Last Friday, I went into class to collect a batch of papers from the survey class. I expected to get 26 papers (from an original enrollment of about 36). Most everyone was present, which was a good sign, even one student who contacted me to tell me he wasn't going to have his paper ready and wanted to know the standard penalty to know whether it was worth the extra time to get it up to snuff...
But while most of the students were there, a bunch of them didn't look so hot. Like they had been up all night. One student noted that he had spent Seven. Whole. Hours. writing this paper (He said this as if it were a really really long time to spend on one paper. Others didn't complain, but clearly didn't look like they were in great shape. I asked a few questions, and it seemed like several of them weren't really happy with the results. So I made a deal.
If they were happy with the paper and ready to turn it in today, they'd get it back by today with a full set of comments (anywhere from a half to a full page of typed, single spaced end-note, plus extensive margin comments). This is significantly faster than I usually turn around papers, but I figured I wouldn't be grading the whole set. If they wanted, though, they could have until Monday )today) to work on the paper, and the only thing they'd forfeit would be comments--no grade penalty. Lateness penalties began accruing today then.
So of the sixteen who turned it in on Friday, a few clamored for extra credit, and I told them that I couldn't give extra credit for doing the work expected of them--that I respect their ability to get the work done in a timely manner, and I would show that respect by treating their papers carefully and responding to them thoughtfully. They had the option everyone else had to take the extension if they wanted it. This seemed to appease them, but some still had a look about them as if they had just been robbed of something they didn't know they had. I don't know...maybe that was the case.
What I can say is that the average grade of the papers I collected Friday and returned today was a full letter grade higher than the class average for the last paper. Which should tell you
who was really prepared on Friday and who wasn't. Of the ten students who took the extension, six turned their papers in today, and two of those who hadn't still came to me today looking for direction on the paper, 'cause they were still stumped (uh, hello? what about the three weeks that you had the assignment?).
Anyway, I've glanced over the papers from today, and they actually seem like improved work from the students who had been performing, well, in a more lacklustre fashion earlier in the semester.
So did I give the slackers too much of a break? in the end, their work is better, and my reading load is easier. Did I short-change the student who were prepared? Was thoughtful and extensive commenting a sufficient "reward" for their being prepared? Am I gonna catch this on my evaluations this week?