I am a graduate student and I'm T.A. of a graduate course. The professor asked us to give some assignments to the students. I have done so and a homework assignment, which contains an optional part for gaining extra marks, I designed.

Moreover, I have set a policy for late assignment being as follows:

  • One day: Losing 25%
  • Two days: Losing 50%
  • Three days: Losing 75%
  • Further outlasting ones: 100%

My intention was turning in both mandatory and optional parts together in one single written document. However a couple of students turned in that mandatory part by its due date, and optional parts after the due date.

Now, I am in a dilemma whether should I penalize their assignment or not. Also how about that optional part? Should I award extra marks or not?

  • 27
    I don't understand why you don't just follow your stated policy? Grade the mandatory part normally, grade the optional part with the lateness penalty?
    – ff524
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 8:23
  • 2
    A good tip is to always state very strict rules. It is easier to "bend" rules then for students who might have some personal reason why they are late, such as illness or so. Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 17:13
  • Yeah, penalize their entire assignment to show them who's boss, maybe even give them a 0 for both parts. They will be in awe of your toughness.
    – john smith
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 23:05

2 Answers 2


Follow your stated policy, and follow it to the letter.

An important aspect of teaching, particularly with regards to assessment policies is that you have to be consistent in how you assign your grades. A main reason for this is that if questioned, you can draw upon the stated policy (especially if this was made clear to the students prior to the assessment).

In the case you described, as @ff524 stated in the comment, grade the mandatory part as normal, and apply the lateness penalty to the optional part of the assessment.


Mandatory part mark + (Optional part mark - lateness penalty applied to the optional part only) = Overall mark

(Note in the equation above, the equation in the parentheses has a minimum value of zero)

  • I don't know the precise mechanics of grading here, but isn't this likely to penalise for turning in the optional part (unless there is more than 25 points' worth of bonus, at the very least)? Or maybe this answer ties in with the comment above from 'john smith'? Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 7:47
  • @Vandermonde No, the parentheses around the optional part means that the penalty will only apply to the optional part - I do see your point though in the way it was written, it should state that the minimum the value in the parentheses goes to is zero - I have edited that in (thank you for pointing that out to me!)
    – user41783
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 7:52

My response to your question would be: Why are you making these decisions and not the instructor? Even if the instructor may have delegated the task of setting the policy, he/she should at the very least vet such decisions. I would expect this discussion to take place between the two of you (plus any other TAs on the team).

  • Thank you for your answer. However, we cannot consult the professor about this issue. Because he is too busy to respond.
    – frogatto
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 18:35
  • 4
    @HiI'mfrogatto That is very disturbing. One of the main reasons for requiring TA work as part of a graduate program is to have the students learn the business of running a course from someone who already knows how to do it. Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 19:21
  • boy, i'd hate to be a TA at frogatto's school. is your professor too busy to teach and manage his class? Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 1:44
  • @robertbristow-johnson Agree with you. I'd also hate! But we're required to be. That's mandatory.
    – frogatto
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 13:18

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