Like most managers, I engage in a semester-long battle with absenteeism. I have the enviable position of teaching two sections of business statistics. Combine that with a time slot of 8:00 A.M. and/or 9:00 A.M., and you can envision the long waiting list of students at registration.
Students are over 18 and they're paying for the class, so why should I care whether or not they attend?
1) After 18 years of teaching, and thousands of data points collected, a clear picture emerges - attendance and doing one's homework matters. After every exam, I can see a clear correlation between amount of points earned on a chapter problem set and the subsequent exam score. At the end of the semester, I can see a clear correlation between points earned and a student's final grade. Similarly, attendance is a predictor of success in the class.
Over the past several semesters for a class that meets 4 times a week, 50 minutes a day, for 15 weeks:
*The average grade on a 4.0 scale for zero absences: 3.21
*Average grade for 1 absence: 3.23
*Average grade for 2 absences: 3.08
*Average grade for 3 absences: 2.68
*Average grade for 4 absences: 2.30
*Average grade for 5 or more absences: 2.01
*Average grade for 8 or more absences: 1.67
*Average grade for 12 or more absences: 1.25
Shocking, I know.
2) Students often think professors revel in student's poor performance; that we want to force rank students into something resembling a normal curve. Here's the secret....we really don't. I'd much rather see success on exams than failure. As most managers know, giving quality feedback takes time. It is much, much easier to grade an exam where a student gets an answer correct, than when he or she has made a number of mistakes. A student's absence, more likely than not, means less success on an exam, and subsequently more work for me.
So, my attendance policy is a continual work in progress:
As attendance is significantly correlated to performance, there is an expectation you will be present for each class. Unless your final grade is in the A range, the following penalties will be assessed (except under extreme circumstances):
1-4 absences – no penalty
5th absence – 2 points
6th absence – 4 points (for a total of 6 points lost)
7th absence – 8 points (for a total of 14 points lost)
8th absence – 16 points (for a total of 30 points lost)
9th absence – 32 points (for a total of 62 points lost)
10th absence – 64 points (for a total of 126 points lost)
11th absence – 128 points (for a total of 254 points lost)
If you are not present for 80% of the time class meets, it will be considered an absence. I do not distinguish between “excused” or “unexcused” absences. In essence, you have 4 absences to do with as you please. However, if you burn them early, and a situation arises later that might cause you to miss class, do not expect a lot of sympathy from me.
I think that it provides significant flexibility (though students might think differently). Stuff happens during a semester - illness, job interviews, travel, car breaks down, a competing college-related event. Four absences (essentially a week of classes) should be sufficient to meet most circumstances that a student might face over the course of a semester. Similarly, the exponential penalties are significant enough to discourage more absences than that.
Yet, there are always new excuses and challenges that cause me to revise it yet again....but you'll have to wait until Monday to read about it.
So, have at it, people. What flaws do you see?