It’s Good to Know That Procrastination Is Alive and Well…

The final exam for my class this semester consists of 16 separate quizzes of five questions each (a quiz for each chapter that we covered) and one more quiz containing 20 questions on a hodgepodge of topics we covered that were not in the textbook. The students were given five minutes for each of the 16 quizzes and then 40 minutes for the final 20 question quiz. That made a for a total of two hours.

The entire exam was online, and I told the students I would make all the exams available beginning on Saturday, Dec 11 at 8:00 am (that was the start of the University’s final week) and they had until today (Friday, December 17) at 5:00 pm to complete all of them. I also let them know that they could take the exams in any order, and could take as many or as few quizzes each day as they wanted. They just had to be done by 5:00 today. They had 153 hours available to them, to use any which way they wanted.

I’ve been checking a few times each day to see how students are doing, and the last time I checked was today at 3:00, two hours before the deadline. 151 hours since the exams were first made available.

At that point, at least everyone had started. But what caught my eye was that there were 17 students who had not yet started the final 40-minute quiz.

Given that all these quizzes were multiple-choice, there should not be too much of a problem completing that final quiz within the 40-minute deadline

But why take the chance?

Now many of these students may have had other finals earlier in the week and had all this planned out at the start of finals week. Carefully planning out all their papers and finals to the very end to maximize their study time.

But some of them are likely just natural procrastinators. And looking back on my school days, it is likely that I would have been a part of this crowd as well.

Now I look at it from the perspective of a teacher, and I think “why don’t you just work on a handful of these each day, or just get it over with?”

I mention this to them on the final day of class, but I doubt if I am going to change anyone’s mind at that point.

Experience is usually the best teacher…

P.S. And in case some of you are concerned, don’t worry. Close to 60% of their grade during the semester was based on non-multiple-choice assessments…

*image from The Pitt News

67 thoughts on “It’s Good to Know That Procrastination Is Alive and Well…

  1. Because the pressure makes you perform better.

    Not really. Multiple choice always killed me. I wouldn’t be able to do it. I would have failed them all. But I always procrastinated on papers. Final papers, research papers, book reports, etc. I had to procrastinate for multiple choice tests – I didn’t have a choice. The only way for me to pass a MC test was to literally memorize exact wording from the text and notes. If I slept it would all vanish. So even though I worked on it all semester, I couldn’t recall exact wording for the life of me. So I’d have to pull an all nighter, guzzling coffee and memorizing every single word covered during the entire term just to get a B. If I did it any other way, I would fail. Because the “best” answer doesn’t actually exist.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Many people do not like MC tests, and teachers can include answers such as none of the above to make it even more challenging. But as long as the students find a way that works for them (like you did), that’s all I can ask for.

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      1. It didn’t work for me. Not really. It got me to pass. I worked 10x harder than anyone else I knew and got horrible grades unless it was essay. I was 23 before I found out it was not because I was stupid, but because of the way my mind makes connections. That’s honestly not an education, that’s torment, and most people do not have that same level of stubborn that I have. People who had to work a quarter as hard as I did and did way better dropped out because they truly believed they were too stupid. They weren’t. Some people process differently. Took me well more than half my life to find that out. Teachers who put in times long form answers were always Mt favorite classes. I could succeed without killing myself to do it all of the time. And there were a lot of others just like me. You don’t study less for an essay, you have to study more. You have to actually know material to pass, you can’t guess your way through and do well because you’re just a better guesser than someone else. Most of the time, no matter how much memorizing I did, it was due to some incomprehensible curve that I even passed. But thankfully, that’s behind me until I can suddenly afford to go torment myself for another level of degrees.

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      2. that’s why I try to give a variety of assessments – written, presentations, team, individual, computer-based, multiple choice.

        but you got through it, and it strengthened your work ethic…

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      3. Oh, they do.
        Especially if the professor gives some freedom with the assessments. I have had professors give a lot of leeway, simply because they understand students have different thinking/processing skills. In doing so, it allowed me, and others in the class that were like me, to create new ways of doing things to break up the monotony.

        Presentations were always my favorite. I would figure out what my topic was, and then I would create a presentation that wasn’t just another powerpoint. I would use powerpoint, but to create something different. I have created trivia games (and put the professor on a team – always made extra especially hard questions for them – typically an answer to a question that I really didn’t understand so that I could get the professor to answer it in a more simple and relaxed way so that I could better understand it); board games, etc. all sorts of different things to get everybody engaged rather than just sitting in their chairs listening to a different voice talk about the subject. Those were always a lot of fun.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thank you. I always enjoyed it. I’m one of the 12 people on earth who isn’t phased by public speaking. So, I never froze up and just read from a prewritten paper and clicked a few buttons to change slides. I enjoy doing out-of-the-box things, and if I can get everyone else to play along, I might as well. I always thought they could have gone better, but in those, my grades always reflected that the teacher thought it went far and away above what they expected

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      5. Thank you. I never really think of them as a set of skills, good or bad. They kind of just are. But thinking about it, since it is so rare that people can get over their terror of public speaking, it is a skill. As is having the ability to create something specific for a class to entertain the students and professor just because I can.

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  2. Oh that bad word, “procrastination!” LOL!
    I only procrastinate if its something I really don’t want to do!
    But my Mom did try to teach me that the more unpleasant the task the easier it is to just get it out of the way and over with. Makes me think of my kids when they were young and had chores to do, they would literally spend so much more time complaining about doing them and procrastinating in doing them then it actually took to do the chore!
    and I think adults do that too, just in a little different way. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh I was the annoying student who would start everything right away. If assigned a project, I went to the library ASAP to make sure I had all the information I needed. I never left things to the last minute. I was usually finished days in advance. I didn’t/still don’t work well under pressure and was afraid I would get sick because I was also working to put myself through school. My son on the other hand… literally drove me nuts because he was/still is the opposite.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Maybe those students possess precognition, and knew they would finish on time. Seems to me like those who can foretell the future are the ones most likely to procrastinate, because they know they can get away with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think the key is in the task. Do we want to do it or not? For example, I’ve always liked mowing the lawn. When we had a small piece of property to maintain, I liked the feeling of accomplishment in making something look neat. After we got a much bigger lawn, we got a riding lawn mower which I enjoy cruising around on. Now when my wife suggests washing the windows together, I procrastinate.

    Interestingly, some people will look at a task they may not want to do and finish it as quickly as possible just to be done with it, while others wait until the last minute.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember when my dad got a riding lawn mower; I used to look forward to cutting the grass. I’m now back to a push mower, but like you, I don’t mind doing it.

      it’s funny how different people respond to an unpleasant task. With me, there seems to be no rhyme or reason. Sometimes I’ll want to get it out of the way quickly, other times I’ll wait until the very end…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I tended to do papers close to the time they were due. for some reason with writing these projects I seemed to do better with a hard deadline close at hand. we all use whatever method works for us, and I know the do a bit each day is a better approach logically, not everyone can wrap their head or action around that. good luck to all!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am not one to procrastinate usually (see Pete’s comment about tasks). But I operate under the “Band-Aid” methodology. The quicker I get it done, the less painful it is. That being said, as soon as the task is completed by the deadline, when you started becomes a moot point.

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  8. I can’t tell what age your students are Jim and I can only relate my own experience. At school up to 16 years, my planning was non existent. Slowly it changed, 17-21 in an apprenticeship with night classes it improved a lot ….. I was employed, job depended on it. At university, 21-26 doing MSc and PhD my planning and division of time ability grew exponentially. Looking back I’m not sure if it was an age thing or if it was related to my increasing “level” of education. At 40 I returned to university and took another degree part time on top of a big job and raising a family. Organisation was the only thing that got me through so much to do. Maybe “maturity” is the key, unless left brain dominance plays a greater part.
    I’ll shut up🙃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      these students are freshmen in college. I think I went through a similar evolution to you. I think it is a matter of finding what works best for each of us, which usually happens by trial and error.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I hope they all finished in time! They remind me of my first ever appraisal at work, when my boss asked if the job was too easy and I deliberately left things to the last minute to make it more of a challenge. The answer was ‘no,’ of course 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. they did. and my first job experience was similar. at my review I was told I didn’t seem as committed as the other new workers because I wasn’t staying overtime. I told them I was getting the same amount of work done as them, but without using overtime. I’m not sure if they were impressed or not. I left within a year of starting to go back to school…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Experience is the best teacher!! I could probably be categorized as a procrastinator as well.. I don’t know what it is lol it stresses me out so much but I can’t move myself to do it any earlier lol…

    Is there a way for them to cheat or chat with their classmates about the answers?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. good old experience!

      there is the possibility of them cheating, but they are on an honor code. plus. the students may not get the same questions (they are selected randomly from a test bank), and even if they get the same question, it could appear in aifferent order with the answers scrambled. But it is quite hard to completely prevent cheating…

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Jim, I would have done all the questions long before the deadline and so would Gregory. Michael would be one of the people who hadn’t started the 40 minute quiz and probably so would Terence [but don’t tell him]. Merry Christmas, Jim, and I’ll see you again next year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it’s funny how different brothers can be. but I guess as long as they both get it done on time, and at a high level of quality, then that would seem to be the most important thing…

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      1. It took me a while to understand how it works for myself. It’s not because I don’t want to do it and finish early. It’s just my brain is not focused enough. When I set periodic timeline for some projects, the timeline can put self-imposed stress to complete them also.

        Liked by 2 people

  12. Sigh, I can relate to the students. I still don’t allow enough time to do all I need to do. Hubby tells me I don’t prioritize, and he’s right. Somehow I justify my passion and spontaneity as an answer.

    On a side note, school ended at 5:00 on the 23rd, so after a few days of R&R and Christmas, I am finally catching up on reading your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thnk as long as it all gets done, and it doesn’t create too much stress, then whatever works for you is fine.

      and thanks for reading my posts, but please don’t feel a need to catch up with all of them! I don’t want to ruin your holidays!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are NOT ruining my holidays. Actually, reading your posts makes my holidays. As to procrastination, guess what today’s job is? Christmas cards! As you say, as long as it gets done… My school work always gets done, which is why much else is often on the back burner for a while. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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