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Student performance does not depend on attendance as much as it depends on the effort put in study. Bonesrønning and Opstad propose the concept of ”quantity of study” (46) and suggest that the amount of time and effort invested in learning is a predictor of the successfulness of learning.
However, what should be understood is whether attendance plays a role in this quantity of study. Based on this understanding, colleges can be recommended to either introduce mandatory attendance or refrain from such a policy. It will be argued that mandatory attendance is not a potentially effective policy because it routinizes education and humiliates students; further, counterarguments will be refuted.
First of all, a mandatory attendance policy turns college education into a routine. Multiple studies suggest that attendance positively correlates with student achievement (Al-Shammari 1). However, such studies did not focus on mandatory attendance.
Frequent attendance may indicate that a student is interested in the subject and willing to work hard to learn, but if a student is forced to attend, it will not necessarily shape such willingness. It is more likely that the mandatory attendance policy will be counterproductive: students will perceive studying as an obligation instead of perceiving it as an opportunity to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. If one is made to do something, he or she is less likely to develop genuine interest in it than in case doing it would be the person’s free choice.
Second, mandatory attendance requirements can be perceived by students as humiliating. Starting college is a transitional period; at this time, many students start living independently, and for them, college is the time when they start living like adults. Making free, independent choices is part of the adult life, but a mandatory attendance policy is something that undermines this independence.
When college students are told that they have to attend classes, and their final grades will depend on it, they are likely to feel like they are being treated like kids and not like adults (O’Connell 43). This perception cannot positively affect the students’ willingness to learn. Instead, they should feel that they can build their learning process according to their needs and not according to mandatory policies.
Counterargument and Rebuttal
A popular argument in favor of mandatory attendance policies is that they enhance student discipline (Cheruvalath 153). If students are required to attend classes, they are more likely to think through their schedules, and if they commit to well-structured schedules, it is easier for them to find time to do their homework properly. However, an important point is overlooked in this argument: attendance is not equal to participation or engagement. Some academic studies have disconfirmed that attendance is linked to performance (Eisen et al. 807). Even if a student finds time to attend all the classes or a certain course, it does not necessarily mean that the student will perform well at the course.
A mandatory attendance policy should not be implemented because it turns the process of learning into a routine and makes students feel like they are not being treated as adults. Both these effects decrease students’ interest in education and can negatively affect academic performance. Although it can be argued that mandatory attendance makes a student more disciplined, being disciplined is not directly linked to student achievement. According to Macfarlane, it is more effective to develop a culture of learning than to introduce mandatory attendance policies (370). Colleges should not assume that a mandatory attendance policy alone will improve student performance or the quality of learning.
Al-Shammari, Zaid N. “Enhancing Higher Education Student Attendance through Classroom Management.” Cogent Education, vol. 3, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1-11.
Bonesrønning, Hans, and Leiv Opstad. “How Much Is Students’ College Performance Affected by Quantity of Study?” International Review of Economics Education, vol. 11, no. 2, 2012, pp. 46-63.
Cheruvalath, Reena. “Does Attending Classes Help Foster Human Values in College Students?” Active Learning in Higher Education, vol. 18, no, 2, 2017, pp. 143-155.
Eisen, Daniel B., et al. “Does Class Attendance Matter? Results from a Second-Year Medical School Dermatology Cohort Study.” International Journal of Dermatology, vol. 54, no. 7, 2015, pp. 807-816.
Macfarlane, Bruce. “The Surveillance of Learning: A Critical Analysis of University Attendance Policies.” Higher Education Quarterly, vol. 67, no. 4, 2013, pp. 358-373.
O’Connell, Claire Babcock. “Attendance Policies: Do They Help or Hinder Adult Learning?” The Journal of Physician Assistant Education, vol. 23, no. 4, 2012, pp. 43-46.