Create assignments that allow you to offer flexibility to students about when they turn things in.
Techniques and Activities to help you explore this practice.
Look over the major assignments in your course and consider the timing of when they are introduced, how long students have to work on them, and when you typically have them due. Can you give students the option of choosing their own deadlines for some/all assignments?
- Worried about work all being turned in at once and overwhelming you with grading? Require students to choose their dates ahead of time and space them out reasonably.
- Worried about students not doing a good job working continuously towards a project, when they have freedom over when to turn it in? Create small milestones/checkin assignments that they have to turn in between the start and final chosen deadline. Make these low-stakes and easy to grade (P/NP).
Grace Periods and "Passes"
Build in grace periods that students can exercise during certain times of the term or “passes” that allow them to turn in chosen assignments lates, without receiving a penalty.
Rather than designing a complete course schedule at the onset, use some time during the first week or so of class to have a conversation about the schedule. Talk to students about the major work you have planned and how long you think/expect it will take them. Invite them to weigh in on deadlines and scheduling. Create a schedule that reflects student concerns and suggestions. Discuss collectively how you can help students hold themselves accountable to the schedule.
Connections to Equity
Providing flexibility with deadlines is a way that we can cultivate more equitable classrooms. Students who work full or part time, have children and families to take care of, and who have documented or undocumented disabilities; and first-generation students who don’t necessarily know that asking for extensions is even an option, are disproportionately punished by inflexible deadlines. Finding ways to provide flexibility benefits all students, but especially those who live more complicated lives.
Take a stab at reworking your syllabus around the practice of flexible deadlines.
- Add a section called “Class Work” or “Projects” and include a brief description for each major assignment your students will be completing.
- Define a date range within which students submit each assignment.
- Add a section explaining how you plan to approach deadlines. How will students communicate their choices to you? Do they have to space deadlines out? What the the consequences if they miss their chosen deadline?
- If you include a course calendar in your syllabus, rework this to accommodate the more flexible deadline system.
Keep it simple, and just add a section about deadlines in which you specifically address ways in which you are willing to be more flexible with your students (grace periods, deadline “passes”, deadline windows, etc.)
Online reading and resources to help dive deeper into this practice.
- Strong Instructional Practice: Flexibility with Deadlines, Metropolitan State University of Denver.
- Rethinking Deadline and Late Penalty Policies…Again, Brenda Thomas, FacultyFocus.com
- It’s Time to Ditch Our Deadlines, Ellen Boucher, CHE.
A larger community of teachers and learners interested in this practice.
Discuss on Twitter
If you are active on Twitter, we encourage you to share your thought and ideas using the #ACEFramework hashtag and the #flexible hashtag to talk about this practice, in particular.
Join a Meeting
If you are interested in talking to people about the Adaptability value (for which Flexible Deadlines is an ACE-informed practice), we invite you to our hosted Zoom chats. Chats are scheduled this summer on the following dates:
- Thursday, June 18 from 1:00PM-2:00PM (EDT): Overview of the ACE Framework
- Thursday, June 25 from 1:00PM-2:00PM (EDT): Adaptability Practices
Submit Your Ideas
If you find yourself working this summer on a project or approach that uses Flexible Deadlines, we invite you to share what you’ve found or created, via the Submit Something button below. If you choose to publicly share your submission, it will immediately become available on this page in the Revisit section. (For particularly compelling submissions, we may also add this to the Explore section of this page.)
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A space for user-submitted ideas, resources, and links related to this practice.