Assessment: Late Work

In my final assessment class, I watched a video by Rick Wormeli that built off of the ideas I considered in the article,“The Problem with Penalties,” by Myron Dueck. After considering Wormeli’s video on late work and Dueck’s problem with penalties, has got me insisting that we teach constructively and not punitively. This is obvious though. I’ve learned to teach through constructivism. I want my students to construct their own knowledge. I also want my students to be inwardly motivated when it comes to completing assignments that demonstrate what they learned. It has to be a constructive process. Punishment shuts students out and does not teach or motivate them to do their work on time.

Wormeli gives a number of reasons why late marks and zeros (punishment) for late work doesn’t help improve students accountability or success. He asks, would I hold someone who is just coming to learn, and may still be struggling, to the same accountability as someone who is proficient at the work? No.

How could we? A really important part of my teaching philosophy is based on creating a positive and open learning environment. My students have to know it’s okay to fail at something. My students need to know that they don’t have to make them self sick with worry that they aren’t ready to hand their work in or write a test. There does need to be deadlines, but I need to be flexible, understanding, and forgiving. My students’ learning matters first.

Additionally, Wormeli says, most students from kindergarten to grade ten (and sometimes older) have little choice over their daily schedule. Practices, class times, assignment dates, at-home responsibilities are all dictated to them. He describes school scheduling as a factory type model. He then says, adult deadlines require adult capabilities and time management skills. To force such deadlines when they students can’t act on it, is an abusive method according to Wormeli.

I think there needs to be open space to ask students if deadlines are reasonable, if they are being drowned under other tests and assignments, and room for negotiation as issues arise. Students should be able to come to me and know that if they need more time that’s okay.

Moreover, Wormeli claims that the traditional school system conspires against students that don’t get things right away. And, in trying to get through the curriculum, we tell students ‘too bad you didn’t get it the first time it was taught, we’re moving on’. He says, it’s “no way to teach humans.” Again, their learning matters more. If it takes differentiation, and it will, we must commit to providing students with opportunities to learn. In this way, he says that summative assessment is not necessary in good pedagogy. We can always do better as we learn, a factory model doesn’t allow that.

Lastly, he argues that giving zeros doesn’t teach students. He says, getting students to complete the work does. Students needs to become responsible for their learning, and recover from not making the deadline. We can’t assign a zero and expect them to learn to do their work. Late marks and zero’s also do not prepare people for the larger world, he claims. As the real world, allows us to be late more often than not. It is not the end for us, we are allowed to make mistakes, and recover and complete our duties. Adult level maturity comes from making mistakes and learning from them not from feeling the sting of a zero grade.

I know that late marks and zero grades are fiercely debated, but I think we have to be more understanding. Things can quickly become about punishing others for not reaching expectations, but is that the best policy? What do we really want? Do we want our students to learn or be left behind? The purpose of education, in my eyes, is not to punish students when they don’t do as we command. Education should be a constructive process. I want every aspect of my teaching policies to support that.

Dueck, Myron. “The Problem with Penalties.” Educational Leadership March 2014: 44-49. Print.

“Rick Wormeli: On Late Work.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Nov. 2010. Web. 06 Mar. 2015. <;.


2 thoughts on “Assessment: Late Work

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I am largely free of homework in my grade 4-5 room. For some reason I continue sending home spelling words each week. I encourage daily reading at home, but I don’t monitor it. I ask parents to drill multiplication tables. Most days I message my families with Remind. They learn about the day’s activities and I offer conversation prompts about the day’s learning. It is appreciated. I take an interest, and encourage students with home projects. Sometimes they want to take things home, sometimes they want time to work on a home project at school. Learning happens everywhere, but outside of school, I like to give the students and parents the control.

  2. Paige,

    The most interesting part of Wormeli’s video to me was when in brought in the idea of how late marks relate to the real world. It is usually stated that late marks are important because they help to keep students accountable for handing in their work on time. Late marks are supposed to get students ready for the “real world”, where deadlines are supposed to be harshly enforced. However, Wormeli makes a good point when he brings up how lateness happens all the time in the real world. This is a statement I had never really though of before, and I think it makes sense.
    However, I did hear another opinion on the matter today. I know I am commenting a little late, but today was the first day of our three week pre-internship. While at the school I was able to hear about my school’s late policy. The policy is 10 percent in total, no matter how late the assignment is. It doesn’t matter if the assignment is 1 day late or 1 month late, 10 percent in taken off regardless. Though it is understood that late marks can be harmful, what value do late assignments have to students and teachers? If the point of assessment is to provide feedback to assess learning, what good is it to give a student feedback on something they did months ago? They have already blown by that assignment and gone into other things. As well, for the teacher, how can getting months old assignments help us to guide our teaching if we are assessing work that is no longer applicable? So, I am feeling more conflicted about late assignments than I was before. It is hurting my brain a little bit.

    Thanks for another great post Paige,

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