7 Apr 2011


One thing the student representative brought up was the logbook system. “It is often hard to find teachers to sign the logbooks because they are engaged in clinical duties,” she said. “Can we abandon it?”

A few years ago, the Faculty administrators informed us that we were the only department without a formal record of students’ attendance during clinical attachments. In response, we gave each student a logbook and asked them to obtain signatures from teachers after tutorials. Our secretaries, however, never kept any record. The logbook system was more to satisfy the administrators than to check attendance.

“It is unfair to introduce the logbook system without clear instructions,” commented KL. “We should state clearly what level of attendance is acceptable. For example, students may need to attend a certain number of tutorials before they are allowed to take the year exam.”

I startled. That reminded me of the Haifa experiment. At day care centers, some parents pick up their kids late from time to time. Teachers have to stay behind and this can be frustrating. In a study in Haifa, Israel, researchers tested the effect of charging parents for extra service if they came late. The result? The number of latecomers increased. Worse still, after the additional charge had been removed, the number never decreased back to baseline level. By paying for the service, the parents no longer felt guilty for burdening the teachers.

When I worked in Beijing, the medical school there introduced an interesting rule – All PhD students must publish one paper with an impact factor of 2.0 or above before they could obtain the degree. The policy was to ascertain a minimal quality of the research work. Before that, some students were able to publish papers in high-ranking medical journals, while over half actually did not have any publication by the time they graduated. What happened after the adoption of the policy? You bet. All students ended up publishing a paper with an impact factor of 2.0, not more.

If we state the required level of attendance at tutorials, will we be taking away the moral incentive?

In the end, while we decided to abandon the logbook system anyway, GC asked the student representative, “What is the reason for asking to abandon the logbook? Is it really because it is difficult to get a signature, or is it because your classmates want to skip tutorials and do not want to be recorded?”

Now, that is a more fundamental question. If the students do not want to come, why force them?

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