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Teaching Excellence Program

Assignment Deadlines and Time Spent Grading

Date: 1:00pm - 1:45pm PST February 19 Location: J.R. Howard Hall 302

J.R. Howard Hall 302

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, How One Professor Learned to Stop Worrying and Drop the Deadline, created a lot of buzz. Would life be easier for both students and faculty if we let go of assignment deadlines? This would mean less grading during the semester in exchange for an end-of-semester crunch. Oberlin College’s Professor Emeritus Steve Volk, in Actually, Deadlines DO Matter, describes a strategy he tried (once): Students could turn in late work without a reduction in their grade, but late papers wouldn’t receive written comments. This undoubtedly reduced time spent grading, but it wasn’t worth the cost. Volk describes that the students most likely to benefit from feedback were the least likely to receive it.


Psychological research on Procrastination, Deadlines, and Performance suggests that performance is best when deadlines are spread out evenly over time, and that self-imposed deadlines are often spaced suboptimally. So what’s the take-home message? It’s better for students if we space assignments out for them and give feedback along the way, but worse for us because we face a never-ending pile of grading! Fortunately, Professor Kevin Gannon, (director of Grand View University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning) has advice about How to Escape Grading Jail: use pre-semester calendaring, well-done rubrics, and speech-to-text (or audio) commenting. We will discuss these suggestions and other ideas at next week’s TEP lunch. We hope you can join us! 


Here are some questions to consider:
  • How do you approach the process of setting assignment deadlines in your courses? 
  • To what extent do you take into account your whole schedule when setting students’ assignment deadlines? 
  • How do you handle requests for extensions from your students?
  • How do you manage your grading workflow as assignments start to come in?
  • What have you tried in order to reduce the time you spend grading? What strategies, if any, have you found to be most effective?


All TEP Pedagogy Lunches last about an hour and meet in the conference room in JR Howard Hall 302 (unless stated otherwise). You are welcome to bring your own lunch. Coffee, tea, and cookies are provided.  Although an RSVP is not required, a rough headcount would be helpful. If you plan to attend the TEP lunch, please RSVP below or email

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