Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Late Work Policy That Supports Learning

In my first fifteen years of teaching, I struggled to develop an effective, fair and student-learning centered late work policy. My policies changed from year to year. One year, I’d accept no late work. The next, I’d accept any and all late work with no consequences.

I faced four conflicts as I tried to create a policy that maximized student learning while instilling responsibility.

Conflict 1:
I want each of my students to be responsible and submit their work in a timely manner.
In the “real-world” deadlines are often negotiated and extensions are often granted.

Conflict 2:
As a teacher, I need to maintain a pace to meet curriculum requirements.
Given the choice, I’d rather students submit work late than not at all.

Conflict 3:
Late penalties may deter students from turning in work late.
Late penalties don’t work for many students who are consistently late turning in work. 

Conflict 4:
Given no due dates, students rush to finish assignments and will turn them in at the last possible moment (i.e. right before the end of the marking period)
Firm due dates are needed to allow me to provide feedback and meet reporting dates.

After much experimentation, I eventually created a policy that maximized student learning while emphasizing timely work completion. Here’s how it works.

Each assignment/assessment includes both a due date and a deadline date. The deadline date is the absolute last day an assignment/assessment could be turned in. As long as the work was completed by the deadline, students could earn full credit.

Students who did not complete work by the due date were required to complete a missing homework sheet. By quickly reviewing these sheets, I could determine which students needed additional academic support versus who needed help managing their time.

A couple of other items of note:
  • Often I involved students in setting the deadline date. This collaborative process created buy-in and simulated real-life negotiations.

  • My grading program, allowed me to create a footnote if an assignment was turned in late. Keeping track of such information was vital.

  • For students who were chronically late completing assignments, I worked with their parents, other teachers, guidance counselors, etc. to communicate deadlines (emails, text messages, posting assignments online, creating student contracts, etc.)

  • This policy actually helped students learn to better manage their time. For example, Susan was an excellent student who was involved in many extra-curricular activities and took several challenging classes. On Monday, I assigned a mini-assessment project on the Roman Empire with a due date of Wednesday and a deadline date of the following Monday. On Monday and Tuesday, Susan had several hours of homework from her other classes and she had away soccer games both nights. Instead of rushing to complete all of her assignments, Susan was able to concentrate on completing her work for her other classes and could dedicate the necessary time and effort later in the work on her Roman Empire project.

What are the advantages of this policy?
1.     Grades are linked to learning not to behaviors (poor time management)
2.     It makes the entire process more manageable for both students and me
3.     It enables me to work with students who have trouble completing assignments and provide timely feedback to all students
4.     It gives me an opportunity to help students learn AND build relationships with the students as I work closely with them

What is your late work policy? What do you like or not like about my policy?


Deb Day said...

I love the idea of due date and deadline date. I let students turn work in late--particularly if they have a "good" reason (like Susan). I've always felt that zeroes were too easy for some students. Like you, though, I would be swamped at the end of a marking period. This seems like it would help.

helenateach said...

I also like the due date/deadline date idea, but I have a question: When do you note in your online gradebook that work is late? If a student misses the due date? thanks!

Reed Gillespie said...

Our grade book enables you to mark/footnote when an assignment is late. For a student who misses the due date, the first step is to determine why. Is it because he/she didn't have the time, the desire, the ability? I'll then tailor a plan of action.

If a student misses the deadline date, I've found that it's important to stick to your guns. If I've done my job the student has had every support necessary to successfully complete the assignment.

helenateach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
helenateach said...

Thanks for your reply. Just so I'm clear, if I follow your process, I'll enter "Late" in my online grade book if my student misses the due date, and then tailor a plan of action. If my student does not follow through and misses the deadline, that's it. At that point, I'd enter a zero in the grade book. Is that correct?

Thank you.

TestTube0812 said...

So, do you not hand back any graded work until after the deadline date to guard against students copying off of each others' graded assignments? Do larger assignments/projects have greater time distance between the due date and deadline date? This policy seems appropriate for the high school setting, but would it be as effective in a college setting?

Reed Gillespie said...

Great question and an issue I struggled with. Ultimately, I believed that I didn't want to let students off the hook (if it was worth assigning, I wanted students to do the assignment). I tended not to grade practice work, which is probably easiest to copy. So much of what I graded were the larger assignments that required students to use higher-order thinking skills that were not as easy to copy (or at least easier to spot/catch when they did). One of the things I did find was that students seemed less likely to allow their classmates to copy these type of assignments, including those that I graded and handed back.

Yes, at times I did hold on to assignments (but would provide students with the feedback and grade) until the deadline date.

And, yes I tried to give students more leeway with the more challenging assignments.

Leigh Wagner said...

I love this idea however In our school we can "technically" have hard deadlines, but when the end of semester gets near we are required to get the failing kids into our class to make up the work they have missed. Do you think this would derail this method? Thanks?

Mellissa Chandler said...

Really liking this idea, I'm going to give it a try. Many thanks for sharing!

Mme Bird said...

Still a bit unclear about what you do if a student misses the deadline date? Does that equate to a 0?

David Hochheiser said...

I did something like this when I had a class, always allowing students necessary time to complete the work, without penalty. My entrance ticket into what you're using as the "deadline period" was some evidence of progress. An extremely small few, I found, needed time to work through academic struggles or gain clarity in the assignment. For most of them, it was procrastination and prioritization, lessons -like you brought up - that need to become part of the bigger picture in the student's life through conversations with his/her 360 team. The goal, as you're pointing out is to make sure the students are being taught, which merely holding them accountable for due dates does not do. Well said, Reed.

JennyLynn said...

I am currently exploring whether or not the assignment completion rate increase or decrease when there is an agreed upon school-wide late work policy. Do you have any research that support your policy? My policy in my classroom is very similar to yours but our school is thinking about creating a school wide late policy that doesn't match mine. I was hoping to show some research based evidence beyond my own empirical classroom study that supports my late policy. Thanks!

Lauren Disney said...

Did you find that the majority of students tended to submit assignments closer to the deadline date than the due date? Or vice versa?

Gina Martens said...

Thank you so much for sharing your late work policy. I am also struggling to think of one that puts more responsibility on the students but is also flexible and supports their learning.
One question, what if the student does not mean the deadline date? Does that become a 0 at that point? do you keep their missing homework sheets on file?

Kate Edington said...

Thank you for your blog post. This will help shape my classroom policy.

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Phil said...

I teach engineering at a state university and have always struggled with homework deadlines vs. learning vs. increasing class sizes. I appreciate this approach, but it adds a level of additional work on the instructor's part so I will have to figure out how to minimize that. I am more willing to put my extra work into designing better learning experiences than putting more effort into dealing with missing assignments. I've been having better luck with that lately.

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