How Attendance Policies Affect Member Engagement

I do some adjunct teaching at local colleges.  One is a private, four-year art school, and another is a public community college.  The two colleges have vastly different attendance policies, and this has an effect on student achievement.

Before I continue, be clear that there are many determinants of student achievement, and I am not pretending to suggest that the attendance policies of the schools are the only factors.  But the simple fact is that when students show up to class, they do better.

The public community college has no explicit attendance policy, except to say that attendance cannot have a direct impact on student grades.  Student attendance for my classes at this school is generally good, and students generally do well in my classes.

The private art school has a policy whereby students who skip two consecutive weeks of classes are automatically dropped from the course.  There are two groups of students in my class: the motivated, and the not-so-motivated.  Students from the first group consistently come to class.  But about half of the students come to class just often enough not to get dropped.

The result, of course, is that they miss important information and do not know how to do the assignments.  Many of them simply don’t turn the assignments in.  About half of the students in my class at this school are earning a failing grade.

Perhaps if the attendance policy was different, these students would be failing anyway.  But the fact that the students do show up often enough not to get dropped from the class suggests that the attendance policy in place does have an impact on student behavior.  I’m not saying that the attendance policy is the reason they’re failing, but I am saying that the policy has an effect on their behavior.

Knowing that attendance policies can affect the engagement of their members, organization leaders need to craft these policies carefully.

One of the best policies I’ve seen for volunteer organizations was implemented at my Civil Air Patrol squadron.  Cadets were required to attend 75% of the regular, weekly meetings in order to be eligible for the fun weekend activities.  Since weekend activities were things that cadets really wanted to participate in, and 75% was not unreasonable, cadets followed the policy, and we had a healthier squadron as a result.

Of course, keeping track of which cadets met this policy and which ones did not was difficult, which is why I decided to write Best Attendance.  Now it’s simple.

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