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Humane Course Policies that Make Life Easier

Started by polly_mer, May 18, 2019, 08:15:33 AM

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Quote from: bibliothecula on June 27, 2019, 11:56:50 AM
I love larryc's policies. What's a good humane policy for late work? In a course with a scaffolded writing assignment, I can't just let students turn things in whenever they want, because I want them to get feedback on their paper proposal and bibliography before they write the paper, for example.

I've found that it works better than you would think to just let their be a natural consequence with scaffolded assignments. I think the trick is to not announce that there won't be a grade penalty for late work. That might be too much temptation. Just say its due and then you'll give back the feedback. If someone writes me to ask for an extension, i might give it, but point out they should get it in soon so I can get it back to them. If they turn the thing in really late, then they don't get my feedback. I've found the overwhelming majority of students stick to the deadline.


Re: late work, I think I found my policy on the old fora. I accept "no late work, ever" but offer 2-3 drop grades (depending) for small assignments (homework, class work) and one 48-hour extension (72 for some classes, depending on day of the week) that students can use on any large assignment (paper, project) except the final. If a student emails ahead of time about an extension, I ask if they'd like to use the single extension or save it for a later occasion. If they email "oops, I forgot" after the fact, I ask the same thing. Sometimes they choose to use it, in which case they know they are out of chances. Sometimes they choose to save it (my assignments generally increase in value over the semester).

I also have a policy for unplanned major life events that the 72-hour extension would not solve (death in the family, hospitalization, deployment, etc.). I offer to work with students to set new deadlines if these or similar events occur. They have to meet with me in person, and we discuss, write out, and photocopy the new deadlines.



Policy: Drop the lowest 3 of 8 quizzes, replace the worst non-final exam score with the quiz average (unless the quiz average is lower).

How it makes life easier: As with previous posters, I get less flak about makeup tests (but must, per college policy, allow them for some students); and less flak about making up quizzes (again, as allowed by college policy).

In addition, the quizzes are worth 20 points; only counting five of them means that I just add the 5 best quiz grades to get a number from 0 to 100, so it is directly comparable to a test grade.

I am going to experiment with shorter daily quizzes (2 pts. each) because that will encourage attendance. I can print these on half-sheets of paper, so it doesn't use up much more paper than the old method, still allows for multiple versions, and is quick to grade (with each quiz being 0, 1, or 2 points). I did this in another class with fair success, so perhaps I can do it in my other classes.


A new one for me--

Policy: "Oops" - two low-stakes assignments can be turned in late (although within a week of when due) without penalty as long as the student lets me know that it will be late and when I will get it. After that, late assignments have defined late penalties, including not being accepted at all after a week.

How it makes life easier: I don't have to judge excuses; it's just "oops." Also, (I hope) it establishes that, while some assignments have more leeway, such leeway is limited and written into the policies rather than being available if students beg enough.


Quote from: bibliothecula on June 27, 2019, 11:56:50 AM
I love larryc's policies. What's a good humane policy for late work? In a course with a scaffolded writing assignment, I can't just let students turn things in whenever they want, because I want them to get feedback on their paper proposal and bibliography before they write the paper, for example.

For a long time, I have attached a BIG grade penalty (-2/3 grade) for not submitting a rough draft on time.  Rough drafts get feedback but no grade, low stakes writing, so most students finish *something* by that first deadline.

Then when students have to submit their final draft (at least 4 days later), they already have a full draft they've been working on, and 99.9% of the time, there is no problem submitting some kind of revised final draft promptly.

*Hint:  I have never actually applied the 2/3-grade penalty. . . if the student misses a 10:00 am deadline for the Rough Draft, I say, "just get me something by the end of the day, you'll be fine."  That's usually enough time for them to crank out something.

Btw: I stole that idea from someone more clever than I a very long time ago


In my upper level classes (n20 or less), you can make up one of my two mid-terms with one of my infamous oral exams either at a convenient time for me or on dead day, no questions asked, as long as you ask within 24 hours of the exam. I don't have to police excuses. Slept through your alarm for my 1pm class? No problem. The oral exam takes very little of my time, and is really hard. But no one complains, and people tend not to make up silly excuses in order to get the reprieve and I even get credit for being accommodating, but the person who slept through the mid-term invariably gets a bad grade on the oral, too.


One of my courses has five small assignments and a final project with six components. Any small assignment submitted within three days of due date may be used as a project component, with students having option to use as originally submitted or revised. In the last dozen years, I've had one student miss the three day extension, due to serious car accident.

For all my courses, assignments are due Friday. No penalty if they submit before class begins on Monday, 25 percent penalty per day thereafter. About 75 percent submit on Friday, the rest trickle in over weekend. I've never had to apply the penalty.

Final projects get a one point bonus for each day they're submitted early, with a maximum of 5 bonus points. That can move a student from a high B to a low A on the project, which is half of course grade. I get a few early projects each semester, always from my better students.
Enthusiasm is not a skill set. (MH)


I have a combination of strategies built up over time.
Pre-labs are due at the start of lab.  5 points each, adds up to same value as a midterm over the quarter.  Late or missing = 0. In reality, we give them a 5 minute grace period.  The benefit is that students are more likely to show up on time and to have gone through the protocol.   The most recent new students need to learn "classes start on time". 

For my molecular classes, the prelab is to draw a flowchart of the protocol for the day.  It makes them consider what equipment they will use, how long steps will take, and the logistics (label 4 plates, get 2 types of buffer, etc).

Lab worksheets are handed out at the start of lab and due before you leave. Why? So I don't have to track down assignments from 800+ students or worry about things like handing it in to the wrong TA, having assignments slid under my door, etc. 

The first week has an "upload a labeled figure".  Why?  So they can learn how to submit an online assignment when it's easy and I know they know how to do it.  Later, when the uploaded figure is needed for their research project they already have the skill.

Online assignments can be turned in late with 10% penalty per 24 hours.  Simple to put into the LMS settings, automatically applied, and makes me look really nice since I tell them they can still turn it in.  What they don't realize is that after 10 days, it's so late it's 0 points.  "You can turn it in for comments, but it's so late it's not going to earn points".  Really reduces the "can I turn in [assignment that was due weeks ago] to raise my grade?" requests.


While I do use a rubric, I make it very detailed, and assign points to each requirement. Why? Because first of all, it forces me to think about the relative importance of each requirement in advance, which speeds up my grading time. And secondly, it reduces arguments over the grade. Instead of arguing over the points taken off for "poor code design", for example, I break it down into things like "consistent public interface", "classes have a clear purpose", or "no spaghetti code" (yes, this is a programming class). It is easy to point to the offending parts of the program and explain why the giant loop with multiple exit points based on obscure flags buried all over the loop body constitutes "spaghetti code"