December 16, 2019

​​Whenever I'm working with groups of people, I can always count on some ​of them being late. Life shows up, no matter how committed we are or how much we're interested in the task at hand. 

The same is true with students, which is why late policies are such an important part of any course design.

​When I ​first started teaching, I was very strict with my policies. Over the years, I've loosened ​them significantly into versions that I feel are kinder and more closely aligned with my teaching philosophy. 

I know that most students ​learn better when they're trusted, when they have the time and space to do work that matters to them, and when they feel heard and seen. I wanted my policies to reflect this.

I ​don't want to be in a position of judging the significance or worthiness of various reasons for lateness. 

I don't believe that turning in an assignment for a class exactly on time OR ELSE is a reasonable preparation for the "real world."

I came to understand that some students can't or won't ask for extensions or give excuses, while others will. This is largely cultural.

It's important to have policies that are big enough to hold all of this.

How do we know if our policies are big enough? My test is whether I need to make exceptions. If I find myself in the position of saying, "Oh, well, because you [fell off a ladder and got a concussion/were in a car accident/were kicked out of your apartment and living on the street] then I'll waive the [penalty/deadline/etc.]" then my policy isn't working. I go bigger, better, more generous.

​Since creating more humane policies, I've observed that students almost never need extensions. They get their work in, and I can spend my time focusing on the quality of their work rather than dealing with timeliness issues or determining whose reasons qualify for extensions. 

What are my late policies?

They vary depending on the course, but generally: 

1. Options - Almost every class I teach offers some "skip" weeks or multiple dropped assignments. This indirectly relates to my late policies, because if they have a hard week for whatever reason, they can choose to skip the week rather than turn in late work and then play catch up for the following week. 

2. Grace Periods - I accept late work with no penalty for almost all assignments for a defined period of time. Usually 1 week. No questions asked, just turn it in by the following week and we'll grade it as usual. (For assignments involving other students like peer reviewed projects, deadlines are firm.) Extensions longer than 1 week require a meeting with me, so I can help with a plan to move forward. I find that most students can easily bounce back from a 1 week lag, but the chances of moving forward successfully drop off after that unless we meet and create a plan. 

3. ​Reminders - I send out clear reminders when things are due, particularly if there is a firm deadline. Canvas automates this for me, and I find that it's very effective. Sometimes a little nudge is all people need to stay on track.

​​What do you think? Have a late policy that works well for you? I'd love to hear about it. Feel free to drop me a line using the form below!


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About Camille Freeman, DCN, RH (she/her)

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and nutritionist specializing in fertility and menstrual health. I run the Monday Mentoring community of practice and also offer continuing education programs for practicing herbalists and nutritionists (Check out this year's Deep Dive!). I'm also a former professor with the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I taught physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating for 17 years. 

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