Professors try to tackle lack of attendance

By Dominique Marcial ‘17 & Ryan Zhang ‘18

Collaborative Writers

While a recent study found that class attendance may not be based on the instructor of the course, some Lafayette professors said their own methods work to keep attendance high.

A recent study from Harvard University indicates that class attendance appears to depend more upon the size of a class, course material, grading policies, and the time of the semester than the course’s professor.

The study, involving 2,000 students in 10 different classes, showed that only 60 percent of students enrolled in a lecture attended each session. There has been, however, uproar about the study, because the experimenters did not have the consent of the students when they videotaped classes.

Because students were unable to give input on the study, the experimenters speculated on the motives for the lack of attendance. Lafayette’s professors notice that students’ motivation to attend class is influenced differently.

Students in professor Richard Shupp’s Spanish classes receive a participation grade that includes class attendance, which Shupp hopes will encourage students to attend.

“[My students] get a class participation grade, and every day we have an activity that we do, a certain point of vocab [sic] or grammar and it is written,” Shupp said. “So, if they miss, not only are they missing and being marked absent, but they are also not participating in class so they are not getting that grade.”

The spoken and listening skills of a language are critical linguistic elements that are acquired through practice in class and therefore require attendance and participation to fully learn the materials, according to Shupp.

Attendance is always around 80 percent in Shupp’s classes, according to him, although he does notice a decline in attendance toward the last third of the semester. Other times of the year, such as the day before spring break, yield lower attendance rates that number around 50 percent. Shupp predicts that many students may skip class around the time of the 150th Lafayette-Lehigh game.

Professor and Department Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering Arthur D. Kney has noticed that as the semester progresses there is a slight drop in attendance, but his students are typically on top of their work and attendance is usually at an decent level.

Psychology professor John Shaw does not take attendance in his section of Introductory psychology, nor does he count participation in the final grade. Class size does not seem to influence attendance in this class, which is the largest at Lafayette at 82 students.

“I am probably in the minority at Lafayette with attendance requirements,” Shaw said. “I believe college students should make their own decisions in regards to attendance.”

While Professor Shaw does not record attendance, he does stress the importance of showing up to class and notices that attendance is satisfactory in his lectures. He said that even if students choose not to participate in class, they can still actively learn the material through listening and note-taking in lecture. Professor Shaw does not post lectures or notes online for students, because he believes students will be even less inclined to come to class if the material is handed to them online.

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