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World Association of International Studies

Post Mandatory Attendance
Created by John Eipper on 04/28/14 7:14 AM

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Mandatory Attendance (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 04/28/14 7:14 am)

Enrique Torner commented on 28 April:

"I respectfully disagree with Tor Guimaraes's statement that ‘students are just too busy with family matters, jobs, and other competing distractions to be trusted with voluntary class attendance.' I think that time is too precious to waste in taking attendance, and, most important, students need to learn responsibility by themselves, as well as the consequences of their behavior... It's funny how in a country where freedom is paramount, at the college level, where students are adults, they are not given the freedom to choose between right and wrong. What's going to happen to them after they graduate?"

These are good points, perhaps more applicable in the teaching of special topics, languages, and skills. However, our College of Business, under the guidance of the AACSB, takes AoL (Assurance of Learning) very seriously. Thus, I believe controlling class attendance is very important for me to determine if new teaching methods, course content, etc., are having a positive impact on standard tests and student learning.

Furthermore, unfortunately I cannot teach everything in my Management of Technology and Business Innovation class. I must assume (many times incorrectly) that the students speak English, are responsible, ethical, give high priority to their own education, have some knowledge of Information Technology, etc. Nevertheless, despite having to assume (trust?) the necessary student background (some hopefully ensured by the course prerequisites), I must verify these things as much as possible. Taking attendance through ad hoc quizzes then becomes an important course feature.

JE comments: I would argue that it's especially important to mandate attendance in intro-intermediate language classes. Tor Guimaraes alludes to the "A-word": assessment. It's become a major part of what educators must do. Not assessment in the traditional sense of evaluating student performance (quizzes, exams, and research papers), but in the bureaucratic sense of "proving" that student learning is taking place (spreadsheets, rubrics, and "outcomes").  Assessment is primarily a legacy of the 2001 No Child Left Behind laws.  Few of us understand what assessment is, and nobody likes to do it, but it's become a reality of the job.

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  • Education vs. Training; on Life-Long Learning (John Heelan, UK 04/29/14 3:28 AM)
    Perhaps this discussion on mandatory attendance at lectures (Tor Guimaraes, Enrique Torner, Henry Levin, et al.) should consider the difference between education and training? As a lecturer (and trainer in some subjects), I found that I got better longer-term results from students by encouraging them to explore the subject-matter by posing questions to them to solve individually and in discussion groups. In this way, I believe, they gained a better depth of knowledge about the subject rather than learning by rote from my lecture/training notes. (However, I also used to preach that their eventual exam success would depend on the quality of their own lecture notes they used for revising the subjects, to avoid them just regurgitating my notes.)

    Talking to my grandchildren now reading different subjects (both Humanities and Sciences) at their own universities, I find that the current teaching method seems to place more emphasis on individual research and learning with the bones of the subject being outlined in formal lectures and tutorials. It seems also that the teaching process has become even more technology-dependent, with the research being done using on-line resources with formal lecture notes being distributed by email and discussions via blog. Observing my family members, the process seems to be successful and getting good results.

    As a life-long learner myself, I have taken advantage of MOOCs (Massive Open On-line Courses) run by many of the major universities. So far, I have studied Modern and Contemporary Poetry (U Penn), The Camera Never Lies (U London), History of the World since 1300 (Princeton), Muslims in Britain: Changes and Challenges (U Cardiff), and currently The Causes of War (U London), as well as topping up my grasp of "la lengua de Cervantes" with advanced courses from the Spanish Embassy's Instituto Cervantes. Each of these courses has been presented expertly via videos, on-line tests, supporting notes, references for research and on-line discussions of students and lecturers. Very impressive and--to my mind--points to a fresh method of education that seems successful.

    JE comments: The drive for life-long learning is what brings most of us to WAIS, but John Heelan is the most committed LLL (life-long learner) of all!  I would argue that we're merely following the example of Ronald Hilton, who continued to tackle new subjects until his dying day.

    Who else in WAISworld has experience with the MOOCs? They can be outstanding resources for learners with the requisite motivation and self-discipline.  The role of a "live" teacher in a traditional classroom is precisely to provide that motivation to learn.  At the very least, it's harder to turn us off...

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