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dxs's avatar

To the people who took college-level classes: Did your professors take/grade attendance? Why?

Asked by dxs (15160points) September 8th, 2014

Did a good amount of your professors do this, just a few, or none? Of the 7 classes I’m taking now, 3 have attendance as part of the grade. I have rarely found a justifiable reason for a professor to take attendance. Actually, it’s only happened once: to take attendance in band because practicing as one is crucial for the performance. But in any other type of class, I’ve never been given a legitimate reason to take attendance. Is there one? The idea of it seems backwards to me.

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24 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I had a few classes that had additional sessions called sectionals, where participation was part of the grade, but in a lecture hall with 1100 students it wouldn’t be practical.

hearkat's avatar

It’s been a long, long time; but I remember attendance counting in classes where participation in activities and/or discussion to explore the material was important – such as science classes with labs, and psychology and philosophy courses. Much I what you learn in college is not about rote memorization, but more about understanding of concepts and theories and principles that are more abstract and hard to evaluate through tests or essays. If the professor wants to be able to issue a grade based on your understanding of the material, rather than your a ability to bullshit about a book you just read the night before, class participation is the best way, in my opinion.

muppetish's avatar

It depends on the class. In my large lecture-hall style classes, the professors did not take attendance in any capacity. These were also typically STEM classes (such as Biology.)

In my English courses, attendance was mandated. Not every instructor made it hard-wired into your calculated grade, though. Usually it was taken by the collection of work in class. If an assignment was due, you had to turn it in at the beginning of class or you wouldn’t receive credit. That’s how it would hit you most. However, missing more than the allotted number of classes would still result in a failing grade for the course.

The reason seminar classes make attendance mandatory is actually bureaucratic. In order for the university to recognize a particular class as being worth the amount of credits that you earn, students are required to be present for a certain number of hours. If they miss more than X number of hours of class time, they are not permitted to receive any college credit.

In order to protect the “value” of their class in the eyes of the university, instructors are forced to regulate attendance whether they believe in making it mandatory or not.

When I was an adjunct, students were allowed to miss nine hours before they failed the course outright. It didn’t matter if they had turned in all of their work up to that point. To be fair though, the students who were doing the work and keeping up with class, weren’t the ones who would miss nine hours..

elbanditoroso's avatar

In the 101 classes (freshman year) which were mostly lectures, the answer is NO.

In later years, when the class size was smaller and we were moving towards the degree, the professors knew each of us by name, and did take attendance. In those years, classes were somewhere between 15 and 20 students.

dxs's avatar

@hearkat Re:Much I what you learn in college is not about rote memorization, but more about understanding of concepts and theories and principles that are more abstract and hard to evaluate through tests or essays, I totally agree. It seems to me that there are better ways of educating other than testing, but I also think that if something comes up in my life that I find worth skipping class over, I shouldn’t be penalized for that, either. Perhaps participation is not the same as attendance. Sure, you have to be there to participate, but that doesn’t mean participation must occur every class meeting.

I have to go now but I’ll be back later…

stanleybmanly's avatar

I can’t recall a single course in which an instructor exhibited any interest whatever in the rates of attendance on the part of students. I was aware that teachers had a list of people who were supposed to be in the room, and certain instructors made a point of assigning seats (or desks) and making seating charts. So who knows?

rory's avatar

I’m a second year in college now, and the vast majority of my professors have taken attendance. In most classes at my school, if you miss more than three meetings (excluding extraordinary circumstances) you don’t get credit for the course.

I think this is totally legit at my school, because we don’t have lecture classes really. Everything is a seminar, and there are usually 20ish students or less per class. To have someone not show up disrespects the professor, the other students, and the subject matter, and slows down attendance.

If you take a class, never show up, and still do well on the test or essays, that isn’t reflective of what you’ve learned in the class—it means you had prior knowledge, or did the reading on your own. In that case, why take the class at all?

this is, of course, operating under the usually fallacious assumption that college exists solely for educational purposes, and not to build credentials for future careers. if it’s a lecture class, and you need to take it for requirements or whatever, I don’t think attendance should matter.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Some did, some didn’t. It was probably about half and half, and I didn’t see a pattern in the types of classes that did count attendance versus the ones that didn’t. The college itself had an attendance policy that the professors were “expected” to enforce, but it really came down to whether each individual professor wanted to enforce it.

I think it’s fairly obvious why some professors think attendance is important. How the hell are students supposed to learn the material if they don’t attend lectures, or only come in when they’re not hungover? I hated classes that took attendance, but I know the point of it.

I had enough sense to know which classes I could afford to miss, such as those where the professor uploaded PowerPoints online and only tested on that material, versus the ones I needed to be present for, such as those where notes were taken without a PowerPoint and I refused to trust someone else’s notes. However, many college students don’t have that sense, so an attendance policy should benefit them. Sure, they’re adults (sort of) and it’s up to them if they want to screw around and waste their parents’ money, but good for the school for giving an incentive for them to not do that. If a student really doesn’t give a shit, he’s not going to show up whether it counts toward the grade or not.

I hated tests in college, but I had to take them or else I’d fail. That’s what happens in school; sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. And surprise, it’s the same when you get out of school and get a job. If I decide to call in sick whenever I feel like it, I’m probably going to get fired.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Yes, attendance was taken even in the big classroom/auditorium. I remember asking a Biology professor a question, class was almost 400 students, he responded to my raised hand by calling out my name.

keobooks's avatar

My college had an attendance policy so ALL classes were required to have an attendance record and your grade would start to lower after a certain number of classes. Some professors may not have been as rigid about it, but they were all required to mention it in the syllabus. My school was trying to live down its “biggest party school in the Midwest” reputation that it had in the 80s.

gailcalled's avatar

Never for the lectures and always for the small classes. Most of my classes had fewer than 15 people, sometimes only 5 or 6, so it was pretty obvious who was there. We were the antithesis of a party school. All women, very serious and thrilled to be there. The largest lecture classes had fewer than 100 people. People rarely cut classes (I bet that Hillary and Madeline never did either.)

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Usually not. There really was not any problem with attendance in engineering though. Low attendance days usually were good pop quiz days or key lecture days. Past sophmore year there were no low attendance days. A missed hint in a lecture or key set if notes could mean the difference between passing and failing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

No. But I was paying for it so I attended.

In my early college days I took a pud class called Theater Appreciation. All you had to do to pass was to attend every class.

Here2_4's avatar

Nobody took attendance in any classes I can recall. I did have one professor warn us that the course required attendance, and that if we missed classes we simply could not pass. I showed up always, and I passed. It was a tough course, but I think most of us made it.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Yes, some did (for tutorials not lectures). If some people know someone is noticing they haven’t turned up, it can encourage them to show up for classes. Also, if you need to ask for an extension or a resubmission, they might look at your attendance record to evaluate your level of participation in the course so far. If you haven’t shown up to most classes, your chances will be fairly slim of getting an opportunity to resubmit or even extra time (if it isn’t health related).

dappled_leaves's avatar

No, though I’ve heard once or twice of it happening. What is far more common is that a prof will make some aspect of the course mandatory that requires attendance, like participation in every class, usually in the form of clicker questions or in-class quizzes.

It’s not stupid. Often university students (especially in the introductory courses) overestimate their ability to catch up what they’ve missed. I’ve seen it instituted in courses where the profs have already tried to stress that specific classes will be essential to the students’ success, and they still skip the classes. It makes it very hard to build on their knowledge to date, if they don’t have a basic understanding of what has already been covered.

cookieman's avatar

The college I attended did not take attendance at all. There were more than a few classes I barely attended but took the midterm and final and passed the class.

The college I teach at has an attendance policy and it’s taken in every class.

Mimishu1995's avatar

It depends on the teachers. Some don’t care whether their students attend their classes as long as they get good results, others are more traditional, feeling that students who don’t attend their classes don’t respect them as well.

But technically, there’s no rule university that require teachers to grade attendance, meaning that students can choose not to attend classes if they want and no one will object. But some don’t tolerate absence and “take justice in their hand”. The methods are various, the most common one being subtracting the marks. There are some teachers who want to guarantee students’ dilligence, by random roll call. That’s one effective move.

canidmajor's avatar

Various colleges and universities will take attendance also as a measure for tracking demographics and professor popularity, not necessarily to track the individual students. Schools get funding and grants sometimes based partly on these figures.

dxs's avatar

This is making me contemplate what the goal of college is because it can help me understand this topic. Is it, in the end, just a place to get a degree to succeed further in society? You’ll definitely learn, but do you actually need the institution itself? When I take classes, I always attend them and engage in the class because everything I’ve taken so far (minus 1st-year writing) has been interesting, and I’m paying a huge chunk of money. I dont want to skip class, but sometimes things happen. I haven’t taken any upper-level classes, which are more specialized. As others have said, these classes may be focused more on class time instead of the text, making attendance more important. But doesn’t it make sense that not going these classes will naturally hinder your success?

@rory Why does it disrespect the professor and the other members of the class?
Re: If you take a class, never show up, and still do well on the test or essays, that isn’t reflective of what you’ve learned in the class—it means you had prior knowledge, or did the reading on your own. In that case, why take the class at all? This is so true, and I could use this argument against teachers who test on topics not covered in class but are still in the course’s textbook.

@livelaughlove21 How the hell are students supposed to learn the material if they don’t attend lectures, or only come in when they’re not hungover? They may not. But if they do, is it still acceptable?
I also think that it is the student who must be motivated to go to school. I guess it’s different if their parents are paying for it and they’re just going because everyone else told them to. It seems like most people at the school I’m at just want to fit a stereotype of partying and what not. I can’t understand this mentality…maybe it’s because I’m paying my own tuition.
@dappled_leaves Again, isn’t that the student’s responsibility? It’s good that the professor cares, but again, the professor is just there to “profess”, not track them like they’re in grade school.

Thanks, all, for answering!

longgone's avatar

@rory “If you take a class, never show up, and still do well on the test or essays, that isn’t reflective of what you’ve learned in the class—it means you had prior knowledge, or did the reading on your own. In that case, why take the class at all?”

I’m one of those people. I do best studying by myself, and listening to lectures puts me to sleep, no matter how interesting the subject. For people like me, compulsory attendance is worthless. As to “why take the class?” – well…without taking the class, there often is no way to even take the test.

Sinqer's avatar

Most of my professors did, but I agree with you.
I paid for the position in the class, Whether I show up or not should be my choice, teacher’s been paid already.
I don’t agree with attendance counting towards a grade. But that’s because I think grades should try to reflect solely the person’s comprehension of the material.
I agree with you.

dxs's avatar

@Sinqer I think the problem is that tertiary education nowadays is geared towards the economy. It’s an institution that gets you a bigger paycheck (but then again, with all those loans…). So with that mentality, tertiary education becomes more of a “requirement” instead of a hobby. I have negative feelings about this situation.

Sinqer's avatar

I can relate… I never graduated.
I think it’s done way more harm than good. Clinton passed the bill to set it up for everyone to take out government loans for education. I didn’t think much about it back then, but I took out a loan… dropped out (couldn’t afford to live and go to school), and then paid off the loan over time.
If 80% of your population takes out loans for higher education, gets degrees, but their aren’t enough higher level jobs to support the graduates, you’ve got a bunch of over educated people competing for the same jobs. Then all the requirements for jobs suddenly included minimal degrees, and the 20% are screwed. Makes me remember that hardly anyone needed a college degree to do many of the same jobs they now require them for.
From what I’ve heard, there are a lot of college graduates with huge loans to pay off now, all working entry level positions.
And I definitely agree with the privatizing, though I’m not sure public education setups work any better. I’ve been learning a lot over here in Europe about their systems, and there are definitely drawbacks to making higher education a public run system. I of course agree with public high school (minimum education for citizen population).

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