Should we reward attendance or should we do the SEJ?


“How often do you say you're going to do something new and commit to it,

only to find not long after there's a reason not to?

Maybe it's time to stop looking for reasons not to action and

find reasons to take action.”


Jacqueline Mary Phillips


School absence/attendance


I was reading an article on the BBC news recently entitled ‘Rewards don't improve school attendance’. It says ‘According to a large-scale study of secondary school students in California in the US, awards for good school attendance seem to make no significant difference - and in some circumstances, could make absenteeism worse.’


Attendance at school age is mandatory in the UK. In England a pupil can leave school on the last Friday in June if they are 16 by the end of the summer holidays. They also must then do one of the following until they are 18: stay in full-time education, for example at a college; start an apprenticeship or traineeship; or spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training.


I am aware that attendance policy at the University level varies as the students are considered an ‘adult’ to make their own decisions. Some institutions stipulate due to the nature of the courses and the progression their attendance is mandatory.




I find this ‘need’ to encourage attendance particularly at University level both puzzling and alarming. Surely if you worked hard at school and found a course that you were interested in you WOULD be attending regularly, particularly with the introduction of tuition fees? After all they are paying for it themselves… Yet time and time again my colleagues and I notice that after the half term mark, there is an increasing number of empty seats compared to the full class at the start of the term.


It is often the case that around the dates for the assignment deadline, there are more empty seats as they feel they need ‘extra’ time to prepare and complete them. When I speak with my tutees whose absence becomes more common they often come up with a list of reasons why they were not in classes.


This got me thinking about my thoughts and perceptions about the ‘attendance’ not just in the educational environment but with life in general. Do I procrastinate and find excuses NOT to action (absence) rather than find reasons to act (attendance)? Shockingly I did, and started applying the SEJ onto these limiting beliefs as well as the beliefs about ‘they are not attending MY classes’ i.e. making it about myself.


It is far more rewarding as an educator to apply the SEJ to your limiting thoughts and beliefs than rewarding the attendance in your classes, as it creates a long lasting change to your teaching practice. Also you only need to do them once rather than rewarding each class year on year!


Dr M Howard-Kishi

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