MAASTRICHT. The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is going to abolish compulsory attendance for second- and third-year students. For present students, everything will remain the same, but students starting in September 2017 will only have to deal with compulsory attendance in their first year.
Students attending the tutorial groups do so because they find them interesting and not because they have insufficient ticks attached to their names. That is what FASoS is looking for, explains spokesperson for education Jessica Mesman. “Intrinsically motivated students.”
Abolishing compulsory attendance will not be carried out radically. It will remain in place for the first year so that the faculty has sufficient time to prepare newcomers for what is coming. “The transition from secondary school to university is a major event. Students often think that they have lots of free time but don’t realise that this time is meant for self-study. We want to develop their self-discipline even further: How to plan; how to study?” Current students haven’t had this preparation and that is why everything will remain the same for them, Mesman emphasises.
Exactly how this addition to the first-year curriculum will be implemented, is still being worked out at the moment. Mesman: “PBL can only be successful if the students contribute. We are now investigating what can be achieved with group dynamics: students holding group members accountable for their responsibilities, the idea that you don’t want to miss a tutorial group meeting.” Mentors and student advisers will also be given a role in all this, and exams (“how to ensure that students do not focus too much on tests when they study, or if that doesn’t work: how to use this information in a positive way”) and the existing rules are being reviewed too.
At some stage, compulsory attendance was introduced because students stayed away too much. What happens if, despite all these precautionary measures, the tutorial groups end up not being attended? Mesman: “I have no reason to think that it will not work out well. But should that be the case, then we will review our measures again. It is exactly this sixth step in the seven-step process (preparation) that plays an important role because we work on the basis that students who are well-prepared want to share their knowledge. Going back to compulsory attendance is the least interesting option for us.”
Mesman hopes that the eternal discussion about how often someone should be present will disappear. The adaptation will save time anyway. “The supporting clusters now have a hard job implementing the rules and all the exceptions. And students will no longer need to get to grips with all those procedures either.”
But even more importantly: “We will treat the students, who are after all young adults, accordingly. It is about their own responsibility, about development in the broadest sense of the word.”