Agony aunt

January 5, 2001

Q: I am often asked by students to extend the deadline for their work assignments. What is the best approach to take?

Terry Kee, Director of the industrial training programme, School of chemistry University of Leeds.

A: Students are keenly motivated by assessment of coursework, especially if it counts towards their degree marks. The fear of losing marks by failing to meet a deadline focuses attention. Students should be encouraged to view deadlines as an opportunity to develop time-management skills. Staff have their own juggling act to perform and part of our management strategy for coursework is to have all pieces submitted and assessed or reviewed at a single time. In many cases, work assignments are linked to tutorials or scheduled practical work.

Students may have different perceptions from staff of the importance of deadlines. Finding a mutually acceptable policy for deadlines is not always easy. Some departments operate a blanket penalty scheme - for example, a student may lose 5 per cent of the marks for that piece of work for every day past the deadline. Other departments elect not to assess any coursework if submitted after a particular tutorial. Such scenarios may seem strict but do have the advantage of focusing a student's mind. A more discretionary approach is often taken where penalties can be waived if the assessor is happy that there are good grounds for leniency. Whichever policy is used, encouraging students to view meeting deadlines as a valuable time-management skill can only be to their longer-term benefit.

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