Friday, March 21, 2008

To Attend or Not to Attend Class

A student of mine post a fascinating post on his excellent joint blog which scattered with deep insights and youthful spirit, hence the name (for Youthful Insight click here).

He questioned the need for mandatory attendance in FEUI (click here for the post), the faculty even goes so far as to organize an online attendance list. (Disclosure: as student activist during undergrad, I took (much) more than my fair share of skipping class).

Let’s review the matter here. The goals are to impart knowledge and develop critical mind set among/the student. Lecture is one of the ways to reach those goals. As many studies in learning/cognitive psychology showed, sitting down listening passively to lecture has one of the lowest retention level.

I’d propose a drastic measure. Let’s do away with all lectures and classes.

Let’s distribute all the weekly topic, reading lists and lecture notes in the beginning of semester but replace lectures/classes with a weekly test (yes, every week).

If the students are able to muster self discipline and sufficiently understand the material, as the score would have shown, then the goal is reached without the need for any lecturer-student meeting. It should take less than one hour and lecturer assistances could handle the test taking/grading.

What if some students need feedback & further clarification? The lecturer could arrange for office hour (say, two hours every two weeks) where those students could come voluntarily, not for a lecture but with specific questions on material they don’t quite understand.

This is not as radical as it seems. Samuel Bowles, one of my professors in Siena that get his PhD from and used to be associate professor in Harvard, has done it halfway. We were given set of (quite difficult) questions that each one of us must be ready to answer in each of his class.

He specifically asked us not to attend if we have not prepared (and threaten to throw us out if we could not answered properly) since we will not get the most of the time spent in class and not contributing to knowledge/welfare of others. After the first hour of questioning he will go on with the lecture in the second hour, always a fascinating one.

But why not go for the full treat?


Tau Fik said...

It sounds quite interesting. I think that if you could gather a few lecturers to partake in the experiment and compare results (i.e. average grades and student understanding) with other classes (using the rest of the uni, or previous years as a control group/frame of reference), we'd be able to reach some sort of conclusion.

Berly said...

Fik, as you already took two of my class, you must notice that I am giving much more assignment on the second one.

Hmm, I do thinking about giving more test (even weekly one) in next semester's class. Would less-than-fully-studious-like-you student take it well?

metty said...

And if it's possible, communication is done virtually/online. *wishful thinking

fajar said...

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