HOT POTATO: Should instructors accept late assignments? Yes!

In PIDP 3230, we were given the opportunity to debate our personal policies on late assignments.

In small groups of four, we had to develop a policy on late assignments and consider factors such as: Would we accept them, or not? Would marks be deducted for late assignments? How would we deduct the marks? What formulas would we use? Once we developed our policy, we had to justify it to the class, which lead to a very lively, loud and intense discussion.

At first, participants seemed really convinced with their policies – and the reasoning behind them. Throughout the debate, you could see how the students perceptions changed as they were exposed to different policies, or were really questioned and challenged on their own policy. I personally was overruled by my group and forced defend a policy with a grade penalty, which was really tough! I simply couldn’t answer the questions or justify the policy. I used to use a similar policy in my teaching practice and I found it to be super tough to enforce. I have since scrapped that process in favour of a new approach, as discussed below.

I always thought that it was the duty of the instructor, no matter what, to provide feedback on the students work, and therefore, justification on the grade assigned. I now believe that if a student doesn’t respect the due date, there should be a consequence.

Deducting marks for late assignments doesn’t work because it is just way to hard to calculate the deduction! If you say that late assignments will lose 10%, this is open to interpretation. Does it mean 10% of the overall grade? Is that 10% per week? Is that enough of a penalty? Is it too much? Is it fair? It’s complicated.

As instructors of adults we must be cognizant of the many roles adult learners play and we must have fair and justifiable policies in place to address the needs of our learners. On the flip side, students must understand and respect that it takes time and effort to provide quality feedback and we carve out time in our busy schedules to do so.

This assignment allowed me to get very clear on my personal policy when it comes to late assignments. Going forward, I will use the same policy as modelled but my two-time PIDP instructor Doug Mauger: I will accept and assign a grade for late assignments; however, I will not provide the student with any feedback on the assignment or their grade.

I have already implemented this with success and without push back from my students. They are adults, they understand that I am accepting of the fact that sometimes *life* happens and they can’t get the assignment done on time. They are also understanding of the fact that there is a consequence for submitting an assignment after the deadline.


About robincookbondy

My name is Robin Cook Bondy and I live in Ladner, BC with my husband and three sons. I am a communications and public relations professional pursuing further education in the area of adult learning.
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