Are science students’ missing classes for the reasons we think?

R. Ian Menz, Karen Burke da Silva, Narelle Hunter


At the university level lectures are the principle means by which subject information is conveyed to students. However, across many disciplines throughout Australian universities, lecture attendance remains low. Specifically, we found student attendance in a second year Molecular Biology course at Flinders University to be only 50%. In response to this, we surveyed students to determine why they were not attending. We also surveyed lecturers to determine what their beliefs were about student non-attendance. Survey results revealed that the primary reasons that students claim they missed lectures were; the need to do work for other classes, long periods of non-contact time prior to lecture and the provision of comprehensive lecture notes provided outside of the lecture. Interestingly, lectures believed the primary reason for students not attending lectures was due to paid employment. Analysis of the two surveys suggests that academics could increase student attendance in classes, and potentially improve student learning outcomes by appreciating other demands on student time both within and external to the university and addressing the balance between providing comprehensive lecture notes and engaging lectures.

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