I call this “why it’s not a good idea to assume students will come to a lecture without a grade directly attached to attendance.” (It’s not quite as bad as it looks, but almost :).
Really, this has tugged at me. I deliberately designed the class the way it is assuming that 25% of folks would just not show up. Little did I know that only 25% would show up. I’ve always hated the idea of required attendance at large lectures, but unless there is an immediately observable effect on their grade, they won’t come to class. It seems almost Pavlovian. I don’t want to treat a group of university seniors as though they are in high school, but what do you do if that’s how they approach school?
Of course, it could always be my lectures! I’ll admit, despite the fact that the best students in the class are the ones sitting in that picture, and that having the best of the undergrads in a relatively small class seems ideal, the truth is that it’s a lot harder to get up a momentum with a half-filled room.
More experiments next semester. While random quizzes may insult the free will of the students, at least they will bring more away from the class. The idea of spending four years of your life doing something half-way is beyond my comprehension. I want to tell some of these students “If this isn’t the time for you for school, go find something you are passionate about.” I have a feeling that once they found that passion, they will also find a reason to come back to school. As it is, years of prison (er… school) have convinced them that it is simply a matter of putting in the time and doing as little as possible. A B.A. in doing time. Grumble.