Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Guess I Missed That Part

Last week I collected a major assignment. I posted it on Blackhole Board several weeks ago. The post (which I also send as an email) contained all the usual stuff: due date, requirements, and resources that the students may use. I have a very firm policy on when I accept late papers. I accept them never. I state this on the syllabus, when I introduce a new assignment, and on any assignment write-up.

Last week's assignment was due at the start of class on Xday. I collected the assignments at the start of class on Xday. I made my usual big deal about "once I put these in the folder it's end game."

The following is a conversation I had after class on Xday:

Class Skipper: Sorry I didn't make it to class, I don't feel well. Here is my assignment.

Captain Subtext: I overslept and I just realized the assignment was due an hour ago. So I came here to turn it in late.

Me: It said on the assignment posting and the email that no late work is accepted.

Captain Subtext: You know the rules and you know from last time that I don't bend them.

Class Skipper: I guess I missed that.

Captain Subtext: I don't take class policies seriously. Besides I was "sick" so it's a special case. You can't hold me to the standard.

Me: ... ...

Captain Subtext: Did you seriously stop reading the assignment post after the second fucking sentence?!?


  1. Well, if Class Skipper were a student in my class, I can **guarantee** s/he didn't read past the second sentence of the email. This seems to be a growing problem this semester (and not to hijack your post) but next semester I plan on addressing this problem because I will NOT be Tweeting assignments to them in 140 characters or less.

  2. @Liz: if you figure out *how* to address it, please share the secret.

  3. @CC, it seems to me that CMP is addressing the issue the only way it should be addressed: with consequences. It sounds as though CMP's late policy is clear, fair, and consistent. What more are any of us expected to do? How much effort are we supposed to expend trying to coax college students in to following simple directions? Life lesson: follow instructions or accept the consequences. 5 cents, please.

  4. Although I wholly support CMP in this endeavor, I disagree that this policy is the best one to motivate student behavior and get the best from the students.

    My own policy is: "Get it in before I start marking it". Usually that means "in my inbox before I arrive tomorrow morning". I like to leave the 'when I arrive' part vague to add a little ticking-bomb-clock drama.

    The thing is, arbitrary deadlines are just that. Arbitrary. We all know that deadlines are important: organizing collective effort requires that we synchronize activity. But as soon as it becomes unclear WHY the deadline is what it is, it's impossible to get people to think you're doing it for any reason other than as punishment.

  5. Dr. N, CMP's policy is harsh, for sure, and I agree that I don't want to make my students jump through arbitrary hoops. On the other hand, consistent deadlines are an issue of fairness, not just my grading schedule. Students who take more than the allotted time to complete an assignment should suffer a grade penalty, IMO, in fairness to the students who respected the deadline. My policy is that a paper not submitted during the class period it is due loses a letter grade. Then the paper keeps losing a letter grade for every 24-hour period that it is late, including weekends and vacations.

  6. The issue with accepting late papers is: when is late too late?

    Why one letter grade per 24 hours? Why not one grade per 48? 72? 10 minutes? They are all arbitrary.

    Seems pretty harsh if Sally emails her paper 23.95 hours late and Bob emails his 24.01 hours later. Sally gets a one letter grade penalty and Bob gets a two letter grade penalty. Their papers were turned in within minutes of each other.

    So you either stick to you guns or break your policy to help out Bob. So you help out Bob. But then Alan sends his paper 24.1 hours late and now, even though his paper is only 6 minutes behind Bob's, suddenly you aren't bending the rules for him?

    Frankly, that policy is no more harsh than my no late papers policy. But at least with my policy 90% of the class shows up early on paper day which beats the heck out of the 50% on a regular day.

    Plus I don't have to track whose paper was late and how late and what the penalty is. And I can start grading the moment I hit the office without worrying about the inherent inequities in grading one paper days after I graded the others. When grading a paper a day later than the others I find I've forgotten some of the ways I assigned points for the mirad of possible errors students have made.


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