How to deal with lack of attendance (lecturing)

posted
09-Apr-18, 13:45
Avatar for butterfly20
posted about 8 months ago
I was wondering whether any of you have had experience dealing with students who don't attend lectures and seminars. This is a Masters cohort and the attendance has been appalling (20 out of 80 average attendance). This is apparently a problem with the cohort across all modules so I haven't taken it personally.

However, now that the deadline for the assessment is coming up, I am being inundated with students emailing me asking me questions that I have already covered in sessions that I know they haven't attended (from registers).I am struggling with responding to emails without being scolding of not attending (and when I have done that, the students have lied and said they did attend "but still don't understand!"). How would you deal with this? I am so fed up of repeating myself but the powers above say that we have to be seen to be responding to students!
posted
09-Apr-18, 14:39
edited about 24 seconds later
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 8 months ago
I'm afraid you just have to grit your teeth and keep responding. Otherwise you will take a hit on the evaluations (and do expect many who never attended to criticise your teaching). I'm afraid the new loans for postgrad study mean that many masters cohorts now have exactly the same issues of uninterested students not willing to do the work but wanting a good mark as you get at u/g level.
posted
11-Apr-18, 12:46
edited about 1 minute later
Avatar for Teaddict
posted about 8 months ago
It really depends on what your goals are and how much you care about student evaluations. Bewildered is probably right but personally, I do not respond to such emails positively. I instruct said student that the information was covered in session and is contained within the compulsory reading. Ergo, they should already be familiar with it. To be additionally salty, I always end with 'good luck with the exam'.

I have had several complaints about my feedback (which I have been told is exceptionally blunt) but so far the department has shielded me from anything negative. From those who actually attend, though, my feedback is really positive (so probably offsets the negative comments).

It really depends on you, what you want, and how responsive you are to student feedback. Unfortunately, student feedback is a strong currency now a days. Further, you indicate that your department, 'the powers above', would not be happy with my approach - so bewildered is probably right. Perhaps speak to module coordinators and department heads?
posted
11-Apr-18, 13:19
edited about 23 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 8 months ago
Responding to loads of individual emails is annoying and time consuming. Can you email them saying that they should have attended and please forward any further queries by X date and you will do your best to answer them all in a collated response? That could work.
posted
11-Apr-18, 18:22
by Psych1
Avatar for Psych1
posted about 8 months ago
That is so annoying - personally I am tough but empathic. I will help but they need to show effort.

If you are worried about student evaluation I would personally set up a Q & A session. 'Thank for your e-mail, I have arranged a Q & A for these questions where I can answer fully in person (or webinar)'. In response to further e-mails: I unfortunately do not have time to repeat material covered in lectures individually.

Or 'have a further look over the material and e-mail me again in a week if you still do not understand - it is important that you able to be as independent as possible with your learning following the lectures however anxiety-provoking it is'.
posted
12-Apr-18, 03:04
edited about 4 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 8 months ago
When 75% of students are not attending lectures I don't think it is good enough to simply blame them for not being motivated.
It happens in so many subjetcs at so many universities that it is clearly indicative of a problem of current teaching methods.
I think the problem is more general than just butterfly's case and stems from the fact that so much teaching is designed to make the learning process completely passive.

Obviously in this specific instance I don't know what the exact problem is but instantly blaming the students is a huge red flag.

butterfly, how much of your teaching is passive and how much is driven by the students? I always found that attending lectures was a total waste of time. The lecturer would have been bettr putting the notes online and running problem solving workshops instead. Interestingly, the majority of students come to life when you give them things like posters to create or to design experiments. Having them sit in lectures for an hour at a time kills the spirit of even the most motivated students.
In too many cases, teaching at universities has not progressed very much from thirty years ago when I did my first degree. This is seriously bad news.
posted
12-Apr-18, 15:12
Avatar for butterfly20
posted about 8 months ago
Thank you so much for the advice. Teaddict, luckily the student evaluations were before this started happening. The students who have been attending were the only ones who filled them out. So they were sparse but positive :) I've gone with Tudor queen and psych 1's advice and made contact with the cohort as a whole and arrangements to have a drop in.

The lack of attendance started in week one. So I'm not sure how this could be down to my teaching style or how I have blamed the students. It is a compulsory module which might have something to do with it.
posted
12-Apr-18, 15:50
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 8 months ago
That should work butterfly20 - and should be in your favour for the feedback side of things too, as you're clearly going out of your way to do this when they should have attended.

Do you mean it isn't a compulsory module?
posted
12-Apr-18, 16:19
edited about 19 seconds later
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 8 months ago
My thoughts as the student with sub40% attendance during his degree is that if they think they can pass it without turning up, they won't turn up. Most people are at uni to get the piece of paper at the end so the only thing motivating them is the results. As I thought that the module was easy I didn't attend. Didn't matter about teaching style or engagement, if I thought that I could pass with minimal work I stayed at home. If I knew the course was hard or that the lecturer who based exams only on what he said in class, I attended whatever the lecturer's ability to teach.

So literally fail a lot of people one year and the next year you will have good attendance. In my undergrad a lecturer did that because her attendance was allegedly 10% (wouldn't know as I wasn't there), so she made an exam that was barely based on any of the lecture slides. The result was a pre-standardised average of sub 30% and she held her ground so that during standardization most of barely passed. Word spread and the next year she had high attendance because she suddenly had a hard module (it was a core module).

My opinion is that with this drive for "e-learning", recorded lectures and online notes makes lectures far less appealing when you can do it all in the comfort of your bed. So don't take it personally and if you want an easier time without failing people, listen to what they are asking and add it to your distributed powerpoint/notes for next year or make an FAQ site.

Also, is your lecture at an odd time, end of the day or is the only lecture they have on the day? Timetabling may just make your lecture awkward to get to.
posted
12-Apr-18, 17:00
edited about 35 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 8 months ago
Gosh the previous poster brings back memories of my UG years! I had low attendance warning letters every semester threatening to stop my funding (just managed to stay above the threshold)! Rewt is so right!
posted
12-Apr-18, 17:21
Avatar for butterfly20
posted about 8 months ago
Quote From Tudor_Queen:
That should work butterfly20 - and should be in your favour for the feedback side of things too, as you're clearly going out of your way to do this when they should have attended.

Do you mean it isn't a compulsory module?


No it is. Research methods...:)
posted
12-Apr-18, 17:30
edited about 2 seconds later
Avatar for butterfly20
posted about 8 months ago
Rewt I love that suggestion! I'm not sure I'd get away with it where I am. I also didn't attend alot when I was an undergrad but I never had the balls to email the lecturer to ask, I used to rely on friends!

I've been told by the programme director that there are a number of students not attending anything due to health/personal issues. The nature of the degree and the subject area seems to be triggering a lot. As well as one student who won't attend because I remind him of his ex girlfriend...
posted
12-Apr-18, 17:40
edited about 15 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 8 months ago
Now I've heard everything!!!
posted
12-Apr-18, 21:01
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 8 months ago
Quote From butterfly20:
Rewt I love that suggestion! I'm not sure I'd get away with it where I am. I also didn't attend alot when I was an undergrad but I never had the balls to email the lecturer to ask, I used to rely on friends!


Yeah, I never had the balls to email the lecturer if I didn't turn up either.

Is there a book that you could refer them too, instead of answering them individually? Or give them some pre-made notes? Or if they are asking the same questions, tell them to ask the other person who asked/ forward them those emails. The department wants you to be supportive and available but you dont need to give a tailored perfect answer every time. Directing them to the right place may be enough.

Or every time they ask a question, say "is this what you mean ..." and copy/paste the answer from someone else. Half-time they might just drop it but the really dedicated ones will only ask the second time. Could be a good screening process but I have no experience in teaching a full class, so take my ideas with a pinch of salt.
posted
12-Apr-18, 21:15
edited about 20 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 8 months ago
The strategy I suggested (ask them all to email queries by a certain point and then reply to all queries at once on a single Word doc - annonymizing the queries and letting them know that they'll be annonymized) is one that a lecturer at undergrad did with my cohort. It worked well. At the time, it was beneficial for me as a student, as I got to take useful bits from other people's questions too (which I hadn't previously thought about). For the lecturer (not that I thought about such things as this at that stage in my career!), it meant that he had a set time to deal with queries, and once done, it was done. I think it's probably the most helpful and efficient option!

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