The Relationship Between Undergraduate Attendance and Performance Revisited: Alignment of Student and Instructor Goals


We revisit the relationship between attendance and performance in the undergraduate university setting and apply agency theory in the instructor-student context. Building on agency theory propositions in the educational setting advanced by Smith, Zsidisin, and Adams (2005), we propose that the student and instructor must align goals to promote the student's achievement of performance learning outcomes, and attendance functions as a behavior-based alignment mechanism to encourage the convergence of faculty and student interests. Further, we propose that attendance does not equally affect lower- and higher-performing students and that absences are also negatively related to students' cumulative grade point average. We test these hypotheses with data from undergraduates enrolled in management courses at a state university in the southeast. Our results show that attendance is positively related to exam performance, there are more pronounced negative effects of an absence for lower-performing students than for higher performers, and absences are negatively related to a student's cumulative grade point average. We discuss the implications of our findings for students, instructors, and universities as well as practice in teaching and learning. ©2011, Decision Sciences Institute Journal compilation ©2011, Decision Sciences Institute.

Document Type





Agency theory, Attendance, Business education, Student performance

Publication Date


Journal Title

Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education