old-style lecture hall March 7, 2017

A Different Take on “Did I Miss Anything Important?”

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When students ask us, as they occasionally do, “I wasn’t in class yesterday. Did I miss anything important?” most of us feel at least a bit of disrespect and some aggravation. If we take the question at face value, it implies that the student thinks at least some of what we do in class might not actually be important. Judging from a search of online forums, instructors’ responses range from genuine interest in helping students understand what they missed and how to make up for it, to contempt exemplified by sarcastic comments such as, “No, since you weren’t present we just filled time until the class was over.” The former response was illustrated in a 2014 article in The Teaching Professor,by Rocky Dailey, who also noted that some absences may be considered more legitimate than others (e.g., due to a student’s participating in an institution-sanctioned activity rather than just deciding not to show up). In those cases, I may feel more inclined to give the student some of my time and effort to help make up for the absence.

My focus here is neither on deciding how to respond to the student nor on the plethora of reasons that students give for missing a class. Instead, I want to turn the question around. Why do students ask this question and, more important, what does it say about my course when they do? I’m particularly concerned about students who still ask the question even after they’ve attended several class for sessions. By that time students have experienced what goes on in my classes, and I take asking whether anything important happened in class as a sign of one or all of the following:

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Professor standing a lectern January 3, 2017

Compulsory Attendance Policies: An Interesting Finding

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Previous research and firsthand experience for most of us verify that attendance in class improves performance. Many of our students would still like to believe otherwise, but the positive relationship between attendance and performance reported in the research is robust and long-standing.

In a good example of research that goes beyond replicating what is well established, a group of business faculty members explored the attendance-performance connection in a more nuanced way. They studied the effects of a compulsory attendance policy on absenteeism and grades, as others have, but they looked specifically at the relationship for high- and low-achieving students.

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August 21, 2012

Do Attendance Policies Influence Student Learning?

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Most college teachers don’t need research results to confirm that class attendance is a problem for many students. Some skip occasionally, others regularly; and some we see for the first time on exam days. Most faculty believe that students learn the material much better when they regularly attend class, and hence policies that require attendance are now the norm in many (could we say most?) classrooms.