Many professors at the University of Connecticut incorporate attendance in their classes as a participation grade. Still, other professors make attendance a requirement and punish absences by reducing grades. The general consensus is that attendance helps students succeed in the course by giving them the opportunity to learn the course material, engage with the professor and turn in assignments on time. Attending class makes sense, but requiring it as a grade—as some professors do—does not.
Making attendance a requirement punishable by the deduction of points from a student’s grade can disrupt various aspects of a college student’s world, from health to work obligations.
The vast majority of college students are adults, and being a college student does not free them from adult responsibilities. This is particularly true at the Stamford campus, where a large portion of the student body works off-campus in full-time or part-time jobs. Their jobs are not supplementing their education (like an internship does) but rather funding it. Students face scheduling conflicts and are sometimes left with a tough choice: Miss class or miss work. If a student misses work, they can face potentially severe consequences. If a student misses class, their grade will suffer. How does a grade-based attendance policy account for these students?
Work is not the only reason for absences. A student may face an illness or an unforeseen circumstance that prevents then from attending class. Again, a grade-based attendance policy does not account for these students.
What students does a grade-based attendance policy account for?
A grade-based attendance policy only accounts for students who can attend class in a vacuum of adult responsibilities. Its lack of flexibility and acknowledgement of students’ circumstances creates a financial burden and health concern for college students. Therefore, grade-based attendance works against college students. This policy would be more appropriate for lower levels of education, where younger students face less responsibilities and time constraints, and can thus adhere to such a policy.
Rather than requiring attendance, professors should make it optional. An optional attendance policy would fully delegate the responsibility of attendance to students and give professors in larger classes more time to focus on the material. For students, this would mean more flexibility to balance work and school and gives them the freedom to miss class when serious circumstances such as work and illness demand it. This system would also better prepare students for the professional world, where workers are not necessarily rewarded or punished for perfect attendance.
If professors are looking for an opportunity to give students points for something, they should look elsewhere. Instead of giving points for attendance, professors can give points for engagement or the contribution of ideas. Giving grades based on attendance would ensure more students are physically present in class, but giving grades based on participation or engagement ensures students are mentally present in class. The latter would be more meaningful for professors and more flexible for students that occasionally need to miss class.
Michael Hernandez is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.