Attendance and Student Success

13 March 2020

Attendance and its effect on student success has been long talked about by academics and it is a strong point of interest for us here at Engineerica. In this short post, we will be reviewing a research article titled The Cost of Cutting Class: Attendance as a Predictor of Success, by Steven E. Gump, that takes a quantitative look at how attendance affects student grades.

It is largely agreed that if you increase the attendance of your classes, you will see a direct correlation with student success. "Students who wish to succeed academically should attend class, and instructors should likewise encourage class attendance" (Gump, 21). This is widely accepted information and is accurate; however, as more research is conducted on student attendance, we are learning that the solutions to student success are not as simple as increasing attendance. Many things can interfere with a student's level of success. Students have to be engaged in meaningful ways both in and out of the classroom, requiring attendance is only part of the equation.

"Education is not a spectator sport; it is a transforming encounter. It demands active engagement, not passive submission; personal participation, not listless attendance" (Rhodes 2001, 65).

Steven E. Gump includes the above quote in his syllabus "to keep the students serious in their efforts" (24).

In these attempts to motivate students  in order to increase attendance rates and therefore improve student grades, instructors have experimented with weekly quizzes to ensure that students are engaging with the course content. Research has shown that administering these weekly quizzes does, in fact, increase attendance; however, this increase is minimal and also did not improve grades; additionally, the students made vocal and written complaints in the form of evaluations. Because of this, one may argue that the increase in attendance does not justify the experience had by the students. Gump concludes, "attendance is but a portion of a much larger equation"(25). It is important to keep that in mind when trying to identify what could be causing a student to fall behind.

This brief look into attendance shows that increasing attendance either by requiring it or administering weekly assessments only solves part of the potential problems students can run into that affect their overall success. There is a myriad of ways students can get off course; a lot of times, this out of the students' control. That is why implementing a system that looks at how students are doing in class, as well as how they are engaging with your services on campus, can assist you in ensuring that you are doing everything you can to improve student success.

Are you using software that provides you with early alerts for at-risk students? Let us know in the comments below. If you have an alternative take on how to ensure student success we'd love to hear from you as well.