The Role of Roll Call
by Nathan J. Lichtenstein | published Oct. 23rd, 2013
Classes that do not quite “tickle your fancy” are a part of college life. Whether or not you attend those classes is your choice and as long as you do well, who cares, right? Unfortunately for students, the importance of class attendance is subject to each individual professor’s preference. Professors should not implement policies of mandatory classroom attendance. The only thing that is accomplished by forcing students to attend class is the creation of a stagnant classroom environment that nobody wants to be a part of.
College students are adults. As adults they make their own decisions and are accountable for any repercussions of those choices. If a college student decides to skip a class, why should his or her professor penalize him or her for doing so? According to RIT policy D04.0, professors are not required to keep a formal record of a student’s attendance. This is a wise stance on the part of RIT. By allowing professors the freedom to decide whether or not to take attendance, RIT is allowing professors more control over the way they teach their courses. Having freedom over their classroom attendance policies also allows professors to experiment with non-classroom educational techniques. I currently have a professor that has posted all of the course material for the semester on myCourses. Students can work at a faster pace if they want and, if they finish the course early, the professor has offered to administer an early final exam.
I’ve taken classes with professors at both ends of the spectrum. Some have counted attendance towards a significant portion of my final grade while others have flat out said on the first day of class that they do not care if I show up. My pre-calculus instructor, Tom Prevendoski, does not take attendance for most of his classes this semester.
Prevendoski said that there are a number of factors that can conflict with a student’s classroom attendance. “Whether it’s ROTC, sporting events and so on and so forth … I don’t feel it’s necessary to penalize these students for having [extracurricular] activities outside of the class.”
Prevendoski went on to say that he does not have a problem with a student missing class time if that student is capable of handling the material. Prevendoski used the example of a pre-calculus math class. “Sometimes all they need is a little refresher in some of the basics and they’re fine. There are some students who do need to come here and listen and focus a lot more. And I normally will allow people that ability to judge for themselves.”
This is a method that more professors should implement. When students can gauge their own learning they can focus on subject areas that they struggle with.
Policy D04.0 goes on to outline a course of action to be taken if a student is consistently absent. “As cases of serious absences become known, the student’s advisor or department should be notified.” This portion of the policy does not take into account a student’s grade in relation to their consistent absences. If a student is learning all of the material in a course and earning the grades to prove it, his or her classroom presence really should not matter. Not requiring professors to take attendance but requiring them to alert a student’s department of consistent absences is counterintuitive. If professors are not required to take attendance, they have no way of knowing if a student has been missing, especially in larger classes.
RIT has its bases fairly well covered regarding attendance policies, while at the same time allowing faculty members to make their own decisions on the subject. I feel that the professors who do not make attendance mandatory teach better classes. They teach the students who want to learn; the ones who show up to class. The combination of interested students and an understanding instructor provides a fantastic medium for students to learn and instructors to teach. In the end, professors cannot force students to learn. They can and should, however, make the process of learning enjoyable and fulfilling, which may just keep students from skipping class.