Are due dates important or is it more important students have the time they need to learn? Yes, both are the answer. Students need to know that both hard and self-determined deadlines exist. Cramming for an exam and time-management are both skills that will serve students as they move out of school to college and career. Students should have experience with both so they can build the skills they need to succeed with either situation.
In my project-based senior science there are few firm due dates. Things tend to change as students make choices and progress during the project. At the end of the fall semester we had an interesting situation that involved both a flexible due date and a very firm due date. I think you could predict the student reaction to either.
Students had been working in groups to prepare proposals for solar charging stations for personal devices. They would present to the class and the class would choose the 2-3 they wanted most to build. Then students would revise the presentation from what we can do and what we want to do as a class to what would administration want or allow in the school.
They presented to their classmates and were amazing. We chose our favorites. Students were divided into new groups to deal with administrator-type questions such as safety, liability, city codes and maintenance. One day to do all of that. Students had created their own high-pressure situation. The night before the Shark Tank a student emailed me wondering where his group’s presentation was located. Sadly, all that existed was a cover page. A few texts and messages and student work started to appear. Collaboration was occurring via Google docs and I was witnessing on-line miracles. I was still worried about the tank, but starting to feel better.
Long story short, they were fabulous for the Shark Tank and impressed the toughest critics. They met the challenge, answered tough questions, took critiques with class and learned from their experience. I can tell you that both the flexible due date and firm due date were correct. The important piece was students understood why they were different. It was not just a case of inconsistency, but reality.