Attendance is not about teacher control but about student success! Research indicates
that students who attend class regularly are more successful (Crede, Roch, & Kieszcynka,
2010; Schimming, n.d.; Sleigh & Ritzer, n.d.). Class attendance is a better predictor
of grades than any other academic performance predictor, including ACT/SAT scores,
study habits, and high school GPA (Crede et al.). The act of taking attendance indicates
to students that you care about them being in the room and that attendance is important
to you. The experience of being called by name as a participant at the start of a
group-learning experience increases each students’ personal investment in the class
process. Many students at UNC express a real value of our small-classroom atmosphere
relative to other universities. Being able to call your students by name certainly
increases this feeling.
Tracking attendance gets results
Faculty in UNC’s Criminology & Criminal Justice program began tracking attendance
and contacting students who missed two classes. CCJ faculty found that this attendance
initiative revealed improved retention rates in CRJ 110 and implemented the initiative
as department-wide practice. This practice has resulted in a 4-year increase in retention
of new transfer students (+23%), new first year students (+12), and an overall retention
rate of +7%.
How do I talk about attendance?
It’s important that students know why you take attendance, so consider discussing
the research about attendance and success with your students on the first day of class.
It’s important for students to know that attendance is more about their success than
your control and that you take attendance because you care about them.
What do I do if students don’t attend class?
If a student misses two classes in a row, or is consistently missing classes, email
the student in a non-threatening way. For example:
I have noticed that you missed the last two classes and just wanted to check in with
you. If you need any kind of help, please get in touch! Coming to class is really
important, and we miss you.
What are some teaching strategies that promote better attendance?
It is also important to make class worth attending! Consider enhancing your class
with activities that engage students and assist them in learning something in a way
that can’t be done by reading or getting notes from a friend. See Barkley (2010) and
Barkley, Major, & Cross (2014) in the resources section.
What do we know about the evidence supporting an attendance policy?
While faculty can track attendance without making attendance mandatory, mandatory
attendance policies can also be helpful for students. When attendance is required
(i.e., attendance is graded and contributes to overall semester points) there is an
additional boost. In other words, taking attendance is clearly positive for students.
Taking attendance and including it as a graded event is even better. Attendance for
a grade can be done positively instead of punitively – instead of taking away points
for missing class students earn points for attending. This puts them in complete control
of that portion of their grade.
How do I take attendance in an online course?
Canvas' Attendance tool, Roll Call, gives instructors the ability to take attendance
in a Canvas course shell. During a pandemic, the tool can be useful for contact tracing
and reporting, if necessary. The tool includes a drag and drop seating chart that
works with your roster and the ability to run attendance reports.
Important things to know about using Roll Call:
- If the tool does not appear in your course menu, you have to activate it in course
settings on the navigation tab.
- Roll Call works by generating an assignment, and as soon as you take attendance, the
assignment appears on your assignments page and in your grade book. By default, the
assignment is worth 100 points.
- You can make changes to any part of the assignment except the assignment title. If
you change the title, the tool will not work.
- The easiest way to use the tool for grading is to put the assignment into a weighted
group equal to the percentage of the grade you assign to attendance. If you do this,
the point value will not matter. Note that if you do this, all assignments will be
weighted and so you will have to group all of your assignments and assign the desired
weights. If you use weighted groups, you can also give the tool a 0% weight so that
you can use the tool without assigning a grade.
- The attendance assignment awards full credit by default, and credit is deducted based
on overall attendance. For example, if a student is present on day 1 and absent on
day 2, the student’s attendance score is 100% after day 1 and 50% after day 2. If
the student is present for the next 2 days, the overall score is 75%.
- While you can change the seating chart every day, it is designed to work best if students
remain in the same seat for the entire term.
More information can be found on the official Canvas guide to Roll Call, which includes information on how the tool works in Canvas, how to create a seating
chart, and how to run attendance reports.