Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Neither here nor there

Interesting article on Inside Higher Ed about the problem of absenteeism (read it here), including some data and a great deal of speculation about the reasons students skip class. For instance, a study at the University of California at Santa Cruz found three common reasons students miss a class: " a) they are sleeping, b) they are preparing for other classes or c) they feel like the class is 'useless.'" Some blame professors for relying too heavily on technology, while others blame professors for avoiding technology or relying too heavily on lecture; others place all the blame on students for being lazy, overcommitted, or irresponsible.

One of the students in my 8:00 class confessed that sleep was to blame for two weeks' worth of absences: she just can't get up that early in the morning. "When I make it to your class," she explained, "It's because I've stayed up all night the night before." A few weeks ago we worked out an arrangement that would allow her to pass the class, and since then she has made it to every class and skillfully completed every assignment. Because of her willingness to work on the problem, I have no doubt that she will pass the class.

Another student missed a month of class because of involvement with a sport. The student has turned in assignments late or not at all, and he has taken no initiative to meet with me or visit the Writing Center for one-on-one attention. Further, he does not even bother to pick up his drafts before revising them, and he has missed so many classes that he would not even know what some of my comments meant even if he read them. Will he pass the class? Unlikely.

Rampant absenteeism is a problem, but it's always the same problem, and therefore it will not respond to the same solution every time. I am happy to bend a little for students willing to take responsibility and work toward a solution, and for the rest--well, that's why we have the letter F.

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