Attendance: The mismatch between academics and students. Who is right?


R. Nazim Khan, University of Western Australia

Presentation at the 11th Southern Hemisphere Conference on the Teaching and Learning of Undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics (‘Brazil Delta 2017 for short)

Students don’t attend from the 1st lecture – how do they know if the lecturer is good or not? Something else is afoot.

Lectures are recorded, students watch the recordings rather than attending.

Low attendance is correlated to high failure rate.

Reasons for low attendance:

  • Maths is not their major
  • Lecturing is not done well
  • Students believe they can pass without attending
  • When students have jobs and work comes up, they prioritise work over attendance
  • Attendance is higher when there is assessment in class
  • Research on attendance …

This study:

Does attendance affect performance? Who attends class? Attitudes on attending, staff and students?

Business statistics course, records of attendance, survey, marks, demographics, high school marks.

1st yr calculus course where lectures were not recorded. Correlation between marks and attendance.

TER Tertiary exam mark, a single measure of performance in Australian universities.

Results: In the Calculus course,

  • Older students did better
  • Higher TER correlated with higher mark in the course
  • Students with Discrete Maths as a prerequisite did worse by 14% on average
  • Higher high school maths correlated with higher marks
  • Males did better than females

In the stats course,

  • Better performance by permanent residence students (mostly from Asian countries)
  • Repeat students did 6% worse
  • Higher high school maths correlated with higher mark
  • Attendance was highly significant. Each extra session attended gave an extra 2% on average.
  • Each tut (there were 5) attended gave 7% increase in mark.
  • Males did better than females

Students with lower marks think they would have done better if they attended more.

Students with higher marks think attendance in important.

The higher up the performance scale, the more they think attendance is important.

Staff also think attendance is important, they are 2.5 times more likely than students to say this.

Discussion: Only about 2% of students watched lectures, in Leanne’s and her colleagues’ mathematics lectures at Western Sydney University.

When lecture recording was introduced in Information Technology lectures at the University of Cape Town, attendance actually increased! Lecture recording is helpful for students who are less familiar with the lecturer’s accent, or learning in a 2nd, 3rd or 4th language – they can re-watch parts. It also helps the regularly attending students catch up when they are ill. A problem is students having time to watch the videos. They imagine they will have more time than they have.

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