Dealing With Deadlines

The way in which teachers choose to deal with late assignment submissions is an often debated topic with a multitude of approaches. I shared my strategy via Twitter, and it seemed to be well-received, so I decided to elaborate on it in case you’d like to try it this school year.

For assignments, I use a floating deadline.

For example, if I assigned a small project today (Wednesday), I might say that it is due any day next week. This approach allows students to build the assignment into their own unique (and busy) schedules. If students come to see me before the deadline ends and requests an extension, I ask them to set the new deadline, which then becomes firm.

Why I like the floating deadline approach:

  1. Students seem to appreciate the flexibility of the floating deadline. Generally speaking, teenagers today are busier (and also more distracted) than ever. The floating deadline encourages students to priortize their life and learning in a way where they feel control.
  2. It encourages ongoing assessment and dialogue. For students who submit assignments early in the week, I can provide verbal or written feedback and allow students to make improvements before the final day of the deadline. For students who haven’t submitted the assignment by mid-week, I can check in to see if the reason is schedule/time-management related or learner-related. If it’s the latter, we can have a discussion to get the student back on track.
  3. It encourages student responsibility. If students aren’t going to demonstrate their learning within the floating deadline, they must come to see me before the deadline ends if they still wish to have the opportunity. Once they demonstrate this proactive behavior, they are then responsible for setting a new, reasonable deadline. From my experience, very few students try to take advantage of this. Morso, they are grateful for any extension that they receive and try not to make it a habit. I also let students know that they can only go to the well so many times when it comes to requesting extensions.
  4. Better quality assignments are submitted. From my experience, generally speaking, students better work when they do not feel rushed. The floating deadline allows for more formative feedback for some, less rushed work for others, and overall better-quality work.
  5. Focuses on growth more than grades. No percentage points are deducted for late submissions. Fewer assignments are simply not-handed-in because I can meet with those who haven’t submitted yet and are struggling. I can provide feedback and allow time for improvements. And lastly, I’ve removed the common (and understandable) excuse of not having enough time!

That’s my floating deadline strategy (and rationale) in a nutshell. Should you choose to give it a try and have any questions or feedback, I’d love to hear from you. Happy teaching!