Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A New Reader Gives Us Some Perspective on Attendance and Paying Attention

I can't resist the temptation to fulfill my duty, no, obligation, to let it be known why I don't listen to my iPod in class. The simple answer is that I like what I do now that I can take classes that are actually relevant to my major. I am finally challenged to learn. It takes effort in an upper level class to understand the concepts, the theory, and the application. If I don't pay attention in class, I will miss the important details - provided there are any.

I've certainly pulled out a laptop computer during class and browsed the web. One time I laughed out loud in class while I was reading some website. I keep an ear on things at all times, but sometimes a lecture is just that - yet another way for the student to learn the material, again. I find it far easier to not attend class, than to show up and listen to an iPod. If the professor doesn't want to teach material that can't be found in the course text(s), or in the notes, the lecture is irrelevant.

It's always shocking to me when a professor demands attendance in a lecture. Last semester I had attendance checks and quizzes in one of my classes. I attended every lecture, I got all the quiz points. Sure, it's a boost to my grade, and I enjoy that, but it's far more useful to me for the lecture to be optional attendance. Those who don't want to learn, for whatever reason, won't. Going to class doesn't mean I can't stare at the chair in front of me for an hour.

Discussion might be a solution, but that never works for me. I loathe discussions during class. Social darwinism in this context is fairly simple. If you don't bother to go to class, or spend time learning the material, you won't get the grade you are aiming for. Certainly attendance quizzes and graded checks are objective metrics, but as a student, I like to know that the academic standard is high. If students are graded based on attendance, it doesn't suggest to me that much is expected.