I lamented recently about the difficulty of figuring out a late policy that I could live with. Everything I could think of felt random. There are time-honored policies like ten points off for every day late and a flat ten points off no matter how late. I have dealt with complicated systems for excuses and documentation for extenuating circumstances. The more I think about it, however, the less sense it all seems to make, and Holly Pappas’s post last week tells me that I’m not the only one struggling to find the right balance.
Finding a fair policy is not a new issue for me. I wrote about my confusion with choosing a fair late policy a couple of years ago. I have been bothered particularly that late policies seem to be more about obedience and time management than pedagogy and the best ways to support writers. After all, it’s highly unlikely that giving a student an extra day will completely derail what I do in class or how the student progresses during the term.
On the other hand, I didn’t want to choose a system that made extra work for me. I didn’t want to keep up with requests for extensions or the range of needs of different students. I imagined nightmare scenarios where one student needs an extra day, another has a doctor’s note and needs three days, and some third student just wants to turn the work in a few hours late. Who wants to manage that kind of complexity? Certainly not me. I wanted to put the work and the onus on students’ to-do list, rather than mine.
As I worked on my syllabus, I found myself returning to Nels P. Highberg’s discussion of late policies in ProfHacker. I still like his policy of giving everyone a free one-week extension, but I found myself unsure how to communicate the idea effectively. I didn’t want to end up with a situation where students simply ignored the due date. Unsure of the solution, I did what anyone in my situation would—I Googled for late policies.
I found a lot of random late policies, but ultimately l happened upon Reed Gillespie’s “A Late Work Policy That Supports Learning.” Gillespie sets due dates (the date the work is due) and deadlines (the last date the work will be accepted). I combined Gillespie’s language with Highberg’s one-week extensions, and finally had a system I liked. Here’s what I came up with:
Late Policy: You will compose major assignments, which will be posted on Scholar [Virginia Tech’s installation of Sakai]. Each unit will have a due date, a grace period, and a deadline:
- A due date is the day that your major assignment is due. Every student has a one-week grace period after the due date during which the assignment can still be submitted.
- The grace period occurs between the due date and the deadline. Work submitted during the grace period will be marked as late in Scholar. There is no grade penalty for work submitted during the grace period; however, we will not work on the assignment in class after the due date nor will I provide substantial feedback on your work in progress or final submission after the due date.
- A deadline comes one week after the due date and is the final day that an assignment will be accepted. After the deadline, Scholar closes the assignment, and you will no longer be able to submit your work. You will receive a zero for any work that is not submitted by the deadline. There are no extensions on deadlines.
It feels like a perfect system. No matter what issue students have, they have options to give them a little more time. There are benefits to meeting the original due date. Our course management system does the record keeping so I don’t have to. Finally, students learn about the importance of planning and time management.
So far, I have had good response from students. I have already had a couple tell me that they have an event coming up that the policy will help them with. I’ll let you know how it works later this year, after students and I have had a chance to try it out. In the mean time, if you want to ask how it is working or share your own late policy, just leave a comment below or drop by my page onFacebook or Google+.
[Photo: Clock by Earls37a, on Flickr]