell of Calculus in the morning.

Gillian said...

Ooops, I meant to say smell :-p