It’s engagement, not attendance that improves performance

By Murray Bourne, 25 Mar 2006

Most higher education institutions do not keep attendance records. A recent study on attendance by University of Western Australia [no longer available] in universities shows, not surprisingly, that those who turn up are more likely to perform better academically than those who do not.

Universities, preoccupied with selecting students by cognitive ability, should attend to attendance, according to Sussex University sociologist Ruth Woodfield and her co-authors.

However, in institutions where there is an attendance requirement, there is a great danger of students making sure they are physically present, but then doze off during the session.

"The issue is not so much one of attendance but of engagement," Dr Krause said.

Amen to that. I would only mark a student "present" if he turned up on time, had all his required materials, and did not sleep through the session.

The study showed what we knew already:

Females had higher scores [than males] for conscientiousness, motivating them to turn up for class more often.

As the study mentioned, this all changes now that we have e-learning. When a student does not have to be physically present, how do we know she is engaged? For "attendance" in e-learning sessions, I would require students to login a certain number of times and show evidence of working through required activities.

Notwithstanding all this, it is sad that we have to make students turn up for learning. There is something wrong with the model, methinks.

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