Attendance Policies: Are they a benefit?

Should students be allowed to miss classes they are paying for? Is there more to the requirement of attendance than patronizing or micromanaging students?

Perhaps it seems unjustified that teachers can fail a student based solely on attendance records, especially when students are dishing out their hard-earned cash or getting thousands of dollars into debt to enroll.

Being honest though, how much does it really hurt to go to class every day and be a responsible student?

Dr. David Scott, Communications department chair and associate professor, only allows two absences from his classes before the student’s grade begins to drop in letters.

That’s two personal days for the entire semester completely excused, but otherwise you’re expected to be in class every day.

“I’ve had classes where I’ve had no attendance policy whatsoever…and attendance was less than 40 percent on any given day; about a third of my students failed,” Scott said.

The fact is that often teachers lecture, and subsequently test, on material that is presented in class; therefore being successful in that class depends upon being present during that lecture.

Scott’s previous classes, wherein the students who didn’t show up were failing, is an example of something most students don’t want to pay to do.

“What bothered me,” he said, “was that they had the audacity to complain they were failing. But the students that showed up every day were fine.”

Relevant learning activities, examples and discussions that provide a rounded education take place only in a classroom moderated by the teacher.

When you don’t show up, you’re lessening the experience you paid several hundred dollars to have. That’s like going to Disneyland without riding Splash Mountain or Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Science department is approaching traditional roll-taking differently, using clickers instead of calling roll.

Clickers are small remotelike devices that allow students to respond to quiz questions. In the case of many science classes now, a teacher will administer a quiz at the beginning of or throughout class, and those students who respond are marked present and receive quiz credit.

Students who are not in class do not receive credit, penalizing their absence.

Dr. Fern Caka, an assistant professor in Chemistry, asks quiz questions throughout class. “I’m flexible and I know there are different ways to learn,” Caka said, “but I know the vast majority of students do better in coming to class and participating.”

If students decide they actually want to learn, rather than just get grades, perhaps the attitude of entitlement to come and go as they please will change into a desire to acquire skill and knowledge. Then going to class won’t be an issue.

Often, teachers are helpful for more than just clarification of something in a textbook. They may be able to find or present you with opportunities to apply skills and have experience in that field of study.

Using teachers as a resource may be as much a benefit to you as going to class.

“Professors are paid because, supposedly, they know more about the material than the students,” Scott said.

So with that attitude, maybe going to class is worth your time after all.

3 Responses to "Attendance Policies: Are they a benefit?"

  1. Nathan   September 23, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    While I think professors should have the leeway to choose their grading criteria, I think that draconian attendance policies are misguided.

    One of my favorite professors gives quizzes at the beginning of class which apply as a few small percentage points of *extra credit* and usually look similar to test questions. This makes it worth our while to not only attend, but to be prompt.

    This is not a penalty; it’s an incentive. Students respond to incentives better than they do to penalties. The same professor above has high academic expectations and brings out the best in his students. Part of the key is that he treats us like adults.

    So to Professor Scott: Go ahead and enforce attendance strictly, but don’t be surprised if I drop your class after I’ve had a look at the syllabus. I have no problem attending regularly, but I do have a problem professors who treat their…

    Reply
  2. Nathan   September 23, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    students like children. Maybe you’ve dealt with a few of those, but if you lower your expectations to the level of those few, the rest will start living up to your low expectations.

    Reply
  3. Nathan   September 23, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Have I complained about the 900 character limit? Maybe it should be 1200.

    Reply

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