Attendance monitoring: the effect on the culture of learning
Many Universities across the world are strengthening their class attendance policies. In the UK it is a legal requirement to monitor the ‘engagement’ of some types of international students, but many institutions have also extended this monitoring to all types of students.
Drawing on university policy statements, a paper by Macfarlane (2013) identifies implicit arguments underpinning attendance requirements for students in higher education. These include:
- demonstrating the accountability of publicly funded higher education
- a concern for the pastoral and academic welfare of students
- preparation for expectations associated with workplace and professional practice.
Macfarlane argues that judging whether an educational experience has been ‘successful’ or not has little to do with attendance records. Rather, in a world of learning outcomes, it is about whether a student succeeds in achieving good grades and an intrinsically worthwhile educational experience.
While acknowledging the evidence that there is a positive correlation between attendance and achievement, Macfarlane argues that institutions need to think through the wider implications of implementing attendance monitoring procedures and the effect they can have on the culture of learning at university.
He claims that attendance policies promote presenteeism as part of the discourse of learnerism. Such rules, it is claimed, further infantilise students rather than developing their capacity to make informed choices as adults.
Macfarlane, B. (2013), The Surveillance of Learning: A Critical Analysis of University Attendance Policies. Higher Education Quarterly, 67: 358–373. doi: 10.1111/hequ.12016