Learning from failure: how eliminating required attendance sparked the beginning of a medical school transformation

Perspect Med Educ. 2020 Oct;9(5):314-317. doi: 10.1007/s40037-020-00615-y.


Concern about medical student attendance has been rising over the last decade. Thinking a required attendance policy would fix things, we instituted such a mandate in 2010 only to find that although students were present at lecture and other learning sessions they were disengaged. In addition, we experienced growing distrust between faculty and students and tensions between the Student Affairs and Curriculum offices. After five years, we dismantled the policy in favor of encouraged attendance. We discuss both positive and negative surprising consequences that followed this new approach to attendance which has reshaped our vision for the medical school learning experience. It has been transformative and has afforded us the opportunity to redefine our results in accord with the culture in which we aspire to live and work.

Keywords: Attendance; Learner-teacher relationship; Learning environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum / standards
  • Curriculum / trends*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / trends
  • Humans
  • Schools, Medical / organization & administration
  • Schools, Medical / statistics & numerical data
  • Schools, Medical / trends*
  • Utah