As with all useful management strategies, I have no idea where I got this idea. If there’s something useful in it, please adapt and share widely.
At the college level, class attendance is very very different from the K-12 schools. Most college instructors don’t take attendance regularly. Of those who do, a large proportion pass around a sign in sheet.
Coming out of a K-12 tradition, I know that taking roll call is an important part of learning my students’ names (this, incidentally, is not universally valued in higher ed). But I don’t have time to take roll every class period.
Furthermore, I know that attendance is better when students know I am keeping track. And it’s even better if attendance is part of their grade. It turns out that it doesn’t seem to matter how much of their grade-just that it’s part.
I used to factor attendance in by counting the number of missed classes, and running that number through a rubric. But as I mentioned I don’t have time to take attendance every class period, and sometimes I forget. And then I am imperfect at reconstructing attendance after class is over (strong personalities tend to get noticed as absent more often than wallflowers do, for example).
You see the problem.
Enter the attendance spinner.
On 22 randomly selected days each semester, I begin class by putting the spinner on the document projector and spinning with great dramatic flourish. Each student present when the spinner is spun receives the number of attendance points that comes up on the spinner. Attendance is taken, attendance points are recorded and we begin class.
In order to get maximum credit for attendance towards your grade, you need to accumulate more than 100 attendance points. The next category is for 90-100 attendance points, etc. There are five categories.
You don’t know in advance on which days I will spin, but I do; they’re determined by a Fathom document at the beginning of the semester and posted where I can refer to it in my office.
If the 22 spins don’t total at least 101 points, we will adjust the cutoffs for the categories proportionately. This has never happened.
If you are absent or come after the spin, you get zero attendance points for the day.
I will not tell you whether we will spin next class, nor whether we spun last class (ask your classmates-odds are you have at least 40 of them).
If I was supposed to spin and I forget, I’ll do it next class. You’ll never know about it, though.