Before I took over teaching my classes, I distributed a survey gauging my future students' interests, goals, language background, learning and working styles, feelings about school, past academic achievement, and self-assessment of strengths and weaknesses. I discovered a wide range of intelligences and learning styles, prompting me to develop lessons that targeted auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners. Knowing my students' comfort level with group work or public speaking also enabled me to help them ease into doing these things by providing extra encouragement. Their honest assessment of their own strengths and weaknesses gave me a sense of what I needed to help them work on. For instance, several students noted that they had trouble meeting deadlines, so I would give them extra reminders and build more contact with their parents so they could be reminded at home as well.
It was also helpful to know how my students have done in previous science classes, because it gave me a sense of whether my students were facing particular difficulties this semester or whether they were excelling compared to their past performance. A B average could be a setback for one student but an achievement for another, and knowing their individual backgrounds enabled me to congratulate and encourage my students in a more personal way.