What?! No Deadlines on Assignments?!

Approximate Reading Time: 3 minutes

A common kind of complaint among many HE 1 faculty:

My student comes with a long story about why they need an extension on an assignment. I have already gone to some lengths to make sure my students have plenty of lead time to get their assignments done. Still, I relent and give the student the extension.
A few days after the assignment is handed in, the student begins to ask if it’s been marked yet.

My response to this sort of problem in my classes was to eliminate the deadlines (mostly).

  1. I already give my students plenty of time to work my assignments into their personal and academic lives IF they exercise good planning and time management.
    1. OK. How many of us submit papers to conferences at the last minute? How often have we asked for extensions? WE know that those conferences happen every year. That means that WE also have plenty of time to work those paper submissions into our personal and academic lives IF we exercise good planning and time management. AMIRIGHT?
  2. Plagiarism [1] Students might use assignments submitted earlier as guides for how to do their assignment.

    1. Why is that a problem? They are still learning and this is, in some views, a perfectly valid way to learn (how many artists learn, at least in part, by mimicking others?). Maybe your assessment criteria are not clear; maybe the students are not clear on what is wanted. All these things are possible. Are you ABSOLUTELY certain that your requirements are clear? To ALL your students?
  3. Plagiarism [2] Students will just cheat – using solutions that others submitted.

    1. They’re still learning.
    2. Interestingly, this tends not to be a problem. When students have more options and flexibility for when and how to submit their work, cheating is LESS of a problem, rather than more. (NOTE: THIS IS IMPORTANT.)
    3. Learning to work to deadlines is important.
      Yes, but there are also plenty of times when it is important to learn to budget time withOUT the aid of a sledgehammer over your head.
      When do we teach them that?
  4. Instructor workload. I need to have things handed in at a specific time so I can better organize my time.

    1. So, let me get this straight….. you have things set up a certain way because YOU need to be able to work around your off-campus life.
      So, the solution is for the students to adapt to YOUR needs. OK.
      On the surface, there really is nothing wrong with that.
      My question though is: How often do you truly consider your students’ lives when you set up your assignment schedule and deadlines?
    2. How many instructors schedule their midterms at about the same time? How is THAT fair to students?
  5. Marking all the assignments of the same type at the same time ensures more consistent grading.
    1. I’ve heard this a lot. It strikes me as intuitively true, but I’d love to find citations to studies that have examined this.
      So far, I’m turning up empty trying to find references to studies that have looked into this.
      Is it possible that NO-ONE has studied this claim to see if it actually has merit?
      I’m not saying it isn’t true; I am asking how we can be sure it *IS* true?
      I can say from 1st hand personal experience that I DO NOT grade the first exam in the exactly the same way as I grade the 20th, no matter how much I may try to.
      I’ve also heard it commented that they kind of reach their stride after a certain number of papers have been marked, and this makes a lot of sense to me.
      I know most of us WANT to, but, do we always go back an re-mark everything?
    2. Now that I get assignments at various times, I am actually starting to think that I do a better and more consistent job because I am NOT marking a bunch of the same things at the same time. Each time I get an assignment, I am fresh. I am not jaded from seeing the same mistake 25 times, or because I’ve been at this for 4 hours already and I’m really getting tired.


Your turn.




Anything to add?

Let’s have a discussion about deadlines!

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  1. Higher Education

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