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The Deadlines Schools Give Us

And How They Can Be Improved

Is anything ever really done? Some people find comfort from the thought that things can always be added to, always be changed, always be improved. Others find the fact daunting that nothing will ever be complete, never be perfect, never be ready. Sometimes it depends on the context of the project, other times it just depends on the person. School does not differentiate though. There are due dates the same for everyone whether the person feels they can do more or not. Even in classes where it doesn't make sense to have a hard deadline, there still are. Take an art class for example. Most people argue that art is never done and can always be improved. You could paint something, repaint it, and repaint it over again. Art is also something that people who take it seriously will want to spend a great deal of time on to get their best version. It's true that without deadlines, some people would never turn anything in. It's true that deadlines are needed, but how strict should they be?

I'm currently enrolled in a college class (molecular biology for those of you who are curious) where no late work is allowed unless it meets very specific criteria. The criteria are that it has to be one of two types of assignments, one of which there is only one assignment and the other of which there are three. That means that there are a total of four assignments that can be turned in late, but that's not the end of the criteria. Only one of those specific four assignments can be turned in late the next day for a 25 percent deduction. The other three either must be turned in by midnight the day they were due for 10 percent deduction or receive no credit at all. Most people would agree that those are pretty strict rules against turning things in late. But why? Wouldn't it be better to turn things in late than never? To have some incentive to get practice doing whatever the assignment may be? Or even to have a better product turned in at a later date?

I want to make it clear that I'm not arguing that all deadlines should be abolished, but that they should be more lenient. I'd like to propose a couple of ideas that I believe would help benefit students more than just telling them to do it right the first time or not at all. 

  1. First, I'd like to propose the idea that there are deadlines where everyone must turn in a copy of the assignment, but after the assignment is due, students can resubmit it later after improvements are made. This allows teachers to keep deadlines and teach students that they must follow them, but also allows for improvement. That is what school is about after all: improving the student's work. Let's say a student turns in an assignment that they know they could do better on. They can later resubmit it and the teacher can compare the new assignment to the previous to make sure there is real improvement. This method would only allow students that turned in the assignment on time to resubmit later. This way, students are kept accountable for the due date and it provides incentives to do it on time.
  2. Secondly, there is the idea of point deductions. Most teachers already use this method to get their students to do their work on time, but it still allowr students to turn work in late for some credit. This is simply deducting a reasonable amount of points for every day or class period that it is late. It tries to gets students to do the work and get some practice with the assignment by offering incentives to still do it after the deadline. 
  3. My third idea is late passes. Some teachers use this, but not many that I know of. This idea has the most deadline forgiveness of all my proposed ideas. Late passes would be a limited number of passes given to the student at the beginning of the semester or school year that could be used to turn an assignment in late with no penalties. We all know that sometimes school and life gets crazy and we just really can't do that assignment at that time. There must be some limit to how late the assignment can be turned in late and still get to use the pass otherwise teachers will end up with a flood of late work at the end of the semester. It also works best if the passes aren't something that can be copied and have more printed out by the students. The best idea I've seen so far is to stamp the back of them with a unique colored stamp or to use unique stickers on the back. This method can also be combined with a more strict version of idea two to allow for more late work but still give penalties.
  4. My fourth and final idea is to have the student who is often turning things in late go to tutoring or office hours. Perhaps the student doesn't know how to do the work or struggles to work on their own. Having the student go to office hours or tutoring in return for points back on late assignments would encourage them to do the work and learn more than they might on their own. This method could improve not only student's individual assignments, but also their overall grade. Going to tutoring or office hours would enrich the student's learning and they may do better on test, quizzes, and all future assignments. The downside of this is that tutoring and office hours must be available to the students and teachers may have to meet with more students than they normally would. 

There upsides and downsides to each idea, and each must be weighed by the individual teacher as they decide what to do. Getting students used to deadlines and teaching them the importance of not procrastinating is important, but it should not overshadow the student's need to learn. If a way a deadline is set up makes it so that the student does not bother to learn the material after the deadline has passed, something needs to change. Learning the material should come before all else.

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The Deadlines Schools Give Us
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