Proceedings of The Physiological Society

University of Oxford (2011) Proc Physiol Soc 23, PC7

Poster Communications

Why is undergraduate lecture attendance so poor?

G. R. Christie1

1. School of Life Sciences Learning & Teaching, University of Dundee, Dundee, United Kingdom.


Teaching staff often complain about poor undergraduate lecture attendance. Why do a significant number of students fail to attend lectures on a regular basis? In addition, have student attitudes towards lectures changed over recent years? In an attempt to address these questions and to try and understand undergraduate student attitudes towards lectures this study compares the findings obtained from two separate student questionnaires - one conducted in 2003, with one conducted in 2010. Although the questionnaire was made available to students studying modules in physiology, it was made clear to participants that questions were designed to determine their attitudes towards lectures in general, not just those delivered as part of each module. A paper-based questionnaire was presented to students in 2003 studying a level 3 (3rd year of a 4 year BSc(Hons) programme) physiology module, ‘Human Systems Physiology’ (HSP). In 2010, the same set of questions were provided using an online questionnaire students studying HSP and to level 2 students studying the module ‘Human Form and Function’ (HFF). Responses to individual questions ranged from n=33-89 from which percentage responses were determined and ranked. When asked to select the main reason for missing lectures, ‘Lack of self discipline’ was the most popular choice for students studying HSP in 2003 (26%) and HFF in 2010 (35%). ‘Lectures are not stimulating enough’ was the first choice for HSP 2010 (36%) and second most popular choice for HFF 2010 (21%), compared to 0% response from HSP 2003 students. This tends to suggest that current students do not engage to the same extent with lecture-based delivery as their peers did in 2003. Interestingly, ‘I have to work to earn money’ was the second most popular response to the same question for HSP 2003 (26%) but, despite the perceived increase in cost of studying at University over recent years, ranked as third-most popular reason for HSP 2010 (15%) and HFF 2010 (18%). Although all groups were in agreement that ‘PowerPoint files should be put on the module virtual learning environment before the lecture’, HSP 2003 students felt ‘Lectures should be compulsory’, whereas HSP 2010 and HFF 2010 students took the opposite view that ‘Lectures should not be compulsory’. Overall, students surveyed did appreciate the importance of lectures as a means of obtaining curricular content and that non-attendance decreases their chances of passing exams. Despite this, there now seems to be an increased perception that lectures are not stimulating enough. As education practitioners undergraduate teaching staff have to ensure lectures are made interesting and interactive and form part of a blended-learning approach to delivery of physiology.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements