Deadlines are Necessary, but Don’t Need To Be Rigid


Jonathan Buscher

Deadlines and due dates have disappeared over the past few years, especially with the challenge the COVID-19 brought to schools. However, it is time to start bringing back deadlines, at least in part, since the lack of them is causing a whole slew of problems.

High schoolers are known to procrastinate, we all do it at some point; but, contrary to popular belief, deadlines can actually help in that regard. According to a study by education company Magoosh, 86% of high school students “procrastinate on assignments,” with these numbers likely being even higher given the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the study however, a large reason that students procrastinate in the first place is not understanding the material, so removing due dates is unhelpful in addressing this issue, as making assignments due by the end of the semester allows students to get further and further behind, without comprehending the necessary information. The inclusion of due dates can help to spread out the neglected completion of assignments, as tasks must be completed throughout the semester, rather than ramping up stress to complete a great deal of work as the term comes to an end.

Due dates can also increase work quality, as the pressure to get something done on time prevents a rush to complete poor quality work at the last minute. This was modeled in an experiment by Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and Behavioral Economics, who designed an experiment regarding deadlines in one of his college classes. For one class, he provided strict essay due dates on the fourth, eighth, and twelfth weeks of the semester. Of the other two classes in the same course, he gave one no due dates whatsoever, and the other, he had each individual student choose their own due dates. Following the course, the data presented showed that the students of this first class had the best grades, where the second two classes had worse scores, although the group that set their own due dates had slightly better grades than those whose essays were due at the end of the semester. Thus, deadlines are helpful, as they can increase productivity and work quality, contrary to popular belief.

Additionally, the lack of rigid deadlines has been really wearing down on teachers. When many students turn in work late, without penalty, near the end of the semester, teachers are bombarded with a rush of assignments that they need to grade. While students can decide for themselves whether to procrastinate or not, the stress of having to cram grading shouldn’t be forced on instructors as well. With graders forced to sacrifice valuable things, such as sleep and family time, in order to complete the job, it is no surprise that 44% of teachers are “always/very often” feeling burnt out, according to a Gallup poll of over 1,200 educators. While part of this large percentage is due to the effects of COVID-19, teachers are also excessively overworked, and a lack of due dates only adds to this issue. In the Merrimack College Teachers Survey, teachers work for an average of 54 hours per week, or a little under eleven hours daily, not including weekends. This however, is just a normal week, without the pressure of having to grade a rush of late assignments at the end of the semester. Thus due dates are necessary in order to avoid teacher burnout, allowing them to spread their workload out more easily through the school year.

However, there are situations where students get behind and are unable to turn in work on time: life happens. Sometimes students are working, have to deal with family, or just can’t get an assignment done within a certain period of time. In cases such as this, teachers are often flexible, meaning that, even with due dates, talking with teachers can often result in the extension of a deadline. Using flex time to conference with teachers is a great way to deal with the pressure of due dates, and simply communicating can help to reduce stress involved with late assignments.

Overall, teachers realize that life happens, and can extend deadlines when need be on a case-by-case basis, but due dates still should exist, as they can help to reduce procrastination and educator burnout, while increasing productivity.