Promoting Attendance with International Students

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This Winter semester, we have unprecedented numbers of international students beginning programs – approximately 1400 new starts. How can you best prepare to manage these new members in your classrooms?

Conestoga Context

This winter semester, we have an unprecedented numbers of international students beginning programs – approximately 1400 new starts. As faculty, you will see these students in class and be the first to note what is going well and what we need to act on.

Many international students have just arrived and have not yet had much opportunity to seek your guidance and may be sharing bad advice with each other. One idea students may have is that attendance is not required. We all know that high attendance correlates with a greater likelihood of learning and success. Your advice is crucial to getting the students on track. The theory of Acculturative Stress says that finding a “trusted leader” such as a faculty member who will provide guidance is one of the most important ways to combat acculturative stress.

Some faculty have identified concerns regarding attendance already being of concern in Week 2. International students, like all students, are expected to be in class as scheduled. The Study in Canada site explains what a study permit is and that students must be “actively pursuing their studies” and “making progress towards completing their program.” This has been interpreted to mean attending a reasonable number of classes, participating in class learning activities and completing assessments.

International students are legally permitted to work up to 20 hours on or off campus. Like many domestic students, international students find work is necessary to help cover living expenses. However, work is not an excuse to miss classes or leave classes early.

Suggestions and Innovations

If this is one of your first times teaching a cohort of international students, you may be experiencing surprises too. Please reach out to Teaching & Learning to consult with one of us, or to share your ideas related to intercultural teaching. You may also want to look at the information at Intercultural Communication at Conestoga. We plan to update this so ideas for content are most welcome.

Monitor attendance and let it be seen that you are monitoring. Use the eConestoga attendance tracker so that messages can be automatically sent out to those who miss a class. Reach out to eConestoga if you need help with setting this up.

If using a paper-based method, print only the official attendance lists from the Employee Portal. Never distribute a list that shows the student name and student number together or request students to write both their name and number on a page that is circulated. The student number is confidential.

To the best of your ability, learn student names. The ability to identify students directly by name goes a long way to creating a climate of accountability and strong interpersonal respect in a classroom.

Start class on time and end 10 minutes before the end of the scheduled time. Make note of lateness and students who are leaving at break. Some faculty have shared that students are arriving for attendance and then leaving, so they have begun taking attendance at the start and end of the class session. Attendance does not count towards a grade, so it is a bit of a balance between encouraging attendance and participation, and allowing the students to make their own choices. It may be that students do not yet understand how our outcomes-based system works. They may be expecting a high stakes final exam which can help them reclaim their mark. Be sure to review the evaluation scheme a few times.

Ask students to email you in advance if they are going to miss any class time.

Review any requests for missing or making up evaluations carefully. Religious observations, family emergencies, etc. do come up. Check with your Chair if you are not sure what to reply to a student requesting an evaluation delay or prolonged absence.

Do not agree to have all labs and tests at the start of the class. Some faculty have had students request this to facilitate students getting rides home or working.

Do not agree to save all of the break time till the end of the class, even if students request this so as to leave early. The break time is for you and the students to refresh so that more learning can occur.

If you talk about the value of the learning for the future workplace and a student(s) tell you they just need a credential and then can get any job, have a reply ready. Mine would be, “Thank you for sharing but I am here to educate. My expectation is that you are here to learn. In order to pass this course you must achieve the learning outcomes and obtain a mark of at least ___ %.” Encourage the student to reframe their thinking with a long-range vision of obtaining a credential, working in a particular field, and building a career, as well as obtaining immigration status and a job.

If a student is not attending, check in with your colleagues, your Coordinator and/or your Chair as agreed on, so everyone knows that a student is not attending.

Let the International Office know if a student is missing, so they can follow up. Please email or call Jan Bockmaster (519-748-5220 x 2356.)


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