To Attend or Not to Attend: Is That a Good Question?

Article excerpt

The effect of attending class in a General Psychology course was examined. We compared the students who were present on days in which unannounced quizzes were given with those students who were not present. For two of the three quizzes, being present on a quiz day significantly increased subsequent test scores over the material. In addition, there was a significant effect of attendance on overall test scores in the class. The students who were present for all three quizzes had significantly higher overall test scores than other students. The current study demonstrates the importance of attendance on both immediate test scores and overall test scores. Even in the era where students can gain immediate access to course information, student attendance remains essential for success in a course.

When one of the researchers was a student. he received the best piece of advise from one of his collegiate professors. Dr. Dallinger (personal communication, October, 1995) told him that, "The worst thing to do in a class, is to not come to class." As an instructor now, this researcher passes this advice onto his current students, but the question remains of whether, this is the best piece of advice. One wonders what the effect of attending class, or its corollary class attendance, has on test grades in a class.

The question of whether or not class attendance has an effect on course grades is one that has been asked for decades. L. Jones (1931) investigated this question in the 1930s and found a relationship between classroom attendance and grade point average. He found that the fewer absences a student had during the semester, the higher the student's grade point average. Since Jones's study, a multitude of research studies have also found that class absence is negatively associated with overall course grades (Anikeeff, 1954; Brocato, 1989; Brown, Graham, Money, & Rakoczy, 1999; Buckalew, Daly, & Coffield, 1986: Caffrey & Klugh, 1971; Gunn, 1993; Gussett, 1976: Rose, Hall, Bolen, & Webster, 1996: Schuman, Walsh.Olson, & Etheridge.1985; Street, 1975; Van Blerkom, 1992; Vidler. 1980), overall grade point average (Rose et al., 1996; Schuman et al., 1985), and tests (C. H. Jones, 1984: Schimoff & Catania, 2001). Furthermore, the correlation between class absences and course grades accounted for a large portion of the variance in course grades in many of the studies, ranging from .36 to .92 (Anikeef, 1954: Brocato, 1989; Gunn, 1993: Street, 1975).

One question that arises from the negative relationship between absences and course grades is whether lower grades are a result of increased class absences, or conversely, whether lower class grades lead to increased class absences. C. H. Jones (1984) in his study found support for both causal models. In his opinion what occurs is a downward spiral: as a student misses class the student does poorer, which consequently, results in more absences, and as a student does poorly, the student misses more classes, which results in further poorer performance. The current study attempted to test the contention that class attendance leads to better performance.

We expected that those students who were in class on one of the three quiz days would have significantly higher scores on the next test that followed the quiz than those students who were not in class on the quiz day. We also expected that attendance on more quiz days would lead to significantly higher overall test scores in the course.



The participants for the current study were 423 undergraduate students enrolled in one of the two General Psychology sections taught by one of the authors at a western university. Of these 423 undergraduate students, 317 students (7494%) completed the first unannounced quiz. Two hundred six-two students (61.94%) completed the second unannounced quiz, and 261 students (61.70%) completed the third unannounced quiz. …


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