Q: I have another engagement. Can I arrive late/leave early/miss a workshop? And if I do - will I miss anything?
A: Given that human beings haven’t yet mastered the art of being in two places at once, I receive the question of "Can I miss a class?" and its follow-up line of "Will I miss anything?" so often that I have decided to devote a whole page to answering it. Students approach me with all sorts of crises - some absolutely horrific and worthy of sympathy and kindness - and others quite outrageous in their audacity. Everyday life can interrupt best intentions and timetable clashes, and work, family or social commitments can lead students to wonder whether it's OK to skip part or all of our class. I have been approached by students with issues as serious as the death of a loved one and their houses burning down - right through to students advising that they are skipping a class to attend a dinner party or to study for someone else's course! I thought I'd try and give you some additional information to help you make your decision. Having said that, I'm never 100% sure what the real question is. So let's try a few permutations:
If it is a rights and responsibilities question: "Can I choose not to be present?" then the simple answer is yes. As a student at UQ what I can tell you is that one of your responsibilities under the student charter is attendance at classes (see http://www.uq.edu.au/myadvisor/forms/admin/student-charter.pdf) but no one will force you to attend. If you want to foreground your consumer role, you have paid to be here - much like a gym membership. Paying for gym entry doesn't guarantee fitness - you need to also do the work. So too of education - you need to exercise the relevant muscles to see results.
If it is a permission question: "Will the lecturer give me permission to leave early?", then the answer is "Of course". You are adult learners. You can come and go as you please - as guided by what you think is OK and the expectations you hold of others, as well as your own needs. You don't need to ask for permission to leave the room or to enter (although good manners are always appreciated).
If it is an outcomes question: "Will missing a class make a difference to my overall performance?" then, according to the research, the short answer is yes. Evidence suggests that class attendance is important in the domains of health science (Jenne, 1973), sociology (Day, 1994), political science (Tiruneh, 2007), economics (Cohn & Johnson, 2006; Durden & Ellis, 1995; Stanca, 2006), and psychology (Gunn, 1993; Louis, W. R., Bastian, B., McKimmie, B., & Lee, A. J. , 2016; Thatcher et al., 2007; ). Or to put it another way: attendance is optional. So too is passing. If it is a logistics question: "Can I physically enter or leave the room after the start or before the finish of class?", then the answer is "Absolutely". The doors are not locked and no one is chained to their chairs. The exits are clearly marked.
If it is a protocol question: "How can I arrive late and cause minimal interruption?", then the answer is, by being sensitive to others, making minimal fuss or disruption, apologising to those around you, and catching up on what you have missed during the break.
If it is a question about catching up on what you've missed, then please note that I am unable to provide personal repeat workshops should you miss a class. You will need to liaise with your classmates to ensure you know what was covered. I understand life doesn't always work as planned. I also see you as adult learners. If you are unable to attend a class - or a portion of the class - it is your responsibility to check Blackboard for resources and undertake the related readings.
If it is a learning preference question: "Can I just access the materials online?", then the answer is that community development - and hence this class - is all about participation. You actually need to be present for it because you will be DOING things. It's not a passive sit back and watch the slides kind of subject. The class does not run as a conventional lecture and tutorial. It is a workshop - which means an integrated approach to theory and practice. Learning takes place in all sorts of ways across our time together. Yes there will be input. But the classes have been deliberately designed as workshops and combine theory and practice with reflection and planning. If you cannot attend a class you WILL miss important content. You might also like to read the above references about the relationship between class attendance and student performance outcomes.
If it is a test for punitive responses: "Will I be penalised if I arrive late or leave early?" then the answer is definitely not. I will not deduct marks from your work for not being present: I only mark on the merit of your work. HOWEVER if there is an in-class assessment exercise involved then obviously this needs a different conversation.
If it is a passive surrender of personal agency: "Can you please tell me what I should do? I'm scared of getting it wrong/don't want to make a hard call/want someone else to blame for my life choices..." then the answer is no - I'm busy rolling my own dice.
If it is a naive question: "If I arrive late or leave early or don't come to class - will I miss anything?", all I can say is, for your own health and safety, please don't ask this of lecturers. It is rude and insulting to both your lecturers and your classmates. Possibly without even realising it you are have just suggested that what the people around you do is irrelevant and there is nothing to learn from them. If this is what you believe and you don't think the class will be useful, or if you are confident you can learn well from books and experience alone, then please don't enrol. I'd much rather have students who are engaged than obligated.
In summary, I can't tell you whether or not to attend. You are adult learners and only you know your own learning strengths.
I do understand that crises happen, and there are one-off problems: illnesses strike, workplaces put unexpected deadlines upon you. This is quite different and of course I am sympathetic to people under such stresses. Just talk to me about what you need to do to meet the class requirements.
If you are still unsure I encourage you to see the poem by Tom Wayman for the answer to this complex question. http://www.library.utoronto.ca/canpoetry/wayman/poem5.htm And in particular, pay attention to his last stanza. What I hear Wayman saying here is that the act of being together creates something that cannot be reproduced as a simple set of PowerPoint slides or lecture notes. What matters happens in the interactions between people, the conversations and insights that occur in the moment. And this cannot be replicated.
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