Improving student attendance.Abstract
There is much debate in the academic community about ways to improve student learning. Based on limited research that suggests class attendance will enhance student learning, the authors began examining ways to increase student attendance. Using basic management principles of rewarding desired performance and presenting consequences for undesired behaviors, class attendance policies were modified to test whether different approaches would yield improved attendance. The results indicate that giving rewards for excellent attendance and negative consequences for poor attendance significantly improved attendance. The use of rewards alone was less effective than the use of rewards and punishment but more effective than punishment alone. The implications for attendance management by faculty and administrators are discussed.
There is a continuing discussion in the academic community around improving student learning. There is also considerable discussion, at least in our experience, about the importance of class attendance, seemingly seem·ing
Outward appearance; semblance.
seeming·ly adv. because it is related to improved learning. This concern for attendance and how to ensure students are maximizing their learning is the foundation for the study reported here.
The first question we asked ourselves was why should we be concerned about attendance? Do we not get an accurate assessment of student learning from tests, projects, and other assessment tools routinely used in classes? While it is tempting to answer the second question with a resounding re·sound
v. re·sound·ed, re·sound·ing, re·sounds
1. To be filled with sound; reverberate: The schoolyard resounded with the laughter of children.
2. yes, there seems to be little evidence to support such an answer. The emphasis by accreditation accreditation,
n a process of formal recognition of a school or institution attesting to the required ability and performance in an area of education, training, or practice. bodies on assessment suggests the academic community is continually con·tin·u·al
1. Recurring regularly or frequently: the continual need to pay the mortgage.
2. grappling with this issue of assessing student learning. If the usual assessment devices (tests, etc.) are viewed as inadequate to measure learning, it seems logical that there is probably learning occurring that is not being assessed. It also seems logical that learning is, at least partially, taking place in the classroom. That leads to the initial question of this study. Should we be concerned about attendance?
Durden and Ellis (1995) report on a study of economics students. They conclude that absences did not negatively affect student performance on nationally standardized tests A standardized test is a test administered and scored in a standard manner. The tests are designed in such a way that the "questions, conditions for administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent"  until they exceeded four classes. They further found that the negative effects on performance increased as absences increased. Thus, they conclude attendance does matter for academic performance and the effects of absences are nonlinear A system in which the output is not a uniform relationship to the input.
nonlinear - (Scientific computation) A property of a system whose output is not proportional to its input. . Romer
A Romer or Roamer is a simple device for accurately plotting a grid reference on a map. (1993) also found that attendance made a significant contribution to student performance, even when controlled for motivation. Both of these studies were conducted in economics courses. However, Park and Kerr (1990) examined effects of attendance on student performance in a money and banking course. They found that attendance was a determinant determinant, a polynomial expression that is inherent in the entries of a square matrix. The size n of the square matrix, as determined from the number of entries in any row or column, is called the order of the determinant. of student performance. Ledman and Kamuche (2002) report that students' attendance is significantly correlated cor·re·late
v. cor·re·lat·ed, cor·re·lat·ing, cor·re·lates
1. To put or bring into causal, complementary, parallel, or reciprocal relation.
2. with actual class performance. Their study was based on class performance of students in a statistics course with objective (solving quantitative statistical problems) exams. These studies suggest there is added value Added value in financial analysis of shares is to be distinguished from value added. Used as a measure of shareholder value, calculated using the formula:
An analyst recommendation meaning a stock is expected to do slightly better than the market return.
Exact definitions vary by brokerage, but in general this rating is better than neutral and worse than buy or strong buy. those who are repeatedly absent, it is reasonable to conclude that something is occurring as a result of student attendance. While the usual assessment tools may not fully measure learning, they do give an indication of it; or at least the academy operates on that premise. Therefore, it seems that students who attend class regularly do learn more.
That conclusion leads to the primary objective of this study. If the ultimate goal is to increase student attendance in order to increase learning, how can attendance be improved? That is where standard management techniques come into play. For decades management courses have taught students the value of rewards to enhance performance. A review of the typical college catalog catalog, descriptive list, on cards or in a book, of the contents of a library. Assurbanipal's library at Nineveh was cataloged on shelves of slate. The first known subject catalog was compiled by Callimachus at the Alexandrian Library in the 3d cent. B.C. indicates that students are punished pun·ish
v. pun·ished, pun·ish·ing, pun·ish·es
1. To subject to a penalty for an offense, sin, or fault.
2. To inflict a penalty for (an offense).
3. for not attending class. After several years of following catalog policies that address student absences, the authors of this report decided their class attendance was not what they desired. In addition, the punitive pu·ni·tive
Inflicting or aiming to inflict punishment; punishing.
[Medieval Latin pn approach led to numerous administrative problems when students would suddenly produce excuses for absences. We made the decision to apply the principles of rewarding desired performance with positive reinforcement positive reinforcement,
n a technique used to encourage a desirable behavior. Also called
positive feedback, in which the patient or subject receives encouraging and favorable communication from another person. . This approach is consistent with standard performance management techniques presented in any principles of management text and consistent with research on behavior management behavior management Psychology Any nonpharmacologic maneuver–eg contingency reinforcement–that is intended to correct behavioral problems in a child with a mental disorder–eg, ADHD. See Attention-deficit-hyperactivity syndrome. . A review of research on behavior modification behavior modification
1. The use of basic learning techniques, such as conditioning, biofeedback, reinforcement, or aversion therapy, to teach simple skills or alter undesirable behavior.
2. See behavior therapy. found that, on average, performance improved 17 percent when behavior modification techniques were used (Stajkovic and Luthans, 1997).
The decision to try rewards, coupled with our previous efforts using punishment, led us to try three different approaches to attendance management during three academic years. Each year's approach is reflected in one of the three hypotheses. Hypothesis one is consistent with Butterfield, Trevino and Ball (1996) who argue that punishment only yields short-term benefits. Their reading of the literature suggests that it may not be possible to effectively manage behaviors with punishment. Hypothesis two is consistent with the positions of Kerr (1999), Hays (1999), and Laabs (1999) that incentives should reward good performance, should be visible, and should reward past performance as well as motivate future performance. Hypothesis two also recognizes the benefits, even temporary, of punishment and proposes that the combination of approaches will be more effective than either alone, as suggested by the work of Stajkovic and Luthans (1997). Standard behavior modification practice, as presented in management textbooks, includes the use of reinforcement reinforcement /re·in·force·ment/ (-in-fors´ment) in behavioral science, the presentation of a stimulus following a response that increases the frequency of subsequent responses, whether positive to desirable events, or and extinction extinction, in biology, disappearance of species of living organisms. Extinction occurs as a result of changed conditions to which the species is not suited. techniques together to maximize behavior change Behavior change refers to any transformation or modification of human behavior. Such changes can occur intentionally, through behavior modification, without intention, or change rapidly in situations of mental illness. . Therefore hypothesis three addresses the strength of incentives alone to verify that the combination of approaches is, in fact, optimal.
H1: A punitive attendance policy will not result in students attending an average of ninety percent of the classes.
H2: The use of rewards for excellent attendance and punishment for poor attendance will significantly decrease the average number of absences per student.
H3: The use of rewards for excellent attendance with no punishment for poor attendance will result in a lower average number of absences per student than punishment alone, but a higher average number of absences per student than the use of rewards and punishment combined.
The sample in this study is the students in the two faculty members' classes over three academic years. The typical enrollment in the principles of management classes taught by one of the professors (Professor A) was thirty-five students. The typical enrollment in the statistics courses taught by the other professor (Professor B) was thirty students. The total enrollments in the two courses each year ranged from 226 in the third year to 487 in the first year. The enrollment in the second year was 341. The total enrollment of the college was approximately 3000 students during the years of this study.
This study is a modified pre-test post-test experiment. Since the college required that attendance records be carefully maintained, course attendance records were readily available for the pre-test year. During the test years the courses used the same faculty, the same syllabi syl·la·bi
A plural of syllabus. , texts, and course preparation materials. The experimental interventions were the modifications of the course syllabi to include a reward for perfect attendance. During year one, students were punished for missing classes. During year two, students were rewarded for perfect attendance and punished for missing classes. During year three, students were rewarded for perfect attendance. Specifically, the new reward policy called for students to receive bonus points for each exam if they had perfect attendance for the intervening in·ter·vene
intr.v. in·ter·vened, in·ter·ven·ing, in·ter·venes
1. To come, appear, or lie between two things: You can't see the lake from there because the house intervenes.
2. period between exams and from the beginning of class to the first exam. To receive the bonus students had to be present at the beginning of class. Being late for class resulted in losing the bonus award. Again, the underlying assumption was that some learning would occur from being in class, even if we could not measure it with traditional assessment tools. The bonus points merely recognize that unassessed learning. The total impact on the final course grade for perfect attendance for the entire semester se·mes·ter
One of two divisions of 15 to 18 weeks each of an academic year.
[German, from Latin (cursus) s was five to seven points on a one hundred point scale.
As previously noted, college policies required faculty to maintain complete and accurate attendance records. These records served as the data source for this study. The final year of data collection was the end of spring semester 1999. The sample size was 1054 students.
The results presented in Table One show clear support for hypothesis one. The average attendance rate for students using only a punitive approach to attendance was 88.6 percent. Table two gives the results for Hypotheses two and three. The results show that the average number of absences declined significantly for both faculty members' classes. For professor A absences dropped from an average of 5.46 to 4.97 absences per student. For professor B the average absence rate dropped from 4.09 to 3.68. The combined absence rate dropped from 4.72 to 4.25. See issue's website <http://rapidintellect.com/AEQweb/fal2003.htm>
The results for hypothesis three were quite surprising. Behavior theory Behavior theory can refer to:
1. Habitual failure to appear, especially for work or other regular duty.
2. The rate of occurrence of habitual absence from work or duty. increased in year three when only positive rewards were used without punishment for excessive absences. This finding inspired us to re-examine re·ex·am·ine also re-ex·am·ine
tr.v. re·ex·am·ined, re·ex·am·in·ing, re·ex·am·ines
1. To examine again or anew; review.
2. Law To question (a witness) again after cross-examination. hypothesis three using a different definition of the dependent variable. We decided to test hypotheses two and three, particularly hypothesis three, by redefining the dependent variable as the percentage of students with perfect attendance. Table three presents the results of this analysis. While the percentage of students with perfect attendance was quite low in the first year when negative consequences were applied, the rate of perfect attendance increased dramatically with the use of positive rewards, and even more with the application of positive rewards and negative consequences for absences. For professor A the percentage of students with perfect attendance increased from 5.8 See issue's website <http://rapidintellect.com/AEQweb/fal2003.htm>
in year one (negative consequences only) to 47.08 in year two with the incentives and negative consequences. As predicted in hypothesis three, the rate of perfect attendance in year three (using only incentives with no negative consequences) was, at 21.6 percent, lower than year two but higher than year one. The same findings were true for professor B whose students' perfect attendance rate went from 10.2 percent in year one to 52 percent in year two and 29.1 percent in year three. The combined rates of perfect attendance went from 7.8 percent in year one to 49.3 percent in year two and 25.2 percent in year three. These findings clearly support hypothesis three.
The results of this study suggest a new approach to attendance management. Using basic behavior management principles that call for reinforcing desired behaviors and taking steps to reduce undesired behaviors resulted in significant improvements in student attendance. The importance of combining the two efforts is supported by the results for the third hypothesis which show a decline in perfect attendance with only incentives compared to the use of incentives and punishment. The use of a single pronged prong
1. A thin, pointed, projecting part: a pitchfork with four prongs.
2. A branch; a fork: the two prongs of a river.
tr.v. approach to improve attendance is a less effective tactic, especially when using punishment alone. It is worth noting that the incentive offered students in this study was quite modest and very difficult to achieve, yet, was still effective. To receive the reward the students had to have perfect attendance and be present on time. Students who missed class for legitimate reasons such as official college activities were not eligible for the bonus points. The same rule applied to those who were late to class.
These findings could have important implications for class management. The first implication is that faculty should examine the basic premise under which they operate. An underlying assumption in this study was that some learning occurs that traditional assessment tools (exams, projects, and assignments) may not fully measure. That learning should be accounted for in some way. The authors of this study grappled with the concept of "giving" extra credit until we were able to arrive at a rational and logical rationale rationale (rash´nal´),
n the fundamental reasons used as the basis for a decision or action. for the bonus point system we used. The recognition and acceptance that students learn something from attending class is consistent with what is exhibited in most college catalogs when they discuss the importance of class attendance and with the literature (see for instance Park and Kerr, 1990; Romer, 1993).
The second implication is that faculty can positively influence student attendance. This study clearly suggests that basic behavior management techniques commonly taught in education and business curricula, but iroincally not necessarily applied in those curricula, provide an effective means to improve student attendance. The third implication relates to college administrations. The results of this study suggest a need for change in the way most institutions approach class attendance. Most college catalogs encourage regular class attendance and address the consequences of not attending. While flexibility is frequently given to faculty to establish individual attendance policies, catalogs typically imply or explicitly state there will be penalties for absences. The possibility of reward for excellent attendance is not addressed except in the abstract--the student will benefit somehow.
There is a need for further study of this topic and replication In database management, the ability to keep distributed databases synchronized by routinely copying the entire database or subsets of the database to other servers in the network.
There are various replication methods. of this study. The sample used in this study may not be representative of all institutions. The sample was drawn from business students at a private Liberal Arts college Liberal arts colleges are primarily colleges with an emphasis upon undergraduate study in the liberal arts. The Encyclopædia Britannica Concise offers the following definition of the liberal arts as a, "college or university curriculum aimed at imparting general knowledge with a reputation for high academic standards. Those students typically have a greater financial investment in their education and may already be considered high achievers. Their motivations may differ from students in general Replication of this work in other institutions with differing demographics The attributes of people in a particular geographic area. Used for marketing purposes, population, ethnic origins, religion, spoken language, income and age range are examples of demographic data. will provide further insight to the broader applicability of the results reported here.
This study did not address learning--it only made assumptions that learning would increase with improved attendance. This assumption is, however, consistent the research cited earlier. As noted by Rynes and Trank Trank!Ascii was a short-lived underground ASCII art group founded as a spinoff of Remorse ASCII, which was in-and-of itself part of the underground ANSI art group ACiD Productions. (1999) pedagogical ped·a·gog·ic also ped·a·gog·i·cal
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of pedagogy.
2. Characterized by pedantic formality: a haughty, pedagogic manner. research needs to begin assessing learning. A logical extension of this study will evaluate the relationship between class attendance and student learning beyond just performance on standardized tests. That evaluation needs to assess whether students who attend class more regularly have a better understanding of course material. Such evaluations need to go beyond grades and test scores to assess understanding (Frost and Fukami, 1997).
Presented at the annual meeting of the National Business and Economics Society March 2000, San Diego San Diego (săn dēā`gō), city (1990 pop. 1,110,549), seat of San Diego co., S Calif., on San Diego Bay; inc. 1850. San Diego includes the unincorporated communities of La Jolla and Spring Valley. Coronado is across the bay. , CA
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1. eliciting a reaction within an organism.
a form of radiofrequency hyperthermia that selectively heats muscle, blood and proteinaceous tissue, sparing fat and air-containing tissues. model. Academy of Management Journal, 39 1479-1512.
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AEA n abbr (BRIT) (= Atomic Energy Authority) → consejo de energía nuclear;
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Hays, S. (1999, February). Pros and cons pros and cons
the advantages and disadvantages of a situation [Latin pro for + con(tra) against] of pay for performance. Workforce, 78 69-72.
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Robert E. Ledman, Morehouse College Morehouse College: see Atlanta Univ. Center.
Private, historically black, men's liberal arts college in Atlanta, Ga. It was founded as the Augusta Institute, a seminary, in 1867 and renamed in 1913 in honour of Henry L. , GA Felix U. Kamuche, Jr., Morehouse College, GA
Ledman, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Management. His research focuses on pedagogical issues of improving student learning and course content. Kamuche, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of statistics. His research focuses on pedagogy.