Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Late Students, Early Thirsty

I teach on a fairly large campus on a schedule where classes start on the hour and end at 10 minutes before the following hour (so 8:00 - 8:50 AM, 1:00 - 1:50 PM, etc.). It's a medium-sized campus, and while most students who don't lollygag can make it from any classroom to any other classroom in under 10 minutes, there are always a few that show up late to class. And this is incredibly frustrating. And I want to change this behavior. So my question for everyone is the following:

Q: What do you do to combat late students? Dock points? Lock the little snowflakes out? Give up and keep a bit of vodka in your water bottle?

I'm sick of the disruptions and need my students to be accountable for this one thing.

- Mathy Matthew

30 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Sorry for the deleted comment.

    My classes start early so the same few students would walk in late every week. One semester I put in the syllabus that there would be unannounced quizzes given right at the beginning of class. Walk in late and you don't get to take it. The quizzes are easy points - they only take about three minutes and they cover what we're going through in class that day. Plus the students get to drop one so that cuts down on the 'but my car didn't start' excuses.

    It's helped. The students never know when I'll be giving a quiz so they show up (mostly) on time and (slightly more) prepared.

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    1. I also have a short quiz at the start of class. I like to use clickers because (a) everyone finishes at the same time, (b) students get instant feedback, and (c) the handy histogram shows me where the class understands something and where we need to go over a concept some more. (Much more reliable than the "nod if you get it, raise your hand if you don't" method.)

      I still get stragglers, but overall the students see a concrete benefit to showing up on time, and bonus: retrieval activities like quizzes reinforce their learning.

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    2. I do exactly the same as Frankie - ask clicker question(s) right at the start; these aren't part of a "quiz", but answering the clicker question counts towards a participation mark, and students are willing to jump through hoops for every mark they can get (this is a meds keener intro course). Students are quick to file in and be at the ready with a clicker when the bell tolls and I commence the lecture. It is the only thing I've come to like about "classroom response systems", which otherwise I couldn't give a damn about.

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  3. Yup. Nancy's exact tactic, except I call the Pop Quizzes. As a side effect, students come to class a bit more prepared.

    Some complain that they'd study more for the days that we have quizzes, and/or they don't like the "unannounced" nature of them. I rejoinder that they are 100% announced: right there in the syllabus it says we could have a pop quiz every day. Except sometimes we don't.

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    1. I call mine "Reading Quizzes" because I started them to encourage the students to do the reading in the gen. ed. class they just want out of the way. But they do encourage promptness as a side effect.

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  4. If I say things with a smile, I can get away with more. For the frequently late, I'll write an ETA on the board. When they stroll in, I conspicuously check the clock versus the ETA. If I'm write, I put a check mark, otherwise I cross it out. Other times, I'll say "Welcome to the 9:06 section of Advanced Basketweaving" or ask if anyone had 9:06 in the John pool. The class usually gets a chuckle out of that. I suppose it's better than doing what I'd really like to do and call them out on their rudeness, etc.

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    1. Agreed. Gentle mockery is an excellent way to go.

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  5. I'm at a community college (aka a commuter college) so lateness is common, as some people are truly stuck in traffic. I threaten to take away points (it is in the syllabus) but mostly I just give up.

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  6. Honestly, it doesn't bother me much. I've spent most of my career teaching on campuses that can be described as "sprawling" (or "careening") and my gen ed classes always draw significant numbers from students whose 'home base' classes are well beyond 'walk there in between' distance. I teach on the top floor, too, of a building with one slow elevator.

    It's just something I have to live with, or get a reputation that's even less humane than it already is...

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  7. One question is: why do you care?

    Is it the disturbance part way into your lecture when you're partway through? Or is it that you don't like students missing some of it? Or is it that they feel like they have a right to stop you and back you up to redo the stuff they missed?

    Each one has different obvious solutions. If it's the disturbance, then make them feel embarrassed. A prolonged glaring silence in a big lecture hall, or calling them out in a small one.

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    1. All of the above. It disturbs me when students walk in late. It disturbs other students. The late student misses part of the lecture, causing them to be behind. Then the late students stop me and ask questions about the material they missed.

      All of these are symptoms of the actual problem, which is that students can't be bothered to show up on time. I'd rather find a quick and easy way to fix the cause of these problems instead of dealing with the individual symptoms.

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  9. I posted on here back in '13. Getting back into it. Submitted a post to the auto-post email that awkwardly begins with instructions not to post certain parts of it. Oh, well, over it.

    Long story short is I'm a student, not a prof. But what I saw work most with my fellow students (I always email assignments the night before; never been late) is simply making late submissions half credit. Because you're heavily incentivized not to turn things in late, but if they are late you're still incentivized to turn them in. Which is where the "I don't accept late submissions" policy fails in my mind.

    This same professor also counted you late if you were even a minute late to the class. Which even I thought was draconian given that after the second lateness he started deducting half a letter grade. And he wouldn't TELL you, either. Wouldn't even make a mark. He just didn't make the mark that said "Yeah, he was here." You were just marked nothing. And you WERE nothing.

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  10. Sorry, I will get my act together sometime soon and get an actual screen name, but in the meantime...It doesn't matter if it's a minute or 15 minutes or 30 minutes--disruption is disruption. I never had a lateness policy until a third of a 9:00 AM class routinely showed up late. It was quite impossible NOT to get distracted under these circumstances. And policies need to be one-size-fits-all for the sake of fairness and consistency (with the understanding the things come up for everyone occasionally). I once even had a student BUMP INTO me after he came in late, walked across the classroom (instead of finding a seat closer to the door), and tried to walk behind me in a very tight classroom.

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    1. Perhaps I was not clear. Lateness was considered absence. So if you had a class on the other side of campus and did not walk quickly (run) every day or had the misfortune to get caught behind someone it was conceivable that you would fail the class. I was not in this situation, but others were and, from what I was told, set up an arrangement with their other professor to leave that class three-five minutes early.

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    2. As further context on MWF you have 10 minutes to get from class to class. I'm pretty athletic and can get down stairs quickly to avoid the elevator traffic jam and even I've been unable to do two classes on opposite sides of campus justice some semesters.

      It's really not a lot of time.

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  11. Ruby from RichmondFebruary 3, 2016 at 1:30 PM

    I had a system that probably wasn't great, but it worked decently. I didn't mind the folks who were chronically a minute or two late for my 50-minute class--I minded the one or two students who were chronically 15-20 minutes late. They were rare, but I could tell the other students were wondering, "If I'm only allowed 3 unexcused absences all semester, yet my classmate can miss a full 1/3 of the class time without penalty...".

    This was a seminar-style class, so required attendance really did make sense. And it was a department requirement, out of my little adjunct hands.

    So my system was this: If you're 5 minutes late or later, I'd mark you as late, along with the number of minutes late. Every time that minute total hit 50, you got another unexcused absence.

    Because what was I supposed to do if a student walked in, say, 45 minutes late? Call them absent? Probably, but where's the line? What about 30 minutes late?

    I had a few students pushing the boundaries of unexcused absences who were nearly nudged over to the other side by lateness. Sending an email that says, "If you're 10 minutes or more late for any remaining class day, you automatically fail the whole class by virtue of excessive absence" sure cures chronic lateness.

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    1. I think that's a really fair and practical policy. Unfortunate that it requires a bit more paperwork/timekeeping on the part of the Prof. But if it gets results, maybe it's worth it.

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  12. They're marked absent if they arrive after I take attendance, and that's usually within the first 5 minutes of class. I don't even look up when they come in late. They just basically don't exist to me. I feel like I "win" on all fronts there--I don't get into a pissing match with them, I don't lose my authority in front of the other students. I just mark them absent, too bad for them since this takes a chunk out of their participation grade and eventually causes failure.

    To the anon above me: I've also had students "bump" into me when they come in late, or walk right in front of me in a passive aggressive show of bro idiocy. Let me guess: you're a woman.

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    1. Actually, I'm a dude. But a short gay dude.

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  13. So many great responses. Let's see:

    I don't want to offer a traditional pop quiz because that would add to the mountain of grading I already have to do. I'm trying to make things run more smoothly, not add to my work...

    The clicker quiz is a great idea, but we don't really have funding for that sort of thing (and the students already complain about buying textbooks). I thought about trying to do it with smartphones, but there are still some students without them.

    I may need to resort to taking attendance at the beginning of class, counting any late students as absent, and dropping students with a certain number of absences/tardinesses.

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  14. For me personally, I care because it is indeed really distracting. It's annoying to be in the middle of explaining something and then lose your train of thought because Jim Bob decided to saunter in ten minutes late, letting the door slam behind him because he's cool like that.

    I take attendance at the beginning of class, on my electronic roster, and it would also be very distracting for me to have to pull out my laptop again, pull up the roster, and mark Jim Bob present because he finally decided to grace the rest of us with his present.

    My electronic roster also has no option for "T." You're either "P" or "A," and that's what I tell my students. When I take inventory of the class in the first few minutes, you're either a P or an A, end of story. And if I'm feeling really nice, or you're not the type of student who's habitually late, then I may go back afterwards and mark you P. But there are no guarantees.

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  15. If you don't want to do the reading quiz, have them hand in something for a piddling amount of credit that is completion grade - a discussion question, an answer to a problem with an opinion answer, their name on an index card, doesn't matter. Should only take 10 mins to grade/enter.

    I do the reading quizzes myself. They are multiple choice (fast to grade) and very easy, but the superior class I have because almost everyone has read is worth the 1/2 of grading time (max).

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    1. I actually always really liked these. On some level I know that the exam will reward me for doing the reading, but the immediate gratification of a reading quiz the next day or whatever was always nice.

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  16. People moving around in my classroom distracts me so badly I often can't get back on track. And when I can, I have to spend several minutes settling the disturbed students down. I've been using a 5-minutes late = absent. And it has worked well after the first week of sacrificing focus to make examples of folks. But suddenly this semester, I've had different kids trying to waltz in halfway through the class even in week 2. Mercury, retrograde, etc, etc.

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  17. I'm very sympathetic. I used to have students in a large lecture turn in their homework at the beginning of class by setting it on a table on the stage of the auditorium-style room. Students would walk in VERY late and saunter up to the front of the room and onto the stage to put their homework on the pile. It was invariably distracting, and I didn't think it was fair that the late students got extra time to work on the assignment. I started requiring that students hand in the homework at the very beginning of class, on time, for full credit. I would put the homework pile in my book bag so no one could come in late and sneak an assignment into the middle of the pile. One came up on stage in the middle of the lesson, searching behind the lectern and looking around my things in an attempt to find the pile of papers. What finally solved the problem was making them submit the assignments online. It was a relief to eliminate the face-to-face confrontation with the late students. I haven't yet solved the problem of students arriving to class late. Maybe clickers are the way to go.

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  18. I post group assignments for the day, take attendance at the beginning of class, and then launch into the lesson right away. A student who is more than a few minutes late not only does not receive participation credit for that day (per the syllabus) but also has to bother his/her classmates to ask what we are doing and what group to join That tends to discourage most late-comers; however, I have had a few who come 30 minutes to 45 minutes late (one used to show up 15 minutes before the end of class!). I usually end up sending an email to those students to ask if there is some issue causing the late arrival and if the issue can't be eliminated, I suggest that perhaps this class is not the right fit for the student at this time.

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  19. I was raised by two professors who were astronomers. No students back then, years and years ago, dared diss them both by being lazy about showing up on schedule. The disrespect being shown to instructors today is due to the fact that most students are in classes due to administration desiring very much to keep them enrolled and paying student loan bills to the schools.

    This makes the administrators and other people very, very rich and the rest of us, the taxpayers, much poorer. The entire point for most of the higher ed population is to be milch kuh. To be milked for the rest of their lives for going to 'schools' that fail to teach many of them, anything of much worth (outside of the 'hard sciences').

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    1. I assure you, having been a minute or two late for many classes, it does not come from a place of disrespect. My college has a building that is thirty-something floors with five classrooms on each floor and two elevators.

      I defy you to get from a class in that building to a class in any other building within ten minutes. If you're on the first five floors, lucky you, you can be out in about three minutes or so. And if you're on a Tuesday/Thursday schedule you've got 15 minutes, which is cutting it close even so, but still usually enough time to make it.

      But if you're on the 25th floor on a MWF schedule? Forget it, you're never getting to your next class on time unless you duck out early. There are obviously smaller campuses etc. where people don't have any excuse. But that's definitely not always the case. Short of removing the suicide-proofing measures from the windows and giving me a hang-glider, I couldn't make it to classes any sooner.

      But that doesn't fit neatly into "Hurr, kids these durrs!"

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