Weekly Teaching Note
Nov 30 2010
Encouraging Student Attendance

As the semester progresses, faculty members often see a noticeable decline in attendance. In fact, estimates in large classes suggest that over 60% of students deliberately cut them. Empty seats (and sadly, empty minds) are an issue, but there are some things you can do.

Some Things to Try:

  • Make the class informative, interesting, and relevant. Add variety and entertainment to lectures, such as animations, slide shows, demos, video clips, music, and guest speakers.
  • Post outlines—not the complete notes—on your course web page or in Blackboard, so that students know what to expect. They can use them as a guide for taking notes and not as a substitute for attending class.
  • Use supplemental illustrations and examples that students can’t get any other place other than in class.
  • Give exam-directed problems in class.
  • Count class participation toward the final grade.
  • Give students a topic to think about for the next class discussion or a puzzle to solve either for fun or credit.
  • Give regular pop or announced quizzes. Give quizzes at the beginning of class to encourage timely arrival and to get feedback on assigned reading. Alternatively, give quizzes at the end of class to test comprehension. 
  • Give more scheduled exams covering less material.
  • Give weekly in-class assignments that can be done in 20-30 minutes that give students the chance to apply what they have learned. Students can work individually or in pairs. Give students credit for completing assignments, but don't grade them.
  • Collect homework and give students credit for handing it in. You don’t have to do this every day to encourage attendance.
  • Establish a policy that grades will be lowered according to the number of sessions missed.

Some additional ideas for larger classes:

  • Use personal response systems (“clickers”) to encourage attendance and pair-related problem-solving. Some systems, such as Poll Everywhere, lets students use their cell phones to respond, instead of a clicker.
  • Put students in large classes into groups of four using playing cards. You can have up to 13 groups, Aces through Kings, and the suits can designate the individual identities within the team. Team folders can be used for classroom management and accountability purposes. All teams are responsible for turning in the group activities in the team folder, and any team member could be called on for group reports based on their playing card suit within the team folder.



To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.


Barbara Millis, Ph.D.
Director, Teaching and Learning Center
University of Texas at San Antonio

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