With that in mind, I came across this 'no deadlines' idea recently and have thought about trying it on a very limited basis. I'd be curious to know other people's reactions to this experiment:
In a class with three short papers and a longer writing project, a professor crafted a “no deadlines” policy. He provided some suggested early deadlines, but students could turn in any of the papers at any time, up to the final exam date.
The catch was this:
- Papers that were turned in by the suggested early dates received extensive commentary and could be rewritten without penalty. Students could essentially work for any grade they wanted if they got on the job and handed things in.
- Papers that were turned in before the final week of the term were not eligible for rewrites and re-grading, but the professor would comment on them and make suggestions for future work.
- Papers received during or after the last week of the term received only a grade – no comments, no suggestions, no rewrites. Grades could not be appealed.
The professor found that his grading load during the term was better distributed; he received a few papers at a time that he could easily attend to. He did receive a load of papers at the end of term, but because he was merely grading without commentary, the workload was significantly lower at that time as well.
After a few terms of doing this, he found that about half the students took the rewrite option on at least one paper. Only about 10% of the students completed all their work in time to rewrite, and of course these were students who did not need much reworking anyway. A few “trait,” or habitual, procrastinators turned everything in at the last minute and took their chances.
Student feedback, he discovered, was mostly positive. Students appreciated the flexibility to plan their own work and the implied trust that he placed in them to manage their own schedules and lives. A few students, though, really wanted deadlines.