Tips for Grading without Utilizing Attendance

UConn is a non-attendance university which means the institution verifies to the federal government that we do not grade attendance. Additionally, per University bylaws, grades cannot be graded on attendance. Grades can be based on measures which evaluate their achievement of learning objectives, such as assessments, assignments, and lab reports. In contrast, grading attendance is grading on student behavior, not competence.

Tips for promoting attendance

  • Nothing prohibits faculty from taking attendance, even though they are not grading based on it. The mere fact of taking attendance is often a strong signal to students in and of itself of the importance of attending.
  • Encourage students to contact you if they are going to miss class. This is not intended as a punishment but rather to develop a culture in which students recognize their responsibility to attend class.
  • Create a classroom environment that provides added value to the work students do outside of class. Show that the classroom time is valuable and essential to meeting course learning objectives.

Alternatives to grading attendance

Many ways exist to encourage attendance without needing to grade on it. Here are a few ideas:

  • Develop activities or problems that are completed in the classroom. These activities can be graded, not graded, or simply marked as complete/incomplete. To reduce requests for excused missed activities, a grading structure that allows for drop lowest grade(s) can be established.
  • Administer formative assessments such as minute papers, memory matrix, misconception/preconception checks, student generation of test questions, opinion polls, or muddiest point. These allow faculty to gain information about what the students do and do not understand. These can be graded as complete and incomplete.
  • Use iClickers, student response systems, or polling to survey students. Similar to other formative assessments these will assist in understanding what students understand.
  • Administer a quiz at the start of class to assess pre-reading or understanding of previous content.

CETL staff is available to assist in identifying other approaches that work for your specific course or to teach you how to use technology to facilitate these approaches.

Beware of participation grades

When considering participation as part of the grade, instructors should consider some potential issues:

  • How is participation actually being calculated? Without a rubric, participation grades are subjective. Subjective grading sets you up for grade challenges.
  • Some instructors record the frequency and quality of student comments (with or without a rubric) but this can be challenging and hinder discussions.
  • Most students are uncomfortable speaking out in class, even when they are prepared for class. The use of participation grades can exacerbate the issue. To reduce the stress of participation in the classroom, faculty can provide other avenues for expressing opinions. When the topics for discussion are known in advance, the faculty member can allow students who are uncomfortable speaking in class to submit their viewpoints in writing prior to class.
    • Anxious or introverted students are even less likely to speak out than the average student.
    • English as a second language students may not feel confident enough in their speaking abilities to speak out in class.
    • Students who represent a minority view on the discussion topic or who have personal issues too closely related to the topic may prefer to not express their views.
    • Managing equitable participation by gender and by other identities requires attention.