Lecturers at the University of Cape Town (UCT) are increasingly reporting low lecture attendance rates but research into the reasons why is scant. Wanting to know more, Nadira Majudith and Professor Jeffrey Bagraim undertook a study to better understand the phenomenon.
Majudith, who will graduate with her masterʼs in organisational psychology in December, is currently completing her internship at Absa to register with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. Bagraim, a professor in the School of Management Studies in the Faculty of Commerce, was her masterʼs supervisor and helped her through her research.
Applying the theory of planned behaviour (TPB), with the addition of role identity theory, Majudith attempted to predict lecture attendance behaviour.
Her study was undertaken in 2018, and the results were presented at the 2019 UCT Teaching and Learning Conference on Thursday, 11 July.
The purpose of the study was to examine the predictors of lecture attendance intentions and behaviour among undergraduate students at UCT.
TPB posits that “attitudes (about lecture attendance), subjective norms (what significant referents think about lecture attendance) and perceived control (over lecture attendance) determine intention (to attend lectures), which in turn determines behaviour (ie, attending lectures)”, read Majudith’s lecture summary.
“We added role identity as a predictor given the possible salience of attending lectures in the role identity of students,” she said.
“Those who reported negative behaviour towards attending lectures said it was difficult to do so because of other commitments, such as having a job.”
The first step was to conduct interviews so that a survey could be generated. This interview process saw her interview 20 students in total: 10 from Introduction to Organisational Psychology (BUS1007S) and 10 from Quantitative Literacy for Social Sciences (MAM1016S).
Then 88 respondents from the first course and 81 from the second completed the survey questionnaire.
Students indicated that they attend lectures to gain a better understanding of the course, because it was an opportunity to interact with lecturers and other students, and because doing so helps them achieve higher marks.
Those who reported negative behaviour towards attending lectures said it was difficult to do so because of other commitments, such as having a job or because their life situation complicates things.
Majudith’s analysis showed that attitude towards lecture attendance was a high predictor in intention to attend, and that it was the only significant predictor.
“Subjective norms, perceived behavioural control and role identity were not significant predictors,” she said.
Between the two courses, class attendance was high (60.5%) but with a high standard deviation of over 30%. There was higher attendance in MAM1016S where lectures are compulsory.
Her research concluded that to increase lecture attendance, the focus should be on student attitudes towards lecture attendance.
While this was not a focus of her research, she said that according to the students, midday lectures are preferable and that having lecture material beforehand means they can come to lectures to listen and absorb information rather than frantically taking down notes.
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