What Is The Best Way To Deal With late Assignments?

                                                                                             Image Obtained from Google.ca

By Marwa Kotb.

The late assignment policy is a very controversial topic, some educators don’t accept late work under any circumstances, they argue that loose or non-existent penalties encourage students to disregard the given deadlines for the assignments, and that those immutable deadlines will train students to deliver their work in time and thus they will be more prepared to the rigid business world (Gilkey, 2007, May 27). Others allow a grace period for very limited time or apply a sliding scale late policy and deduct a percentage of students score for each day they’re late, these educators claim that this policy ensures fairness for students that turned their assignments in time and put those who didn’t at disadvantage. Yet, it provides an advantage over the zero-tolerance late policy that the students can learn the consequences of missing deadlines without facing huge penalties that can deter their learning experience. Last are those educators that accept late assignments and don’t penalize students for that, their main reasons are, first penalties existed for many years and yet there are students are still submitting assignments late. Second, learning and discipline i.e. time management must be kept separate and that grades are supposed to reflect students’ learning and not anything else (Schimmer, 2011, February 11).

Personally, I never applied the zero penalty late assignment policy as it doesn’t align with my own teaching philosophy and personality, I believe that educators should provide students grace or extensions periods to complete their work, and if desired, those periods can be permitted for a limited number of times. My policies changed over time with regards to the learning environment and the type of students I teach. When I was working as a lab assistant in a college I applied the time based penalty policy i.e. having percentages deducted for each day past the due date. And now as an online educator teaching non-credit courses and the majority of my students are adult learners I don’t penalize learners for late submissions.

Aside from my own selections with regard to the late assignment policies, when I started thinking about the given question “what is the best way to deal with late assignments?” I found myself questioning “is there a perfect late assignment policy that I can name or recommend”. Even the harshest zero tolerance late assignment policy is enacted with the desire to benefit students academically and professionally and to provide educators enough time to give students feedbacks and meet the courses’ requirement dates, and thus there is a lot of logic to use and select. In my opinion, there is no best policy as there is n’t a perfect one. But there is a criteria that governs any selection, educators must be able to articulate why they decided to use a certain policy (Highberg, 2009, October) in terms of its alignment with the course context, the pedagogy, and the nature of the job that they are preparing students to have.

Let me give a brief clarification about how each of those factors can impact our decision when selecting a late assignment policy for a certain course. First the context, if the course context is for traditional full time students, deadlines and firm policies can be conveniently chosen and students can benefit from them, but if the course is part-time and the students are adults that are hardly fitting the course into their busy life schedule, in such case it will be best to choose a policy that allows a greater flexibility and latitude so those learners can persist and succeed (Mullinix, 2015, July 25). Second the pedagogy, let me take the PID program as an example of the alignment between the pedagogy and late assignment policy. All courses of the PIDP are approaching self-directed learning and emphasizing the sense of autonomy where learners are allowed to make choices with regard to their assignments work. When I examine the chosen policy for late assignments that happens to be consistent among all courses, it states that there isn’t a grade penalty for late submissions but the educators won’t provide feedback in case the student missed the submission due date. The policy aligns well with the pedagogy because it gives the students the choice without forcing them into a certain path, however, the wrong choices come with consequences as the lack of feedback will definitely effect the learners’ coming assignments as they might make the same mistakes that would had been avoided if they have read the feedback comments they missed (Highberg, 2009, October 22). Last, the nature of the job we are preparing students to have has an impact on which policy to enact, in some professions such as nursing deadlines are rigid, if things aren’t turned in time, then it is of no value, and thus a harsh policy can train students to turn their work in time. In other professions such as book writing, deadlines may be negotiated at times in order to attain a better quality of work with no ramification (Highberg, 2009, October 22). At the end of this post, I believe that no matter the policy that educators select or create, they must work to balance their policies against these factors.

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