Undergraduate Course Attendance Policies

The Basics on Attendance

Class attendance is required. Not only is this IUP policy, but consistently attending class is the only way students can successfully complete this or any course. Class members should view being a student as a job and should view regular class attendance as one of the required duties of that job.

One other thing to know about attendance is that I view it as a matter of respect. I work hard to make your class experiences valuable ones. I know I can’t do a perfect job, but I will always try my best to make it worth your time to come to class. When you miss class, especially if you miss a lot, I take it as a basic lack of respect for both me and you. To be successful in life, you need to carry through with the commitments you make. Sometimes that means doing things we don’t want to, like coming to class when we’re tired or not quite prepared. But one of the worst things in life is to let yourself and others down by not following through on the promises you’ve made. Please don’t disappoint me or yourself. You’ll regret it in the long run, whether its failing to make it to this class or failing to do other things you’ve told yourself you will do. (Ok, we all know how much free advice is worth, but you know I’m right, so I want you to at least feel guilty if you miss class.)

My Attendance Philosophy

For a long time now, I’ve wrestled with how to get students to attend class regularly. Why do I care if you come to class? Because experience has taught me that students who attend class consistently do well in courses and those who don’t attend do badly. That’s a simple fact. The idea that some students don’t go to class but still get A’s is just a myth, so don’t get tricked into believing it.

I also know that students hate to go to classes which they feel are boring, useless, or just designed to give the teacher a chance to hear himself or herself talk. So I have worked really hard to create interesting, challenging, and fun classes that I hope you will want to attend. However, I’m not so naive that I believe attending even a good class might not sound as appealing some days as sleeping in or hanging out with your friends. We all have lots of things we like to do with our time, and unfortunately going to class isn’t always at the top of the list.

In addition to making the course interesting, I know there is another factor that counts when it comes to doing something we might rather not have to do. This is, what are the incentives for doing the task. Obviously, with any class once incentive is having an opportunity to learn. That’s a good incentive, but I know it’s not going to always be good enough. Before becoming a teacher, I spent five years working as a professional technical writer. If you think going to class can be tough, wait until you have to get up at 7 a.m. in order to get to an 8 a.m. office job which doesn’t end until 5 p.m. (Believe me, after you graduate, you’ll look back and wish all you had to do each day was go to one or two classes). Ah, but I know what you’re going to say: I was getting paid to go to work. True, I had a monetary incentive. I’m sure if I paid you to go to class, you’d show up all the time. Unfortunately, my salary just isn’t high enough for me to afford to pay you all to come to class. (Too bad I’m not an Enron CEO, then I’d have money to burn.) Now, I can’t give you a monetary incentive, but I believe I have come up with a different incentive that might just help you consistently make the choice to come to class.

Attendance and Participation Points

To give you a basic incentive for coming to class every day and ACTIVELY taking part in all class activities, I will award you points for each class you attend. If you show up and do your best to take part in the class, you will receive full points for the day.

  • Attending and FULLY Participating in Each Day of Class = 10 points

You cannot earn these points if you do not attend class, whether your absence is excused or not. If you must miss class, you may use a personal day (see below) to earn back your lost class points. You only get 2 personal days to use toward lost attendance points.

If you are tardy, you lose 5 points. If you don’t give your full participation in class, for instance reading email or instant messaging when you are supposed to be reviewing someone else’ paper, you will lose 5 or more points for the day.

Attendance Tracking

I will take attendance every day. If a worker is missing without prior notice, the boss isn’t happy. If you’re missing, I’m not happy either. So make sure you come to class every day. You will be missed if you’re absent.

Final Exam Attendance

Attendance at the Final Exam Meeting is Required. Missing the day of the final exam will result in your course grade dropping by two full letter grades.

3 Personal Days

At any decent job, workers are given a few sick days or personal days to use at their discretion. Everyone knows that there are going to be a few days when it is impossible for you to make it to work. The catch is, employers only give a limited number of personal days and anyone who misses too many days gets fired. In addition to that, most employers actually pay workers for unused sick days when they retire (they often do this by paying for retirement health care days equal to the number of unused sick days). In other words, employers allow for limited absences but also offer an incentive for not being absent. That’s how it was where I worked, and that got me into the office when nothing else would. So that’s the same model I’m going to use here.

You will get 3 personal days for the entire semester. I have chosen 3 days because this matches IUP’s official attendance policy: 1 absence allowed per class credit (i.e. 3 absences permitted for a standard 3 credit MWF class). You may use them as you see fit. However, and here’s how it works in the real world, I need to know, in advance, that you are using a personal day. That means you should notify me ahead of time when you need to use a personal day. You can do this in class or by email. In the case of an emergency or last minute illness, you need to call my office and leave a message (724-357-4788). In other words, you don’t just miss work. That’s how you get fired. In the professional world, you need to get permission to take time off. Even in the worst crisis, if I had to miss work, I would call in or call someone and have them call. I expect the same professional courtesy from you.

You may use a personal day whenever you like so long as you notify me that you are doing so. No explanations are necessary (no need to fake a cough when you call my office). Why you need to take a personal day is your business (that’s why it’s called personal). But telling me you can’t attend class is my business, and you always need to keep me informed.

When your personal days are used up, I still expect you to notify me if you will be absent. However, once you have used up your two personal days, you also should know that your grade will begin to suffer. Missed work and lost points cannot be made up.

An Incentive Based Attendance Model

Now here’s where the incentive comes in. All unused personal days may be cashed in at the end of the semester for bonus points as follows:

  • 1 Unused Personal Day = 10 bonus points
  • 2 Unused Personal Days = 25 bonus points (this is an extra bonus)
  • 3 Unused Personal Days = 35 bonus points (this is an extra bonus)

Bonus points will be added to the scores on your papers or wherever you need them. In other words, it will literally pay to attend class. Students who attend every class session for the semester will be rewarded.


Tardiness is also not acceptable. Being late for work is considered bad form and is just as serious as missing work. Therefore, tardiness will also negatively effect your attendance grade for this course as follows:

  • Every Incidence of Tardiness = Minus 5 points

No employer tolerates tardiness on a regular basis and neither will I.

Missed In Class Work & Late Assigned Homework

When you are not at work, it costs your employer money. The same is true of a college class. When you are gone, no one can benefit from your ideas and what you have to say. And when you are gone, no one can get help from you on doing in class projects or team work. Every time you miss class, there is a cost to you and to your peers. In the professional world, if you have a deadline and miss that day, someone else has to fill the gap or your company loses money.

If you take a personal day, you may make up missed in class work for full credit if you do so by the next following class. If you are beyond your two personal day limit, you may make up missed in class work for half credit.

If you take a personal day and therefore are late turning in a homework assignment, you may still turn in the homework assignment for full credit if you do so by the next following class. If you are beyond your two personal day limit, you may turn in late assigned homework for half credit.

You should check the online assignment list to see what work was assigned for the next class. I will always give you at least partial credit for any work you do, no matter how late you turn that work is, because I believe you can’t learn anything if you don’t do the required work. However, to be fair to the students who meet the required deadlines, late work will be penalized.

Severe Absence Problems

More than 3 class absences, for any reason, is simply too many. Do not miss more than 3 classes.

Sadly, if you miss too much time, you cease to be an effective worker and will likely have to be fired. Any student who misses more than 40% of the class sessions will automatically receive an F for the course. In highly special cases, such as severe medical problems or death of an immediate family member, I may make exceptions to these attendance policies on a case-by-case basis where proof of the circumstances is available. One possibility under such extreme cases is an Incomplete for the course, but this will only be granted by me if you have consulted with me about your circumstances. Excessive absences (more than 40% of class days) without documented proof and/or which I feel is warranted will lead to failure. My judgment in such cases will be final and individualized.

The Bottom Line

I’ve tried to create a fair, professionally-based attendance model that provides real incentives for you to come to class. Please attend every class and be on time. Anything less than this threatens to hurt your reputation as a good student and your educational opportunities.

You should also know that, whether it is for school or work, ultimately what counts most about good attendance is that it creates an image for you of as being a dedicated person. Hard working, loyal employees and students always get rewarded better than those who miss a lot and appear to lack commitment to the overall goal of the company or school. So commit yourself to working hard at making it to class every day so you can protect your image as a high quality student and good worker.