The Impact of Attendance on First-Year Study Success in Problem-Based Learning The Case of Maastricht University's Bachelor in European Studies

Patrick Bijsmans, Arjan H. Schakel

Class attendance is often identified as being important for students' persistence; missing scheduled course meetings may increase the risk of drop-out. This particularly concerns the first year of studies, which is widely seen as the most important year in determining students' chances of completing a programme in higher education. Existing studies have two important drawbacks in this context. First, they do not specifically focus on attendance. Instead, the issue is part of a broader focus on issues related to first-year experience and transition from secondary to higher education. Second, while there may be reference to active learning environments, these studies have hardly looked into attendance in problem-based learning (PBL) and its impact on study success. Yet, attendance is deemed to be crucial for effective student performance in PBL-based programmes. This paper addresses this issue by analysing the importance of (non-) attendance on the study success of first-year students of Maastricht University's Bachelor in European Studies (BA ES). It specifically looks at five first-year cohorts (2011/2012, 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2014/2015, 2015/2016), which totals up to nearly 1,750 students. Study success in this context takes two forms. First and foremost, study success concerns retention. Consequently, the first question addressed in this paper asks whether we can discern differences in course attendance between students who achieved the 42 ECTS (or more) required to continue their studies and those who did not. Second, study success can be defined in terms of grades. Therefore, for those students who achieved at least 42 ECTS, does course attendance effect their Grade Point Average (GPA) at the end of the first year? Not only will we address this issue by comparing end of the year result, but we will also discuss whether attendance in some courses is more important for study success than attendance in other courses.

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