The title reflects the only words of Woody Allen I’ve ever cared to remember. I wish all students could grasp the concept.
I don’t normally have a formal attendance requirement, but in my intro level course I have a short essay quiz almost every day, of which I keep the top 2/3 or so as part of their grade. A surprising number of students take this lack of a formal attendance policy as an indicator that they can safely skip class…often. As it turns out, they can’t. At least they can’t and still succeed. In upper division courses, where it’s predominantly students who’ve had me before or who are pretty serious students who are taking the course out of interest rather than to just fill in credits, this isn’t a problem. It’s a problem primarily in my intro course, and is spread across the class divisions, from frosh to seniors.
I’m inclined to let them learn the lesson on their own, as a matter of pedagogy. Experiential learning is all the rage these days, so maybe I can just lump it under that happy concept. After all, they need to become adults at some point, and they learn from the experience of bombing my class that being a successful adult means getting your ass to wherever the hell it’s supposed to be at the proper damned time.
On the other hand, I’m sick and tired of handing out a bunch of Ds and Fs to students who are bright enough but do poorly because they’re never there to learn the material. And after all, they’re unlikely to get a job that doesn’t have an attendance policy, so maybe setting an attendance policy is treating them like adults (only kids think adults have freedom).
I’m not sure what to do. It goes against my gut instincts to have a policy that says “miss more than X classes and your grade goes down by Y,” because if in fact they can get a good grade without coming to class regularly, why should they be punished for being efficient? But I think it would be easier on me to avoid having to deal with the overwhelming majority of students who actually can’t do that–and their inevitable end-of-term panic, begging and whining–by resorting to the tactic of scaring them into compliance.
It seems like a cop-out, though, to do it just for my benefit, if there’s no real pedagogical benefit.