Monday, November 2, 2009

Late, Late, Late

There's a rather lively discussion going on at Historiann in response to my post at Prof. Hacker on policies for late assignments, which apparently is getting a larger life because it was mentioned at Inside Higher Ed. For those who are interested in the topic, you might want to check out that discussion. I'm not sure how to read the tone of some of the comments. It's hard to know if people are saying, "That policy won't work for me; I have to do it this way." Or, "That guy is an idiot."


  1. I meant to reply over at your other blog, Nels -- I just got snowed under with marking. But I like your policy and explanation. As you say, when students see the pedagogical purpose in making the deadline (I get feedback!), they have incentive besides the artificial due date.

  2. Thanks for your thought-provoking post, Nels, and the great ideas (which I think I will steal shamelessly from you!) I don't read the comments as saying you're an idiot, just that some people feel very passionate about their deadlines, for a variety of reasons.

    I agree with you, though. Deadlines aren't central to what I'm teaching the students, and I don't think I'd be as effective a teacher of time management as I am of history. It's OK for some of us to (like you) let the students choose the reward/penalty they prefer, and for some to be strict in enforcing deadlines. One of the lessons our students can learn from us is how to work with people who have different styles and make different demands.

  3. Thanks, Ann! At Prof. Hacker, we try really hard to make it clear that things like policies depend on context, and it seems like a lot of comments here, there, and elsewhere sometimes forget that. Instead of the tone being, "I can't follow this policy for these contextual reasons," the tone becomes, "But students need X! They need it bad!" What people really mean is that their students need X, but many write in such a way as to suggest that all students need it.

    What's the big deal? I think that faculty sometimes forget the power we have in the classroom to make choices. We all work within certain constraints, but some of us start to believe that everything we do is constrained or controlled by someone else. By forgetting the power we have to make choices, we start to become unable to recognize what is a material constraint that needs to be challenged and what has really been in our control all along.

  4. I totally agree with you about policies have to be set within context. Since I teach paralegals, deadlines are critical. So, my "Better never than late" is appropriate. But, I can see where in other cases, my policy would not be as effective.

  5. Nels, thanks for participating over at I get what you're saying about offering modest, in-context proposals and then having people comment on them as though you're making a blanket prescription. In large part, this is the nature of internet conversations, IMHO: it's much easier to react to one word or one phrase than to read carefully and respond thoughtfully!

    That said, I think most of my commenters were just suggesting that having stricter deadlines policies serves a role in their pedagogy--and they were explaining why/how they think deadlines are important. Thanks for inspiring a good discussion--my guess is that a lot of people like me got a lot of new ideas and strategies out of it.