Friday, December 2, 2016

Final Blog Post: Class Governance Decisions

The two governance decisions made in the class had a significant effect on the amount of effort that students put into the live class session. I believe our first decision about classroom attendance did more harm to the learning experience of students than it did help. In my previous experience, I have found that mandatory attendance class policies, while frustrating in some instances, generally encourages greater student participation and enthusiasm. As we have discussed multiple times in class, many students are concerned with their G.P.A. in school. Rightfully so, getting good grades is an important aspect of college. However, coming to class (especially in a smaller room environment) helps students meet and interact with their classmates and professors. In my previous experience, I feel I was more involved and engrossed in the courses that had some type of mandatory attendance policy. Also, this serves as no excuse for students that skipped class purely because attending was not required, myself included. If attendance plays a role in assessing a student’s performance in the class, students will have greater incentive to give more effort of themselves to the class.
On the other hand, making attendance mandatory will not necessarily increase attendance or student grades as a whole. Students will skip class regardless, but perhaps the overall attendance of our class would have increased had we had a policy that was mandatory in some way. Our classroom attendance was around 50% of the students enrolled in the class and I found that to be disappointing because the material was unique and different from any economics class I had taken previously. In classes I have taken previously, having pop quizzes or unannounced in-class assignments encouraged attendance from students as they did not know when a portion of their grade would take place. Thus, they wanted to be there when it happened.  Perhaps students would feel more motivated to come to class then if class were entirely optional.
Our second governance decision, allowing electronic devices had both positive and negative effects. Personally, I prefer to leave my laptop in my backpack because I know I will ultimately become distracted by it. I normally check my phone throughout class but try to stay off social media and other sites not pertaining to in-class material. I have found that I pay more attention to the professor and the material if I am not overly distracted. This is not the case for every student, just a personal preference.

In some instances, I found that students were willing to defer to whatever was on their laptop rather than pay attention. It was especially frustrating when Professor Arvan would ask a question and students would stare at their laptops even though they had not spoken or contributed to the class discussion. It is so easy to get lost in the internet but it can be rude to the professor and distracting to the individuals within proximity. I feel that having laptops out really harmed our class discussion more than it helped. Students were more concerned with what was on their screens than the discussion and the environment of the class struggled because of it. 


  1. Let's note that being concerned about the GPA is one thing, while caring only about the GPA is a different thing. The subject matter, how it is treated in the live class setting, and the style of interaction that the instructor adopts might also matter. The way you wrote this, these other things either don't matter at all or matter only once a mandatory attendance policy is in place. It is possible to imagine an alternative, with an imaginative and compelling instructor, where students came to class for that. It saddens me to see you write in a way that excludes such a possibility.

    On the second rule, you write that it is easy to get lost in the internet. Surely, everyone understand the truth in that. I wonder, then, why they don't resist. Might it be a kind of addiction? If so, would students recognize it as such?

    One last point is that sometimes I would pose questions in class that were challenging and students might have felt they were unlikely to be able to give a good answer. So that may have driven them to their devices. It wasn't my intended purpose, certainly, but it may be a reasonable explanation for what actually happened.

  2. In response to your first comment, I did not consider the live class setting or the style of interaction at all in my original post. Looking back on it, both play a role in students attending or not. For example, in both higher level math courses I took Freshman year, the material was dry and exceptionally difficult to follow from the beginning of the class to the end. As the semester wore on, attendance dwindled to a very small number. In one class, attendance was mandatory while in the other it was not. I found that even with mandatory attendance, I was still not encouraged to sit through 80 minutes of math with an instructor whom I did not enjoy. I did not intend to state that attendance policy is the only reason students came to class. I felt it was a significant reason as to why individuals in our class did not attend regularly.

    I would agree with your assessment that students would avoid difficult questions by deferring to their devices. Similarly, students do not want to make a mistake by answering a question incorrectly nor do they want to look stupid in front of their peers. That could be a reason for poor performance in our discussion format.