Flexible Late Policy Reduces Stress for Students and Faculty  

Guest Post by Dr. Samantha Dressel, Department of English 

In my classes, I have a no-questions-asked extension policy open to all students. Students may request a 1-day, 3-day, or 5-day extension before the deadline of any assignment but can only use each of these extensions once. This has been a wonderful policy for me, and I believe it helps both the students and the professor. On the student end, it eases stress because they have extensions to fall back on if needed, and students repeatedly note this on their end of semester evaluations. From a pedagogical standpoint, it is also valuable because it forces students to take responsibility: they are given the benefit of the doubt as long as they take the initiative before a deadline, but they have to actually take that initiative. Having three lengths to choose from also helps students prioritize class work and think about the costs and benefits of using an extension. From the professor’s standpoint, I also find it really reduces stress. Now, I don’t have to weigh whether a student situation is serious enough to merit an extension, and I don’t have to ask for the personal details I would have needed to do that weighing – all I need is a spreadsheet where I can track who has used which extensions. In short, this policy is kind and equitable to students while teaching them personal responsibility, and it eases the cognitive overhead for professors. 

Sticky Notes, or Notes that Stick?  

Many students, especially those in their first year of college, may not have a good sense of what note-taking in class looks like. Some may try to write down every word their instructors say, while others may not take notes at all; neither method is beneficial for learning. In the book Learning that Matters (2020), the authors suggest a strategy they call “POESIS” to help students learn more effectively. The POESIS strategy includes six tasks or steps that can be used for more deliberate note-taking, including pre-questions, writing down key ideas, elaborating on those ideas, performing self-quizzes, interleaving, and spacing. Students often need guidance in practicing learning strategies, such as note-taking, to be more successful. We recommend trying the POESIS method and sharing this guide with students to get them started. 

Reducing Stress and Fostering Inclusion on Exam Day 

On the day of any exam, students come to class fraught with emotions. How can an instructor create a friendly environment for all learners and show each student that they care about their mental well-being? Authors of the book Inclusive Teaching Strategies for Promoting Equity in the College Classroom (2022) suggest that the instructor can make the students feel comfortable by having them each share words of encouragement right before the exam, which can be done using an anonymous polling tool such as Poll Everywhere. Students could also compile a playlist of motivational songs prior to the exam, and the instructor could play a few of the songs at the start of the assessment. Another suggestion is to have students complete a short expressive writing intervention shortly before the exam (Ramirez & Beilock, 2011). For this intervention, students write about their worries about an upcoming exam. Results from this study showed that this expressive writing activity removed the connection seen between test anxiety and poor test performance. We hope that by trying one or more of these strategies, your students will have a better experience taking exams. 


Interested in exploring any of these ideas further or discussing how you might implement them in your own teaching practices? Is there a tip you’ve tried that you would like to share with colleagues? Contact CETL or schedule a consultation to continue the conversation.