Instructors should get serious on attendance

By By Alicia Williams and By Alicia Williams

By Alicia Williams

Classes with only two or three students are a little eerie8212;especially when there are 50-plus students officially enrolled. It is interesting to watch the “ghost town” environment develop, though it’s a little disheartening to witness the lack of commitment displayed by fellow students.

According to several studies, a student’s performance is directly related to their attendance. A 1983 study by Robert Schmidt of the American Economic Review found the most valuable and productive time a student could spend was in the classroom.

The second was in the associated labs and the third was preparing for lectures outside of class. Interestingly, the least productive time spent was preparing for exams. The survey shows important learning happens in the class and students who strived to attend daily surpassed those who skipped class and then crammed for exams.

The easiest way for instructors to motivate students into coming regularly to class is by enacting an attendance policy that impacts their overall grade.

According to a 1992 study called “The Effect of Different Attendance Policies on Student Attendance and Achievement” by Judith Levine, classes with repercussion attendance policies greatly reduced the number of absent students.

Most students do what is expected of them, and if teachers want students to attend their class, they need to clearly define what they expect.

U professor Danielle Endres of the Communication Department has an explicit attendance policy linked to her student’s grades because she finds a direct correlation between regular attendance and better grades.

“Attending class is an essential part of the learning experience,” Endres said. “The classroom provides opportunities for interaction, discussion, reflection, critical thinking and review that can really help students to understand the theories and concepts in a course.”

So, if it’s the best way for students to learn, why do so many of them choose to cut class?

Gary Wyatt tackles this question in the article “Skipping Class: An Analysis of Absenteeism Among First-Year College Students” published in 1992 in the journal Teaching Sociology. Wyatt found out that students who spent an insignificant amount of time studying were more likely to be absent whether they liked the class or not.

Basically, if students are not studying, whatever their reason, they don’t go to class. And many teachers make it far too easy for students to skip. By not establishing a reward or repercussion policy for attendance, students believe instructors are fine with their absence.

Posting lecture notes on the Internet increases the odds students won’t come to class to hear them being explained. And slacker students use the syllabus, an extremely valuable tool, to determine exactly which days are critical to showing up. Then, when they do come, instructors will actually spend class time re-explaining stuff students missed while they were absent.

Besides not being fair to the students who try to attend every class, not attending classes is unfair to instructors. They are subjected to repetitive reviews of concepts and ideas they already taught extensively in class. This can be very exasperating for teachers and could lead to a difficult learning environment.

“I take pride in my teaching and, frankly, get frustrated when I have made the effort to prepare lectures and activities, but students have not made the effort to attend and be present in class,” Endres said.

Everyone might the need to miss a class occasionally. Students and teachers alike deal with car troubles, weather conditions, a sick kid at home or just life. The trouble lies with students who are unwilling to commit the time necessary to achieve the best learning, which occurs in the classroom. U professors and instructors should enforce stricter attendance policies.

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