Posts Tagged ‘Course Requirements’

When starting out as a teacher I was often told that a syllabus is a sort of contract. (This doesn’t make a syllabus sound very exciting, but we can’t all be David Foster Wallace.) As I’ve prepared for classes over the years I’ve always kept this in mind. Although my syllabus notes that the class schedule is tentative, it also notes that exam dates will not change. In line with this I’ve also never added, removed, or changed the deadline for assignments once a class has started. After an advisee’s recent experience, I’ve learned that not all faculty members follow this approach.

The student in question was in a course where the professor first pushed back and then cancelled a paper, with the cancellation occurring after the original deadline. For many students, this was not be a problem since they had not started the paper yet anyway. For students with busier schedules (and/or students who like to get things done ahead of time), however, this cancellation meant that the work they had put into the paper up to that point was wasted. The cancellation also had ramifications for students’ grades. Those who were doing well in the course may not have minded, but others who were struggling may have seen the cancelled paper as a chance to improve their grade. Instead, the relative value of their previous work was increased.

In my experience, some students are very vocal about their desire that course requirements be delayed or cancelled altogether, but this situation highlights the often unforeseen and unintended consequences of doing something that seems, on the surface, like it will merely reduce the workload for all involved.

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