Understanding Student Absenteeism in Undergraduate Engineering Programmes
Bakrania, S; Whittington, C; Anderson, T; Nates, R
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CONTEXT Correlation between student attendance and eventual performance is well documented in the literature. Even with increasing access to compatible web-based resources or lecture recordings, traditional face-to-face classroom lectures are considered better at engaging the students with the content. Successful students are well aware of the importance of attendance. Yet absences are common in engineering lectures. Often a quarter of the students do not attend lectures. Frequent absences often result in subsequent academic hardship. PURPOSE While the relationship between attendance and performance is known, the drivers for the individual absences are either unknown or varied, and thus challenging to address. This study aims to understand the causes for absences in the hope to develop an evidence-based model for strengthening student attendance. APPROACH A survey was developed to highlight common reasons for lecture absences and to capture ways students make up for their absences. The survey was administered on students taking core engineering courses at Auckland University of Technology, University of Waikato and University of Queensland. The overall themes from the survey are summarized and discussed. RESULTS The survey results agree with anecdotal attendance rates observed by faculty. Many factors influence student absenteeism. The responses reflect the challenge students face in balancing study, family life, and financial commitments. An additional layer of complexity was noted by the availability of recorded lectures. CONCLUSIONS Recognizing the various attitudes towards lectures and the varied reasons for lecture absences can yield a powerful mitigation tool. While the results highlight some drivers for absences that are difficult to easily address by a course instructor, the survey does provide insights on areas where instructors may be able to make a notable impact towards student engagement.