What Have We Here? The Relationship between Law Student Attendance and Wellbeing

Two significant areas of contemporary legal education research are student wellbeing and student attendance. It is well established that, when compared with the general population, university students, including those studying law, are at greater risk of experiencing psychological distress and, when they do, it is likely to be at higher levels. Student attendance at face-to-face classes is also gaining traction as a research area, but there is a dearth of robust empirical data in this area. Moreover, the relationship between attendance and wellbeing is underexplored. This article seeks to address this gap in the literature.

We recently undertook a large empirical, mixed method study at our university, involving a survey of law students, a manual count of student attendance, and student focus groups. While the primary purpose of the study was to better understand motivations for student attendance or non-attendance, using a constructivist methodology, we extracted a wealth of qualitative data that gave additional insights into both student wellbeing and the attendance–wellbeing nexus. In this article, we present these findings through the lens of Self-Determination Theory and its principles of relatedness, autonomy and competence and in particular explore the tension between autonomy and relatedness when students do not attend lectures.