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Greater absenteeism during blocks leads to lower grades

Survey among European Studies students

MAASTRICHT. First-year students who faithfully attend all tutorial group meetings, perform considerably better than those who just about meet the attendance standard. This was one of the outcomes of a survey carried out by Patrick Bijsmans and Arjan Schakel among first-year students of European Studies, which was recently published in Higher Education.

When the discussion about compulsory attendance flared up again at FASoS two years ago, that was it for Patrick Bijsmans and Arjan Schakel, both lecturers at the department of Political Sciences. “Not enough research is carried out into education. We need to make decisions based on decent research instead of ‘founded intuition,’” they concluded.

Only to immediately put words into action. “We submitted a request for all first-year tutorial group attendance lists at European Studies (academic years 2012-2015) and linked these to information about grades achieved, binding study advice, nationality, gender, prior education, et cetera. Everything was of course anonymised.” In all, we looked at about a thousand students. One third of them (326) had met with the compulsory attendance standard for every subject and had achieved a minimum of 42 credits, the BSA standard.  

Would attendance also play a role within this motivated group?, the researchers wondered. It certainly did. “Those who didn't miss a meeting, on average scored one point higher for all subjects compared to students who were present for 70 per cent (the required minimum).” Also, as far as the chances of a positive binding study advice are concerned: “Those who had a hundred per cent presence, had a 99 per cent chance of a positive binding study advice. Those who had a 70 per cent presence, had a chance of 46 per cent.” In short: compulsory attendance has added value.

The fact that the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences abolished compulsory attendance in September 2017 is no reason for Schakel and Bijsmans to stop their research. “Not that we want to reintroduce it, but we are analysing the most recent data and will pass on that knowledge to students and lecturers.” Analysis of the first period of this academic year shows that 80 per cent of the ES students attended 80 per cent of the meetings. At the bachelor's of Arts and Culture, as much as 90 per cent of the students attended 90 per cent of the meeting.

Students who received a BSA before, are overrepresented in the group that regularly misses meetings. “They belong to a high-risk group and have already had a talk with the mentor. We can anticipate this in the next academic year.”

The two want to expand research into education within FASoS - a Comenius application has been submitted - and to encourage as many colleagues as possible to participate. “It doesn't need to be extensive research, you could also share experiences with literature references on our blog. We want to create a culture in which we deal with education professionally.” To conclude: “We are now researching internationalisation. Everyone says that learning in an internationally mixed group yields so much. We are looking into whether that is true.”



2018-03-16: Observer
There is no mention of that study in the Fasos teachingblog linked.
1) The causality is tricky. It shouldn't surprise anyone, not even Higher Education, that students with a negative BSA are very likely to also stuggle with attendence.
2) "Would attendance also play a role within this motivated group?" - Failure to attend class equals a lack of motivation?

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