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The problem of due dates

Posted By: Pamela Whitehouse on April 11, 2008
I have long struggled with the problems generated by hard and fast due dates in my own classes, and I have been incensed with the problems of due dates in my grandson's elementary classroom. Just recently, my grandson received a 15 point deduction from his science project because he forgot to bring his notecards. The purpose of the notecards was to help him remember his report to the class about his project. He was so excited about the project that he didn't need the notecards, and gave his talk without a hitch. But, we had to deal with the problem of losing 15 points for not following the rules--it had nothing to do with what he had learned. Needless to say, it cast a pall on an otherwise exciting project in which he had been deeply engaged.

So often it seems that the final grade reflects a student's ability to jump through the hoops we set,rather than providing a snapshot of where they are in their learning the content matter. I'm not arguing for no due dates, although the idea is attractive to someone like me who has always had trouble meeting them. I am wondering if, as we think about how to support students who are repeating a class, or first time students, we should also be rethinking due dates.

There is a compelling need to get through a certain amount of material within a semester course, and this counterbalanced by a compelling need for students to learn and developing understanding of the material so that it is useful to them in the learning context and in their future work lives. I wonder how we might rethink due dates, perhaps by thinking of them as learning dates--what do we as educators need to do in our course design that can support widely varying learners with widely varying levels of preparation so that due dates morph into benchmark dates that students can point to and say, :here is the day that I finally figured out how to complete that calculus problem:, rather than pointing to the day that "I got an F for being late with my math paper."

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 The problem of due dates by Pamela Whitehouse on April 11, 2008
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