The point is to learn, not to penalise

The purpose of this post is for teachers to reflect on how they manage deadlines, apply grades and give (or not) students the opportunity to resubmit work.

The Australian Curriculum is a standards based curriculum requiring us to assess against an Achievement Standard for each curriculum area/year level. Our learning tasks should link directly to aspects of these standards and by the end of the year (or two years for banded subjects) have given students the opportunity to show mastery of the standard. To achieve a satisfactory grade students must demonstrate “on balance” that they have achieved enough of the standard to pass, that is, achieve a C grade or higher. Through evidence supplied by the student the teacher uses their professional judgement to determine if the student passes the standard or not.

Now consider the following questions:

1. If a student does not submit a learning task (at all) do you give an E grade/0%?

2. If a student hands a task up late do you reduce the grade the student can get, for example lose 10% for everyday the task is late? 

This is not an uncommon practice particularly at a secondary level. Teachers are busy people so we set deadlines and apply penalties to encourage students to meet those deadlines so that we can assess the learning – it helps us manage our workload and day to day programming. It could also be argued that we use deadlines to teach students discipline and that in the real world they also have to meet deadlines. But consider the following:

  • If you apply and E grade (0%) for the student who does not hand up their work why do you do this? Do you apply any other grades for work unseen? For example would you give a B grade to a piece of work you had never seen? If not why would you give an E? According to the DECD A-E guide for reporting an E means:
    • Your child is demonstrating minimal achievement of what is expected at this year level – beginning capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in a familiar context, beginning understanding of concepts and key ideas, initial development of skills, limited knowledge of content.

If this is what an E means then how can this grade be applied without seeing the students learning? An E or 0% will affect a students grade average which is unfair if the E is based on no actual evidence. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to record an NA against the part of the standard being assessed and wait until the student provides some evidence before assigning an A-E grade?

  • If you apply a penalty of 10% for every day a task is late is this an accurate assessment of the students knowledge and understanding? In this scenario the student may have achieved a B grade against the standard but ends up with a C grade due to late submission. Does this grade reflect the students ability or their behaviour?

Should a students assessment and reporting include late penalties or penalties for not handing in work at all? Are we accurately assessing and reporting against the standard if we also assess student behaviours alongside their knowledge and understanding? If students have issues with behaviours including organisation, meeting deadlines, work habits, attitudes and participation can’t these be covered in the section of the report that caters for these?

If a student submits no learning and continually gets NAs instead of an A-E grade then shouldn’t their final report also reflect an NA rather than an E grade?

3. Do you allow students to submit tasks that missed the deadline?

4. Do you allow students to resubmit tasks to improve their grade after the deadline has passed?

By not allowing students the chance to resubmit tasks are we discouraging learning? Does it matter how many attempts a student has to be successful in their learning? If the student wants to continue to learn and improve does the deadline stop this from happening?

We could argue that students will ‘game’ this system of re-takes and resubmissions. Knowing they have second chances allows some students to apply minimal effort during the first attempt and penalises those students who do apply effort the first time around. I would argue the penalty is applied to the student who is resubmitting. Trying to re-do a task in the their own time and keep up with the next topic/task is not easy and would require considerable motivation. The student who put in the effort initially will find managing their work load much easier.

How do I address deadlines and re-takes/resubmissions in my classroom?

Over the past year I have actively encouraged my students to resubmit work if they are unhappy with their grade or if they miss a deadline to persist and still submit the task. The following outlines what I do:

  • I have deadlines. I have consequences for not meeting those deadlines. The consequence for missing a deadline is that I require students to come in at lunch time to complete tasks. This means that when the task is finally submitted it is assessed against the standard without further penalty.
  • I tell students that if they want to resubmit a task to improve their grade they can do so at anytime before their final end of year report. If students wish to use their own time to demonstrate improvement in their learning it is my job to encourage and support this behaviour.

As mentioned above students who regularly miss deadlines have to complete their learning at lunchtime. I am still not as consistent as I need to be with this as other things get in the way. Lunchtime sports, yard duties, wanting to have your lunch in peace and quiet etc are all things that get in the way of this process. I apply it as best I can.

I don’t give an E grade to a student who fails to submit a piece of work I write NA in my marks book. If a student does not submit any evidence I cannot accurately gauge their level of knowledge and understanding to apply any grade. If students in my class continue to get NAs for tasks then their final report will also reflect an NA. This means that there was not enough evidence to assess the student and apply an A-E grade against the standard. It also means that the student did not meet the Achievement Standard for that subject/year level.

Resubmission is open to everyone, not just those who get Ds and Es. If a student gets a B+ or an A then they can also resubmit to improve their grade.

Do many students take up the chance to resubmit tasks? No. I don’t see this as a reason to change my practice though. During 2017 I had a few students take up the offer of resubmitting tasks because it would impact on their final grade. They demonstrated a motivation to improve and used their own time to re-do their work. This is a practice I want to encourage.

Teachers might say they have always been willing to accept a resubmitted piece of work but how many actively promote and encourage this idea with students? Do your students know this is an option?

How re-dos, retakes, resubmissions (whatever you want to call them) and deadlines work in one teachers class is not going to be the same as what works in another teachers classroom. The subject specific curriculum, the teachers workload, the teachers personal beliefs and school policies among other things will impact on what a teacher can or wants to do in relation to these issues.


Professional reading from Facebook and Twitter Part 13

Reading number 1

Source: You Tube

You Tube Video: How you can be good at math, and other surprising facts about learning | Jo Boaler

Posted on Twitter by  @TurraNick

Reading number 2

Blog: Teacher Solutions

Blog post: To Mark or not to Mark, that is the question

Posted on Facebook by  Karen Cornelius in the group Share Network for the Australian Curriculum, SA – SNAC SA

Reading number 3

Blog: Global Digital Citizen Foundation

Blog post: Giving Student Feedback: 7 Best Practices for Success

Posted on Facebook by  Brenton Wilson in the group TfEL Teachers’ Companion

Modelling goal setting to students

In her Year 1/2 class Ange works with her students to develop a learning goal each term. These are laminated and placed on the student desks and referenced regularly through the term.

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Ange helps the students to keep focussed on their goals by having students record each time they do something that helps them work towards achieving their goal.


She also hands out “Goal Striver of the Week” awards to help keep students attention on their goals and provide positive reinforcement.

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While Ange spends considerable time and effort working with her students to reach their goals she also shares her own goals with students. Ange discusses her goals with students and models the process of working towards a goal. It helps to show students that working towards a goal is hard and does not always go smoothly, even for adults.

What Ange is doing is an excellent example of how teachers can model the behaviours they expect from their students.

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Class Dojo Mindset Videos

In a nutshell Class Dojo is a classroom management system that allows teachers to monitor and acknowledge postive and negative behaviours and share this with students and parents. If you would like to know more about Class Dojo then click here.

Class Dojo has produced a five video series on growth mindset using the characters from the classroom management system. The videos explain Growth Mindset and its application focusing on the brain, the magic of mistakes, the power of yet and the world of neurons.

POST UPDATE 27 January 2017 – The complete set of these videos are no longer available on You Tube. They are available on the Class Dojo Big Ideas website.

A secret about the brain

The magic of mistakes

The power of yet

The world of neurons

Mojo puts it all together

Growth Mindset and the Power of Yet

Growth mindset is not new but is increasingly quoted and held up as good practice as part of teacher training and development and with good reason. However making it actually work or embedding it into the way we teach and therfore how students think is not something that is easily done. While posters and videos may inform us and our students of how growth mindset works it is how we use the concept in our daily lessons (reflected through our attitudes) that will change our students thinking.

Read how Carol Dweck says “We’ve totally missed the point” on Growth Mindset (how it can be misused).

The Power of Yet – Carol Dweck

Sesame Street: Janelle Monae – Power of Yet

How do our brains get stronger?


Carol Dweck – The power of yet

In the video below Carol Dweck talks about a school she visited which instead of using a failing grade used the words “not yet”. As Carol discusses this simple wording sends a whole different message to students. Carol also talks about getting students to view “difficulty” and “effort” as the way to learn and improve and not as things that should make them feel like giving up or an indication they are dumb.

Are our classrooms places that encourage and teach a growth mindset, to view difficulty and effort as important keys to learning? NO I mean really, do we teach it!


Do we enter our classrooms expecting very little from some and a lot from others? We have all heard teachers make comments like, “I could write their reports now, their results won’t change much, I could have predicted it from the start of the year!” As easy as this and similar comments are to make they all contribute to the perception that some students in our classes will never amount to anything more than they already are. We don’t want to encourage a fixed mindset in our ourselves or our students.

Students soon pick up on our perceptions of them. If we have an attitude that they will never improve or don’t have the ability to do so then they will soon take on this attitude as well. As hard as it may be at times we need to teach students the value of effort and persistence with learning they find difficult.

Click here to find out the difference between fixed and growth mindsets.

Growth Mindset Poster

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I came across a version of this poster via @gregwhitby on Twitter (see below). The poster is a great reflection tool for the classroom allowing teachers to get students to self reflect about their growth mindset.

The poster above is one I put together (copying the original) with the thought that maybe it could be a useful resource for teachers. It provides a visual that allows us to challenge our students and ask the question, “which step have you reached?”

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Carol Dweck – Fixed or Growth Mindset

“Praise for high ability is a common response to a job well done.Whether its on the sports field or in the classroom, nothing seems more natural than to commemorate individuals achievements by applauding their abilities in some way.” ‘Praise for inteligence can undermine children’s performance and motivation’, Claudia M. Mueller and Carol S. Dweck.

Carol Dweck’s research is well known and her findings have been used the world over with teachers when talking about how we praise our students. How do our actions impact on how our students see themselves? Do we encourage a fixed or growth mindset?

In a very simplified form Dweck’s research suggests that praising for intelligence and ability encourages a fixed mindset while praising for effort encourages a growth mindset. So knowing this how do we praise the students in our classes? If someone observed our classes over time what conclusion would they draw about how we offer praise?