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Supporting Student Attendance

Since the post-pandemic return to in-person learning, many instructors across Laurier have experienced low student attendance in their classrooms. Research indicates that class attendance is a better indicator of higher grades than any other indicator of academic performance (Credé, Roch, & Kieszczynka, 2010). In response to new teaching and learning realities, Teaching Excellence and Innovation offers the following ideas and supports to help expand student classroom attendance.


Setting the Tone for Attendance

Setting the tone at the beginning of the term about the importance and benefits of attending class will help to reinforce the need for students to attend classes regularly. Speaking to your students about class attendance and specifically why it is important to their success in your class helps students see the connection between attendance and higher grades. This transparency is especially important for first year courses when students are learning how to be successful in university. Instructors can positively communicate the role of attendance in academic success in a welcome message on MyLS or in course outlines where any attendance policies or evaluations are discussed.

Of course, student absences will exist for illness, religious and spiritual reasons, familial responsibilities, and other valid reasons. Consider creating a class policy encouraging students to email you to let you know that they will be absent. This helps create an ease of communication between instructors and students, helps to build students’ agency to advocate for themselves and can help instructors know when potential pinch points in the term may be so that you can re-evaluate your course schedule in future offerings. Creating a sense of transparency about potential absences will also support the creation and growth of relationality in the classroom.

Whether you are grading attendance or not, monitoring or tracking absenteeism and reaching out to those whose absence is jeopardizing their success in the class will help to reinforce the importance of attending class.


Planning Lessons and Communicating the purpose of class time

Using class time to not only deliver information to your students but designing opportunities to engage in active learning and practically use course skills and knowledge will benefit their academic success and deepen learning (Deslauriers, McCarty, Miller, Callaghan & Kestin, 2019). Just like instructors, students prioritize their time. Consider how planning lessons with activities and engagement embedded at key points throughout class time can not only enhance learning, but increases the value for students in attending class. Making class time an active and collaborative “can’t miss” experience can give students intrinsic motivation to prioritize attending class. This is particularly important if in class attendance is being evaluated as a part of the final grade (Fetter & Verbitsky, 2023).

Integrating diverse, contemporary examples, technologies or innovations into your class activities can enhance student interest, self-assessment, and skill development. For example, engaging with evolving tools like Generative AI during class time to show students the limits and possibilities of using these tools can be an engaging exercise. Consider using iClickers for low-stakes, fast answers and polling in class, along with classroom assessment techniques.

Further, making clear connections for students about the skills and knowledge that they will receive when attending class will help them to see that when they attend class, their subject matter learning will be much deeper. The relationship between class attendance and success is not always obvious to students who may think that they can navigate learning on their own. (Deslauriers, McCarty, Miller, Callaghan & Kestin, 2019).


Highlighting relationality in the classroom

With the return to in-person learning, many students are eager to begin connecting with their peers and recover the social interaction aspect of post-secondary education. Creating a sense of community within your class can support student attendance.

Using group work, think-pair-shares, or other interactive activities where students work together on a regular basis can create an understanding that other students are counting on their attendance for their own success. Speaking clearly to your students about the need to show up for each other in their learning, will help incentivize attendance. (Mowreader, 2023)

Other options for supporting relationality in the classroom is to learn and use students’ names. This is much easier to do in smaller classes for obvious reasons. Consider using name tags for larger classes and requiring students to offer their name before they participate in a conversation or ask questions. Using your students’ names when communicating in-person with them lets them know that you see them and that their absence in class will be noticed.

Using check-in questions at the beginning of the class that are low stakes and fun will help encourage communication and community. You may also consider playing music at the beginning of class when students are arriving to set the tone for the day, and help students ease into learning. Creating a supportive classroom environment where learners feel seen, cared for, and supporting in their learning will encourage their attendance and success.

Explore the engaging students section in this guide for further information and supports for motivating student engagement in your classroom.


Designing for flexibility

There will be times within the academic year that class attendance is low for many different reasons. The best way to prepare for it is to build flexibility into your course. Consider creating flexible due dates for some assessments or choice in which assessments a student might submit. Dr. Kuron, assistant professor in the Leadership program (FHSS) suggests that giving students assessment choice gives students “space to learn, and flexibility for when things come up outside of class. Students can have agency over their schedules by choosing to complete assignments that work with their personal schedules and choosing not to do assignments that conflict. This provides flexibility if emergencies arise; students don’t need to “catch up” on assignments because they have the grace and space to skip assignments without penalty. This has trickle down effects to keep them from falling further behind.”

Flexibility can be worked into every aspect of your course using Universal Design for Learning principles.

Explore TEI's Universal Design for Learning Playlist for recordings and panel discussions about strategies to implement UDL principles in your course.


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Parts of this section were modified from Carleton’s Encouraging Attendance in your Courses resource which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.



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