Absenteeism can be disruptive for classes, and ongoing absenteeism will ultimately effect student learning.
Whilst attendance at lectures and seminars is not compulsory it can be helpful to take a weekly register. This at least lets students know that you have some interest in whether or not they attend and could go some way towards counteracting the impersonal culture at the University that some students have commented on.
If students appear the first week and then disappear it may mean that they have changed their module.
If it is a large attendance module with numerous seminars running at different times then they may have changed to a more convenient time but they should agree this with the module leader/undergraduate office to avoid a seminar having too many students in it.
Showing some interest in a student who has not attended the previous week or recently, could encourage them to attend more regularly to their benefit. If it is a first year student you could suggest that they speak to their personal tutor if they are experiencing a problem that is causing their non-attendance.
Sometimes a student will apologise beforehand if they are unable to attend a session in which case you might decide to reward ‘good behaviour’ and make sure they receive a handout etc for the session.
In the event that a student does not do very well in the module and starts to complain or challenge marks you can refer to the register and see how often they attended and draw this to their attention as a possible contributory factor to their poor results. This needs to be done in an appropriate way since a student could be working long hours to support themselves, or could have family responsibilities, as well as studying full-time.
Example: Absenteeism from lecture
In one case, towards the end of a module, a student who should have been in a lecture was seen in the smoking/pool room. In the seminar the following week the tutor remarked on this and asked (in a non-threatening way) why they did not go to the lecture. First the student said he didn’t really find the lecture topic very interesting, but on further discussion said that he had decided which topics’ he was going to revise for the exam and that wasn’t one of them.
This conversation gave the tutor the opportunity to attempt to widen the student’s perspective and remind them that all the topics in the module were interrelated and that they needed to demonstrate achievement of all the learning outcomes in the module.