Lessons in attending lectures

Lessons in attending lectures

Why our administration should dodge the trend of mandatory attendance

 UMBC’s lectures are currently in the province of the professor – to decide whether or not the lecture component of the class is mandatory. It should stay this way.

Some colleges, such as Villanova University, are beginning to embrace big brother policies in regards to lectures by tracking their students’ attendance to ensure a higher success rate in the classes and a higher overall graduation rate. This ensued from studies that have shown a high correlation between lecture attendance and class grade.

According to Mark Perks, a senior lecturer in the department of chemistry and biochemistry, “there is no, and shouldn’t be, any UMBC policy regarding lectures. It is always the professor’s choice whether class is mandatory.” The professor in charge of each course decides whether attendance is part of the class’s grade, and whether attending class is mandatory or not.

This minimal policy is a good place for a college to be. UMBC should not adopt the stricter measures to ensure that students go to all their lectures. The professor of a class knows whether attending the class will benefit the student, and, if it is warranted, makes attendance mandatory. If going to the class is not excessively beneficial to the learning of that subject, odds are the class is not mandatory.

Besides, college is not about being forced to do things. Students know which classes are helpful to attend in order to improve their grades in the class, and it is up to them to decide what to do with that information.

College is about learning how to live on one’s own — how to make one’s own decisions and learning responsibility for one’s actions. This essential step in the learning and maturing process becomes obsolete if all decisions are taken away from the student before they even begin college.

Some colleges are adopting a method that allows parents to track whether their children are in lecture or not, notifying them when the student is not within a certain radius of distance from the lecture hall allowing the parents to contact their child about their hooky playing.

This tracking seems to take away the essential education of college — deciding for oneself what to do and facing the consequences of making a certain decision, like not attending the lectures. This puts the decision on the parents’ heads, and as such, is not a real choice.

Perks teaches organic chemistry, a flipped classroom, in which the lecture is a time for students to ask and answer questions after learning the material on their own. He and a co-teacher make this class ‘mandatory,’ “because in our best judgment we are confident more students will succeed at a higher level of competence when they come to class and grapple with the complexities of [organic chemistry] in deliberate discussion-type exercises in collaboration with peers.”

It is up to the professor to decide if it is necessary to take that extra step and make the class mandatory based on knowledge of their subject and teaching method. It’s unnecessary for some lectures, and detrimental to students’ maturing process. It is up to the students to decide whether or not to attend a lecture.

If students choose to go, they will have the validation that their choice was a wise one, and if they do not go to lecture, they will learn to deal with the consequences of choice — one of the most important parts of going to college and living on one’s own.