The impact of an attendance policy on the academic performance of first year medical students taking the Fundamentals of Disease and Treatment course
Keywords:attendance, holistic approach, academic performance
AbstractThis study seeks to determine the significance of attendance in the improvement of academic performance of a first year course, Fundamentals of Disease and Treatment (FDT), in the medical programme at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill, Barbados. The Fundamentals of Disease & Treatment course is an important introduction to the integrated approach that is used in the delivery of the medical programme. Medical students tend to have a poor attitude towards the course and this has negatively impacted upon their attendance at lectures, tutorials and reviews. This study investigates whether the enforcement of the Faculty of Medical Sciences' (FMS) attendance policy where "students must have an attendance rate of 80% of all timetabled sessions to sit final course exams" improves students' performance. The grades for in-course assessments and attendance for the FDT course were recorded and summarised systemically for the first year medical students during the academic year 2009-2010. The data were divided on a semester basis in order to reflect the period in which the attendance policy was not enforced (Semester 1) and when it was enforced (Semester 2). Paired students' T-tests and other descriptive statistical tools were used to analyse the attendance and academic performance over both periods. Results show that there was significant increase in attendance during Semester 2 of the academic year 2009-2010. This significant improvement in attendance was not reciprocated with an improvement in academic performance in course assessments when the two semesters were compared. The findings suggest that other factors are more critical to academic success. Some of these factors may be well indicated in the holistic approach which is regarded as the best approach to the learning process.