Sooner Than You Think

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, November 23, 2009

While the fall semester is winding down, I am already thinking and planning for spring semester. One of the classes I will be teaching (and usually do teach) is Statistics for Business and 8:00 A.M. Not surprisingly, attendance tends to be a bit problematic. In a class such as statistics, a single absence can often have deleterious effects on grades since much of the material builds on that which was previously taught earlier in the semester.

I typically offer 4 "free" absences to students, regardless of whether they are "excused" or "unexcused." As I don't want to take time to sort out what qualifies as an excused absence, I simply treat them any absence the same. However, once four absences have been used up, each additional absence receives a penalty of -10 points (which equates to 1% of their grade on a 1000 point scale). I often find that once students reach 4 absences (we meet 4 times a week), grades tend to drop precipitously for each additional absence (even absent the 10 point penalty), and so I wanted to make the penalty punitive enough to prevent significant absences. I have found that in the absence of such an attendance policy, it would not be uncommon for students to miss 9 or more classes (I'm not expecting students to be stirred to a standing ovation based on my stunning presentation of the Poisson Distribution, so I do not take absences personally).

With that in mind, I am contemplating switching to a different attendance/absence policy in the Spring. Instead of penalizing students 10 points for each additional absence beyond 4, I am thinking of turning it around and raising the points needed to earn a grade by 10 points per absence. Hence, while it originally took a student 920 points (on a 1000 pt scale) to earn an A, it would be raised to 930 points, an AB would be raised from 880 to 890, and so on, until an F is raised from 600 or lower to 610. If a student missed 8 classes, he or she would now need 960 points to earn an A, compared to the original 920 points.

Will students react positively or negatively to this change? How will it affect student behavior? Are there unintended consequences? Thoughts?

Leave your comment