Saturday, November 08, 2014

Harvard study of variance in lecture attendance

Attendance varies between courses, with the day of the week and with special events like exams and guest speakers.

Samuel Moulton, director of educational research and assessment for the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching gave a presentation on their preliminary research on lecture attendance. He reported on attendance from 10 classes, and found that attendance varied depending upon day of the week:

Attendance soared on exam days and dropped the Friday before Spring break:

(Attendance can be over 100% since student drop classes after enrolling and attending the first few lectures).

He also saw that special events like an optional movie or a guest speaker had an impact on attendance:

Moulten further analyzed the data by dropping events like exam days and fitting fitting a line to the data:

He concluded by showing the plots for all of the courses in his sample:

As you see, there is significant variation in attendance.

How do these results compare to your experience? What factors contribute to attendance variation?

Watch Moulton's presentation: