Improving Student Attendance
Faculty compete with many life distractions that may result in decreased student attendance in their courses. While it may not be possible to prevent all students from missing class, there are strategies that can help lessen the problem. Look through the tips below to see what strategies will work for you and your course.
Establish Clear Expectations Regarding Attendance on the First Day of Class
- Set the tone for the semester on the first day of class by explicitly stating why attendance is important.
- Emphasize the importance of attendance in your syllabus and include a policy on tardiness.
Articulate the Benefits of Attending and the Costs of Not Attending Class
- Let students know what they will gain from attending class (e.g. material covered in class not available in other ways; practice in applying concepts; active involvement with course content; participation in collaborative activities; points for participation). Recent research shows that attendance is a better predictor of college grades than any other predictor of academic performance (Crede, et. al., 2010).
- Let students know what they will lose by not attending class (e.g. valuable information necessary to do well in the course; opportunities to learn from peers; chances to find out how well they understand material; practice for exams; points towards grades; opportunities to ask questions).
Make Class Time Necessary
- Incorporate active instructional methods into your course. For ideas, see Tips for Making Lectures More Active.
- Make class participation points a substantial part of the final grade.
- Avoid creating lectures that are condensed versions of the assigned reading. Instead, have students read part or all of the reading prior to class and use class time to work with concepts in an active way. For ideas, see Tips for Getting Students to Prepare.
- Foster peer interdependence by devoting part of class to working in groups (assignments, problems, quizzes), and have students sign their completed group work prior to turning it in.
- Use a portion of class time to do things not easily accomplished in another way, such as instituting a daily or weekly Q&A time or having students work on their group projects.
Connect with Your Students
- Learn students’ names and something about them. Meet with them individually, if possible. Get your office hours out of the office---invite students to meet you somewhere neutral, like a cafeteria or campus coffee shop.
- Provide incentives for students to visit during office hours, communicate with you via email, and/or participate in online discussion forums.
- Post course materials online or hand out a detailed activity plan to provide students who have to miss class the feeling that they can keep up. Provide alternatives for students with legitimate reasons for missing class to make up work.
- Send an email message to those students whose attendance is lagging. Show your concern and ask them to get in touch. If it is early in the semester and your student has not been attending regularly (even if it has yet to affect his/her grade), use the IU's Early Student Performance Alert.
Crede, M., Roche, S. G., & Kieszczynka, U. M. (2010). Class attendance in college: a meta-analytic review of the relationship of class attendance with grades and student characteristics. Review of Educational Research. 80 (2), p. 272-295. Retrieved from: http://rer.sagepub.com/content/80/2/272.abstract
Davis, B. G. (2009). Getting underway. (p. 1-54). Tools for teaching. (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Authored by Terri Tarr (March, 2001)
Revised by Sarah Lang (August, 2011)