Last week, Brian noted on Twitter that the first students were about to fail the course as a consequence of his attendance policy.
I’m in a similar position, and so thought that a post on attendance/absence policies might be in order.
Here’s my policy:
You can miss three classes without penalty. After three, I reserve the right to lower your grade at my discretion; after nine absences you risk failure for the course. Note that this policy does not distinguish “excused” from “unexcused” absences–such a distinction puts me in a role I don’t want to play. SPECIAL PANDEMIC CAVEAT: H1N1 (“swine”) flu guidelines suggest remaining out of school for 24 full hours beyond the last fever. (And, of course, the school could be closed if there’s a real outbreak.) Look to the wiki for ways to keep up.
- The policy’s pitched at MWF classes. Classes that meet less frequently obviously have lower numbers.
- The most important thing about the policy is wiggle room. A policy that has automatic triggers will inevitably be too draconian for you to enforce comfortably. If you have someone who is doing A work, say in a gen ed class, but gets sick and misses a bunch of class–and yet still does A work, are you really going to lower them to a C? (Although you might consider why it is that someone who misses so much class can do so well.)
- The other thing that’s helpful about the policy is that it completely ignores the distinction between excused and unexcused absences. Formally, I don’t care. If I make that distinction, then it follows that I have to care whether students are lying to me about absences. I don’t like thinking about that. So you get your absences, and you can use them as you wish. Surprisingly, this also lets me enforce the policy a little more strictly than I might otherwise. Plus, it introduces the concept of the personal day: recognizing that sometimes, during a semester, a student might be better served by getting some sleep, or finishing a major project, than by coming to class. As long as it doesn’t happen too often, that’s fine.
- The other thing the policy does is point students to resources: If you’re absent, check the wiki. Don’t just drift away.
Of course, students don’t absorb policies until it’s too late, anyway. But setting up a policy you’re comfortable enforcing is more important than setting up one that you can’t live up to.
How do you approach absenteeism in your classes?
[Image by flickr user Max Klingensmith / CC licensed]