There is a growing concern among universities over the levels of student absenteeism at teaching activities. Attendance is an increasingly important issue in the UK, but also internationally, for its impact on student experience, academic performance and engagement. Although attendance is generally studied in relation to achievement (e.g. Arulampalam, Naylor & Smith, 2012), this study takes a more critical approach, illuminating different ways of conceptualising the “problem of attendance” at lectures, seminars and other academic activities and examining the implications and possibilities of strategies for improving attendance. Whilst there is a tendency to represent students as consumers (economic subjects), rather than being reflective or productive (Molesworth, Scullion and Nixon, 2011) throughout this project we take a political standpoint and commit ourselves to uncovering narratives that challenge that form of representation taking a collaborative Action Research approach. It involves Education Studies lectures and students (as co-researchers) conducting research from inside and with others, focusing on improving practices and generating knowledge through reflection, collaboration and transformation (McNiff, 2016). There are three questions underlying the study.
This symposium aims to create a space to think and discuss about the following questions: (1) How is attendance conceptualised by students and lecturers? (2) Do current strategies at pedagogical, organisational and institutional levels have an impact on attendance? (3) How can students’ attendance at teaching sessions and other academic activities be improved?
PRESENTATION 1- Being there: Conceptualising Attendance
Attendance is conceptualised in different ways by different actors. All of them understand that the level of attendance have some implications for academic performance. However, there is evidence that suggests disagreement in the way that they perceive attendance as a “problem”. In this part of the presentation are explored and critically analysed different forms of understanding attendance.
PRESENTATION 2- Analysis of strategies and pedagogies used to improve attendance
In this part of the symposium, we analyse and evaluate current practices associated to the issue of attendance. This discussion includes discussion of traditional and new forms of monitoring attendance, teaching practices and institutional approaches.
PRESENTATION 3- Challenges and possibilities of a collaborative approach: a student perspective
In this section students and lecturers, expose their experience participating in a form of research that involves conducting research from inside and with others, focusing on improving practices and generating knowledge through reflection, collaboration and transformation (McNiff, 2016). Personal experiences from students are used to illustrate the process and challenges associated to the process of “becoming a researcher”.