In other studies, students who attended infrequently and inconsistently have been referred to variously as drop-ins, stopouts or sporadic attenders (Thomas, 1990). In this study, these students will be referred to as sporadic attenders. Sporadic attenders attended less than fifty percent of the classes but still continued to attend during the last four weeks of the semester.
In former studies, students who continue to attend frequently and regularly throughout a semester or a program are often referred to as persisters (Thomas, 1990; Martin, 1990; Garrison, 1989). In this study, these students will be referred to as regular attenders. Regular attenders attended over fifty percent of the classes and continued to attend during the last four weeks of the semester. In this definition of regular attendance, I include only students who enrolled before midsemester (mid-April), because I did not get to know the two students who enrolled in the second half of the semester well enough to include them or to calculate and categorize their attendance accurately.
Although the dominant discourse prescribes regular attendance as superior or more successful than sporadic attendance or dropout, I prefer not to privilege one form of attendance over the others with respect to the students. For some students there may be more success in dropping out than in remaining in a class, particularly if that class contributes to erosion of identity and self-esteem. Much depends upon the student's own needs and timing and calculating personal success is a more complex process then is generally recognized.
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