Flexible deadlines and their effect on the turn in rate of assignments in a high school chemistry class
Walsh, Melony Leane
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The purpose of this classroom research project was to determine the effect of accepting late work on the turn in rate of assignments in Introductory Chemistry classes at a Title I high school (N=119). Four late work policies were implemented in succession, each for the duration of one academic unit (2 weeks each). The treatments were: No Late Work, Grace Period (work was accepted one day late for full credit), Extended (work was accepted up to one week late for full credit), and Penalty (work was accepted one day late with a 20% penalty). The workload was kept as consistent as possible from unit to unit. For each treatment, the proportion of work that was turned in was calculated and subjected to statistical analysis. The No Late Work treatment was used as a baseline for comparison, with 75.6% of the work having been turned in. Accepting work one day late for full credit led to a small increase in the amount of work turned in by students (80.9%). Data suggests that the group of students who was most strongly affected were students who needed extra time to get help on material they were struggling with. Accepting work up to a week late at full credit led to a sharp decrease in the amount of work turned completed (55.3%). It is believed that this was due primarily to academic procrastination on the part of students who simply ran out of time or forgot about the work. When a 20% penalty was applied to late work, the turn in rate was the same as it had been when late work was not accepted (74.0%). This policy did not lead to an increase in the amount of work turned in on time either, with the rate remaining the same as it had during the Grace Period treatment. In short, there does not appear to be any benefit to accepting late work in cases where a sizeable penalty is also applied. For teachers looking to maximize the amount of work turned in, application of a short grace period seems to be the best route.