If students wanting or needing to turn in late work adds to your stress, consider offering a “Make-Up Work Day:” one 24-hour period, late in the semester, when students can turn in any assignment(s) they have missed, for up to full credit. This lets you off the hook for judging the truthiness of excuses, negotiations for partial credit, and keeping track of all versions of academic “late fees.” You decide the day, announce it in class and the syllabus, and that is the end of your commitment. Scheduling Make-Up Work Day late in the semester (e.g. two weeks before finals works well), helps avoid getting overwhelmed responding to both late work and on-time assignments.
Missouri Southern State University educator Laura Schisler, who first suggested this in Faculty Focus, reports many benefits after several semesters of refining this policy. While apprehensive that students would treat this as a way to avoid work earlier in the term, she found that they quickly learned that waiting until Make-Up Work Day was not viable with the rest of their workload. Those who turned in late work also missed out on formative feedback that might have boosted later efforts. Schisler advocates this policy only for homework and papers; she does not allow students to do late presentations or in-class assignments such as daily journals or on-demand writing tasks.
Once it has been announced, Make-up Work Day puts responsibility and accountability squarely in the students’ corner. It communicates awareness of the fact that things happens in everyone’s life, and yet is still manageable in a busy teaching schedule. Instructors no longer have to be Excuse Merit Arbiters or keep track of percentages lost as time lapses. The focus can go back to teaching, where it should be.
For more information or to add to her stress, contact Karen Eifler at email@example.com.