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August 01, 2012


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Honestly, I had never thought to announce a self-imposed deadline for returning assignments. It sounds like a good idea to me.

There might be a benefit in addition to the ones you mention. I have found that students (particularly 1st year students) often have unrealistic expectations about when essay exams can be returned. If you announce that the mid-term essay exams will be returned in 2 1/2 weeks, then the students will presumably spend less time wondering if today will be the day that they get their exam back.

Paul McGreal

Great point Anon. I have found that announcing a deadline for returning assignments sets student expectations, which reduces hand-wringing over when an assignment will be returned.

Gregory Duhl


I agree with you. I give students deadlines for when I will return quizzes and written assignments. I also let them know by when I will submit final grades to the Registrar. It discplines me. Students also note on course evaluations that they are more motivated to meet my expectations when I set high expectations for myself.

Anon is right too. I have never had a student ask me when he or she will get an assignment returned. I usually finish them early, and the students are pleasantly surprised.


Matthew Bruckner

In practice, we often set benchmarks for delivering work product. It was expected that I would either hit our agreed-upon deadline or give advance warning that the deadline was no longer achievable (because, for example, another partner had tasked me with a more urgent assignment). Has anyone played around with similarly flexible deadline setting for student work? Or is the assumption that students have no urgent assignments like they do in practice and that any missed deadlines are simply a result of poor planning?


While it certainly makes sense to return student assignments in a timely fashion (and many law professors take an unconsionably long time to grade exams), deadlines for students serve very different purposes. One is sheer equity, which is one reason Professors should be reluctant to extend deadlines on a whim. But another reason is because the practice of law is deadline driven, and students who are unable to meet deadlines are likely to have trouble in legal practice.

Miriam Cherry

I try to get written assignments (like essays in a seminar class) back very quickly - like the next class meeting or the the next week. Students are usually pleasantly surprised. This unfortunately is not the case with exams - when you have 80+ it's very hard - so I use all the time that I have and turn them in on the deadline provided by the administration.

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