Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Return of Deadlines?

Many teachers have been understandably frustrated with the poorly conceived notion that any student, at any time, should be able to "redo" any assignment, homework or test during the term or semester.

In addition to the workload issue this creates for teachers, it has a knock on effect on the habits of students. Not surprisingly, they study less, attend less, and generally get less learning done. While it is certainly important to give second chances, and to recognize that children and young adults are still learning organization and time management skills, we appear to have developed a culture where missing deadlines and time lines has no consequence and we are teaching students that this is OK.

A growing number of provinces are responding and changing course. In Ontario, teachers will now be able to deduct marks for late assignments. And in Nova Scotia, students who miss 20% of classes will automatically be required to retake the course.

In Victoria, the drive to allow every student to hand in everything late seems to have been driven by the relentless push from the school Board to "improve graduation rates" - on paper, at least. Students don't fail, they are perpetually incomplete. Yet rather than design truly self-paced learning environments, many secondary schools have adopted the practice of simply allowing students to just scrape by redoing tests, attending "course completion" in the last few days of class and cramming in just enough marks at the last minute to get a pass. This is a disservice to the student who really needs to learn to attend and study. And it is a disservice to their learning when we accept that scraping by with fifty percent means they have learned the curriculum and are ready to move on.

See news coverage of this issue at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario/do-over-generation-set-to-meet-deadline-shock/article1688385/

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