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Should We Extend Deadlines? | Models & Color Codes | TAPP 112

by Kevin Patton

Should We Extend Deadlines? | Models & Color Codes

TAPP Radio Episode 112


Episode | Quick Take

In this episode, host Kevin Patton asks, how do we handle the trepidation we experience when we are flooded with uncertainty after an intense learning experience? Some thoughts about being upfront about using models, analogies, and color codes in science. And we explore that difficult question: should we extend deadlines for students when they ask?

  • 00:00 | Introduction
  • 00:43 | Trepidation After New Learning
  • 05:13 | Sponsored by AAA
  • 05:49 | Transparency About Models, Analogies, and Color Codes
  • 23:38 | Sponsored by HAPI
  • 24:36 | Leniency With Deadlines
  • 30:21 | Sponsored by HAPS
  • 31:00 | Is Leniency Fair?
  • 40:32 | Staying Connected


Episode | Listen Now

Episode | Show Notes

“The process of leniency involves accepting the reality of the current situation and finding a satisfying meaning therein, as opposed to misconstruing or denying the facts of the situation.” (Sandra L. Schneider)


Trepidation After New Learning

4 minutes

You know that feeling of trepidation we get after a conference, course, or other intense learning experience? Where we feel uncertainty about whether we’ll ever be able to retrieve it again and apply it. No worries. Let’s talk that through.

collage with captions: should we extend deadlines? Models, analogies, & color codes, How can we retain all that learning?


Sponsored by AAA

33 seconds

A searchable transcript for this episode, as well as the captioned audiogram of this episode, are sponsored by the American Association for Anatomy (AAA) at anatomy.org.

Searchable transcript

Captioned audiogram 

Don’t forget—HAPS members get a deep discount on AAA membership!

AAA logo


Transparency About Models, Analogies, and Color Codes

18 minutes

As experts in science, we are already comfortable using models, analogies, and color codes. But some of our students may not have that familiarity and comfort. Maybe transparency about these tools at the beginning of the A&P course can help students get traction in our course.


Sponsored by HAPI Online Graduate Program

54 seconds

The Master of Science in Human Anatomy & Physiology Instruction—the MS-HAPI—is a graduate program for A&P teachers, especially for those who already have a graduate/professional degree. A combination of science courses (enough to qualify you to teach at the college level) and courses in contemporary instructional practice, this program helps you be your best in both on-campus and remote teaching. Kevin Patton is a faculty member in this program at Northeast College of Health Sciences. Check it out!


Logo of Northeast College of Health Sciences, Human Anatomy & Physiology Instruction


Leniency With Deadlines

6.5 minutes

We usually have deadlines or specific dates for assignments, tests, exams, and projects. We can be strict with those deadlines or we can be lenient. Are there any advantages to be lenient with deadlines when we have them?


Sponsored by HAPS

36 seconds

The Human Anatomy & Physiology Society (HAPS) is a sponsor of this podcast.  You can help appreciate their support by clicking the link below and checking out the many resources and benefits found there. Watch for virtual town hall meetings and upcoming regional meetings!

Anatomy & Physiology Society


HAPS logo


Is Leniency Fair?

9.5 minutes

If we are lenient about deadlines with a student, is that fair to all the other students who may have struggled to be on time?

  • Why Deadlines Are Important (blog post that I link my students to; lists reasons why meeting deadlines has advantages for the student) AandP.info/why-deadlines-c16997
  • Respondus (software I use to build test banks; can generate multiple, randomized versions of the same test or exam with just a few keystrokes) AandP.info/6xe

Need help accessing resources locked behind a paywall?
Check out this advice from Episode 32 to get what you need!

Episode | Transcript

The A&P Professor podcast (TAPP radio) episodes are made for listening, not reading. This transcript is provided for your convenience, but hey, it’s just not possible to capture the emphasis and dramatic delivery of the audio version. Or the cool theme music.  Or laughs and snorts. And because it’s generated by a combo of machine and human transcription, it may not be exactly right. So I strongly recommend listening by clicking the audio player provided.

AAA logoThis searchable transcript is supported by the
American Association for Anatomy.
I'm a member—maybe you should be one, too!

PDF icon


Kevin Patton (00:00):
The psychologist, Sandra L. Schneider once wrote, “The process of leniency involves accepting the reality of the current situation and finding a satisfying meaning therein, as opposed to misconstruing or denying the facts of the situation.”

Aileen (00:22):
Welcome to The A&P Professor, a few minutes to focus on teaching human anatomy and physiology with a veteran educator and teaching mentor, your host, Kevin Patton.

Kevin Patton (00:35):
In this episode, I discuss the trepidation of new learning, transparency about science models, and I ask if we should extend deadlines for our students.

Trepidation After New Learning

Kevin Patton (00:53):
You know that feeling you get when you’ve just finished an intense learning experience and you feel like you’ll never retain all that new learning? Oh wow. Do I know that feeling. I get it after every single HAPS conference, even if it’s just one of those day long regional conferences or an hour-long town hall meeting.

Kevin Patton (01:16):
You might get that feeling, too, after participating in a AAA meeting, or you might that feeling after reading through an issue of Anatomical Sciences Education, the teaching journal from AAA. Or if you’re in the happy program, you might get that feeling after a course. Or I know for sure if you’re in the happy program and you’re in the process of graduating, yup, you’re going to have that feeling. I see it over and over again.

Kevin Patton (01:44):
Now, you may know that this trepidation and uncertainty about whether you’ll ever be able to recall and apply all that stuff that you just learned is well, a very common feeling when we’ve just gone through a rigorous period of learning…

Read the Full Transcript

We know that it’s, well, only natural. Really. We know that. Okay, maybe we need a little reminder that this is to be expected. A little bit of encouragement that all that time and effort will not be wasted.

Kevin Patton (02:22):
Well, here I am to remind you, and myself, another free service from The A&P Professor family of AP teaching resources. As we try to organize all the new learning in our brains after an intense learning experience, it seems to swirl around and the little bits are hard to retrieve easily when we first try. Of course, it’s even swirlier if we’re trying to scan our memories for all the new things we just learned. There are just too many of them for that to possibly work. And when it doesn’t work, we somehow think, “Oh, there’s nothing there. I’ll never get all those nuggets of wisdom and useful skills back again.”

Kevin Patton (03:10):
That’s okay. Really, that’s okay. It’s expected. Because we’re not really done with our learning at that a point. Yeah. We may get a certificate or badge or even a diploma, depending on what it is that we just did. So, yeah, we’re done in that sense, but we’ll spend the next decade or two pulling out those things that we’ve learned, unpacking them and trying them on, and realizing that we need to refresh our learning. That’s how it works.

Kevin Patton (03:47):
As we refresh our learning, it’ll come back to us and we’ll know what questions to ask and what kinds of help to seek as we do that because we’ve prepared ourselves for that in all of our prior learning. We really do know how it works and we’ve already gained the skills we need to make it work for us.

Kevin Patton (04:11):
Besides this necessary forgetting then recalling and refreshing all being part of the process, we don’t ever forget that we have friends and colleagues who’ve been part of that learning journey too, and are here to back us up. Our network of colleagues in HAPS and AAA on Twitter, The A&P Professor Community, Facebook, the listserv and elsewhere, well, they’re just an email, a call or a tweet away.

Kevin Patton (04:46):
Just this week, I’ve had a few contacts like that, and right along as others did the same. At the very least, I’m here for you, but also here for you are all those others that you’ve shared learning experiences with. And we’ll pull those memories back out together and help each other apply them.

Sponsored by AAA

Kevin Patton (05:13):
A searchable transcript, and yes, a captioned audiogram of this episode are funded by AAA, the American Association for Anatomy. Hey, if you’re on Twitter, you may know that many AAA members and the organization itself are very active on Twitter. Check out their feed using their handle @anatomyorg. And you can always get more information about AAA on the web at anatomy.org.

Transparency About Models, Analogies, and Color Codes

Kevin Patton (05:49):
Many of us talk about transparency in our teaching practice. That is being intentional about telling students why we’re giving this kind of test instead of that kind, what learning benefits there are to doing some active learning along with traditional lectures and that sort of thing, that kind of being transparent.

Kevin Patton (06:13):
At least we should be having those kinds of discussions, that kind of transparency. You know what? I’ve found it also helps to be transparent about our discipline too. I think we assume too much about what students know about how science and in particular, anatomy and physiology are communicated when those students will walk into our door or log into our course.

Kevin Patton (06:41):
For example, at the beginning of our course, I like to be transparent about the use of models in science. I think we just, well, I know for a long time, I just start presenting models. This kind of model for this concept and that model for that concept, like the sliding filament model, for example, or well earlier in the course than that, when we do a brief review of chemistry and we talk about these different models of atoms and molecules and enzymes and just all kinds of things and those aren’t real enzymes or real pictures of enzymes, no, they’re models and well cell, model cells.

Kevin Patton (07:27):
We look at that. Real cells don’t look anything like that. We’ve removed almost all the furniture so that they can just see a few pieces of the more common kinds of furniture that are inside of cell. It’s not even furniture, they’re little machines in a way really, or little organs.

Kevin Patton (07:45):
And I explain that models are used in both anatomy and physiology to help us imagine a thing in a certain way that helps us understand its nature, or well, most often just one or two things about its nature.

Kevin Patton (08:02):
So, for example, taking that model cell, there’s so much about a cell that we can’t tell from the typical model cell. And I usually use more than one model of a cell. I might use an actual physical model that I’ve pulled in from the lab. It’s made out a plastic or something, or maybe one the at a student in some past year has built out of clay or carved out of wood or made out of foam or whatever.

Kevin Patton (08:28):
And then of course, we have the model cell that’s in our textbook or on a slide or a chart or something like that or one that we’ve drawn on the board or one that we maybe have students draw out on their own. All of those things are models and all of them are incomplete. They’re all very incomplete. They’re just teaching us a handful of things if that about a cell.

Kevin Patton (08:53):
Or take physiological models. We often use draw a diagram on the board, a flow chart, a kind of an engineering diagram, an engineering flow chart. When we talk about homeostasis and talk about a variable and we talk about a disturbance of that variable, so we draw that in. And then we draw a sensor to detect changes in the variable. And then, we draw an integrator to compare the actual value to the set point value. So, we have to draw all that in.

Kevin Patton (09:23):
And there’s a variety of ways that all of us use that flow chart, the different styles of flow chart and so on. And you know what? None of them work completely. Well, none of them do. I mean, there are some best practices, I suppose, and there are probably things that work best for you and the way you tell this story for your students to help them understand what’s going on with homeostasis.

Kevin Patton (09:47):
But that is not a complete understanding of homeostasis. That’s why when I’m talking about homeostasis or the cell or many other things, I use more than one model. And I have a whole episode on three different models that I use in teaching homeostasis, for example. But there are other models that we might use for the sliding filament process in muscles. And I have an episode on a story I tell about that. So, in a way that’s kind of a model, but all of those models are incomplete.

Kevin Patton (10:20):
So, very early in my A&P course, what I do is I bring in, oh, I don’t know, a little model car or a little model airplane. For a long time, I had a little model airplane in my office that I would bring in. And I ask them, what is this? And they, “Oh, that’s an airplane.” And, “No, it’s not. It’s a model of an airplane.” The particular airplane model that I had would not fly. I mean, maybe some will, but that one didn’t. And it was actually a model of a passenger jet.

Kevin Patton (10:53):
And so, I said, “Look, if this were real airplane, it had working engines, it doesn’t.” Those little people you see inside, at least there was a flight crew in there that you could see their little heads. And that’s about all I had to them, were these little blobs red.

Kevin Patton (11:09):
And I said, “Those aren’t real people.” I mean, really. And if I opened this little door, which I was not able to do, if I open that little door and went inside, am I going to find those tiny little drinks that they serve on the airline? No, I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to find any passengers in there either. I’m not going to find any little seats that are way too narrow and they’re way too close together, so that even a short person like me can’t fit their knee in there comfortably. No, no, no.

Kevin Patton (11:35):
So, there’s some things about airplanes that you and I know right off the bat that I just listed that aren’t in that model. All this tells you is if you’ve never seen an airplane in your life, it gives you some idea that they have wings and what a wing is and what it looks like and where the engines would be if it had working engines and things like that. So, it’s only going to tell you some essential information. That’s what a model is.

Kevin Patton (12:00):
So, keep that in mind. When we look at models, we’re not getting the whole story. We’re just starting the story. We’re beginning our understanding of that. And we use that as a scientific method as well. Because when we don’t understand how something works in nature, we start building models and see how the evidence supports or doesn’t support that model, and we might keep refining that model or throw that model away and come up with a new model until eventually we have a much more complete understanding of how, whatever it is we were investigating, works.

Kevin Patton (12:34):
And so, very brief conversation right at the beginning. And I weave into that the idea of analogies. What is an analogy? It’s where things are similar to one another. So, when I tell that, I tell a love story, and I’ll have a link to this in the show notes in the episode page. But I tell the love story between actin and myosin when I talk about to the sliding filament process. Actually, I have a much bigger story that covers most of that excitation-contraction coupling that’s going on in the muscle cell. And that also includes the contraction and even the relaxation part of the story.

Kevin Patton (13:09):
And so, that’s an analogy. I mean, myosin and actin aren’t really in love. We’re just imagining that they have a consciousness and emotions and attractions and so on. So, it’s an analogy. And we use that a lot, not only in teaching, but we also use it in science as a way to communicate what we know so far about a particular concept or a particular hypothesis or theory.

Kevin Patton (13:35):
And the thing about analogies is there are some peoples whose brains find it very difficult to transfer what they’re learning in a story that is meant to be an analogy, transferring it to the actual theory or mechanism or whatever it is that we’re trying to describe.

Kevin Patton (13:56):
Now, for me, it’s easy. I think I’ve always thought in analogies. But I know a number of people and I’ve encountered a number of students where that is a very difficult thing, but there are ways to bridge that gap. And so, if students are having that trouble, I have them come to my office and we kind of talk through it a little bit and very often, that is enough to get them going where they can see what I’m doing with these analogies. But sometimes I refer to them to other resources where they can learn a little bit more about how analogies work.

Kevin Patton (14:30):
Another thing that I mentioned at this time in my course are color codes. Because we’re just so used to them, they’re kind of invisible to us. I mean, it’s like if you’re teaching somebody to drive and they don’t realize what the white stripes mean and how they’re different from the yellow stripes on the road and what a double yellow line means, as opposed to a single yellow line and some of the other colors that you might run into on the road. Now, hopefully, at some point, they read a manual or whatever and take a driving test where they learn some of those basics.

Kevin Patton (15:02):
But even in those driving tests, some of those really basic elements are left out because I guess they just assume everybody knows that and we knew that in our A&P course, at least that’s what I always did until I started using this strategy. And that is to say, “Look, there are color codes here. You probably know some of them already. You probably seen them before.”

Kevin Patton (15:25):
For example, put up a diagram, it’s a monochrome diagram of the human body and it’ll have some arteries and veins represented in red and blue respectively. And so, I’ll say arteries, or at least the systemic arteries are red and the systemic veins are blue. Oh, but look, these over here, look at the major vessels that are attached to the lungs. They’re kind of the opposite, aren’t they? So why is that? So, what is that really representing?

Kevin Patton (15:56):
In doing that, I mean, it’s taking something they kind of already know and have encountered before and we apply it and show them, well, maybe there’s more to it than they ever realized, or at least more than they’re remembering about the fact that it’s not about whether it’s an artery or vein, it’s more about where that blood is coming from and where it’s going and what the characteristics of that blood might be.

Kevin Patton (16:21):
So then we move on from there and say, well, really, are veins blue, are arteries red? Well, yes and no. I mean, those colors do come from somewhere. But when you look at an artery or a vein in the body, it’s not going to be that bright red or bright blue. It may not look red or blue at all. I mean, arteries are very thick walled.

Kevin Patton (16:43):
And so, depending on where you’re at, it may just look like any of the other little cylindrical-looking stringy things that are inside the body, at least in a living body. The veins might look more brown or dark purple or something. And they’re certainly not going to be that bright blue color. And so, we can talk about that.

Kevin Patton (17:05):
And then when we look at lymphoid structures, look at a lymphatic vessel, those are always bright green, right? No, they’re not. I mean, in a lot of diagrams and a lot of textbooks and charts and so on, and even like painted plastic models and so on, you’ll see lymphatic vessels that are green and they’re a fairly bright green, so they stand out so you can see where they are. It’s a teaching tool. It’s a communication tool. And lymphatics really aren’t that color.

Kevin Patton (17:34):
And why green? I don’t know. I mean, maybe there is some particular history behind that. I’m guessing it’s just that, well, we’re using blue ink for these vessels and red ink for those vessels. What are the colors we got in the ink cabinet over there? Oh, we got some green. Yeah. Most printers have green inks, so let’s make it green. And we’ll put that in our book. It’s a convention. It’s not a realistic color.

Kevin Patton (18:01):
And you know what’s especially confusing for some students? And I never thought of it this way, but I can see how it could be confusing for some naive students. And that is, you’ll have some illustrations particularly in textbooks, but even on charts and stuff, where it’s represented seemingly very realistically, and then you’ll have this green vessel going through. And so, you think, well, if everything else, the muscles are muscle color and the bones are bone color. And then I guess, these green things are really green in the body. And no, no, they’re not. That’s not the case. So, we need to kind of lay that out.

Kevin Patton (18:38):
A lot of times, nerves are yellow and biliary structures like gallbladder, bile ducts in that are green and they may be greenish in real life, but they’re not going to be that same lime green probably that we see in a book or on a chart.

Kevin Patton (18:54):
And sympathetic divisions, you’ll often see the sympathetic division in orange and parasympathetic in green, but boy, that’s not very standard at all. You see lots of different colors being used to represent those two divisions of the autonomic nervous system them. So, I could go on with a long list, but you know those colors that are used very often.

Kevin Patton (19:16):
So, we just I think need to lay that out to students and say, “Look, there are some colors that are commonly used. Some colors are not commonly used, but in a particular moment, an illustrator will choose a color that has good contrast with the other colors.” So, we can immediately pick it out. Why? Because we’re first learning it. We’re just trying to identify it. We’re trying to see what’s there.

Kevin Patton (19:38):
And even in physiology diagrams, we do that. We will represent different chemicals, chemical elements, or molecules or different things like that in different colors. We might use different colors to represent different processes, too. Like inputs and outputs or something like that, efferent and afferent pathways or directions. It’s something that we want to ask our students to pay attention to, but realize that they’re a method of communication and they are not the actual colors of those substances or structures or processes.

Kevin Patton (20:18):
Another thing that I want to point out is, well, just really reemphasize because I know I’ve already mentioned it, but it’s kind of a big deal. So, it’s worth mentioning again. And that is that these colors, sometimes there are stand and sometimes there aren’t. And we’re not necessarily going to know walking into the situation whether an illustrator is using standard colors or not. We may start to recognize them.

Kevin Patton (20:43):
And I don’t think it’s important for us as instructors, nor for our students to be able to necessarily do that. But to point out, they don’t always expect this kind of atom to be that color. Don’t always expect carbon to be represented as a black ball. It may not be. In another system, it may be a different color or maybe an illustrator just decides for the purposes of contrast so that this reader, the viewer will make an easier time of trying to interpret that illustration they’ll pick some other color, maybe a very dark purple or something, who knows. That’s something to keep in mind as well.

Kevin Patton (21:23):
And there are some standards. I’ll have some links in the show notes of the episode page of some chemical systems. Oh gosh, going back to the ’50s and ’60s, Linus Pauling and some others, some of them actually patented their system for coloring or using colors to represent different elements to build molecular models and so on. But there’s the Jmol and alternate version is JSmol software that’s online. It’s web-based software that you can go in. And they have their own standard colors for building 3D models of different molecules.

Kevin Patton (22:00):
And we have systems where we represent different amino acids and different colors because there’s all those amino acids we’re using to build a protein and sometimes, it’s handy to use a color code to distinguish them. Although some of the more popular color codes that are used by biochemists, actually, I don’t think have very good contrast among them.

Kevin Patton (22:24):
So, you can’t always hit a glance to tell one amino acid for another in a model when they’re using that particular system. How we don’t have to get that far into the weeds with our students. But me and the podcast, I always caught into the weeds. And I just did that, didn’t I? Sorry about that.

Kevin Patton (22:42):
We don’t need to do that with our students though. Just a brief introduction about the concept of what a modeling is, what an analogy is, what color codes are and how we use them. And we can do that very easily at the very beginning of our course, taking less time than it took to listen to this segment. And we can do all that without unraveling the rest of our course.

Kevin Patton (23:05):
And I think if we’re clear about these things, upfront that is from the start, a lot of students will have an easier time getting traction in our course. Sure, some students won’t need this kind of prep. Models and analogies and color codes are something they know about and they’re comfortable with. Maybe not many of our students need this prep, but even those who don’t need it, they’re still going to benefit from that conversation. At least that’s been my experience.

Sponsored by HAPI

Kevin Patton (23:38):
The free distribution of this podcast is sponsored by the Master of Science in Human Anatomy and Physiology Instruction, the HAPI degree. I’m on the faculty of this program at Northeast College of Health Sciences. And I’m excited about the upcoming graduation of our latest cohort.

Kevin Patton (24:00):
If you know someone interested in all the evidence-based teaching strategies and how to apply them to all the major topics in the anatomy and physiology course, well, now is the time to get information and enroll in time for the new fall cohort, which is forming now. Check out this online graduate program at northeastcollege.edu/hapi, that’s H-A-P-I or click the link in the show notes of our episode page.

Leniency With Deadlines

Kevin Patton (24:36):
How lenient are each of us when it comes to letting our students miss deadlines? I got to tell you, my attitude has evolved a bit over time. Actually, it’s evolved a lot over time. Early in my teaching career, which just hit the 40-year mark, I was pretty strict with deadlines. I still consider them important, but I no longer let them damage a student’s ability to succeed in my course. In fact, I rarely even think before I let a student slide on a deadline.

Kevin Patton (25:12):
What changed? My understanding of the human mind and heart, or more accurately, I got a deeper appreciation for the great variety of functional differences in thinking and feeling among my students, which I will never understand fully. They don’t all think like me or feel like me and they never will. I’ve got to pull free from my own perspectives and get myself out of the equation. What I mean by that is that knee jerk response I have where my inner voice says, “I’d never have done that as a student.” Yeah, maybe.

Kevin Patton (26:03):
Turns out, I was a much better student in my memory than I probably was in real life, but even so, that’s me. And my brain works unlike anyone else’s. We’re all at least a little bit unique in that way. My experience is that most students who ask for deadline extensions don’t do it often.

Kevin Patton (26:31):
So, it’s really no big deal to accommodate these requests. For those who do it habitually, I can try to talk with them and try to find strategies to help them meet their deadlines. But some have tough, tough struggles with that. Sometimes it’s their home life or work life, or it could be their health or they could have ADHD or be on the autism spectrum or who knows. It’s hardly ever that they’re lazy or don’t care. But I don’t know. Even those attitudes of laziness or uncaring have causes that we don’t always know about.

Kevin Patton (27:18):
I run into these situations when dealing with undergraduate students, graduate students, yes, even those training to be or already are professors themselves. And okay. I admit it. I’ve been known to miss deadlines and courses I’ve taken recently.

Kevin Patton (27:37):
The thing is, we’re all likely to have some combination of other jobs and families and major and minor life catastrophes, and we’re all living in stressful times. I kind of like when it happens when the learners are educators like me, so that we have a real-life experience of meeting a deadline extension or some other form of leniency. That helps with empathy when dealing with our own students. Well, at least that’s the effect it has in me.

Kevin Patton (28:13):
A number of years ago, I had a student ask for an extension very near the end of the course when it really is a super big hassle for me to accommodate them. My knee jerk reaction was to say, “No.” But fortunately I took a breath, maybe I took more than one breath and I told them, “Yeah, it’s okay. I’ll give you an extension.” And I gave them some choices about how we could work it out.

Kevin Patton (28:43):
What I didn’t know then, although they thought I knew, I just didn’t, was that their spouse had just died suddenly the day before. And this learner and their young kids was struggling with, well, struggling with everything. Luckily, I made the right call, especially when I added, “If there’s any way I can help you, let me know.” They didn’t end up asking for my help, but it did put me squarely “for” them rather than “against” them at a time when they really didn’t need any greater burdens.

Kevin Patton (29:29):
I’ve learned that a teacher being “for” a student is one of the single most helpful things we can do for the success of our students. I didn’t fully learn that until after my fumbling into it on occasion and then enough intervening years to let that play out with various students, and then have them come back and tell me how this or that episode of leniency really made a difference in their lives. How it made them see faculty differently as helpers and teammates rather than, oh, overzealous referees or harsh judges. Okay. Hold that thought. I’ll be right back with more on this topic after a short break.

Sponsored by HAPS

Kevin Patton (30:21):
Marketing support for this podcast is provided by HAPS, the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society, promoting excellence in the teaching of human anatomy and physiology for, gosh, over 30 years. If you’re looking for all kinds of opportunities for expanding your mind and expanding your heart and doing it all alongside other like-minded anatomy and physiology faculty, just go to theAPprofessor.org/haps, that’s H-A-P-S.

Is Leniency Fair?

Kevin Patton (31:00):
I’ve been discussing leniency when it comes to giving extensions for deadlines, for tasks and assignments. A question we might ask ourselves is being lenient with students who ask for an extension fair to other students. I know. You’ve been thinking about this during the whole discussion, right?

Kevin Patton (31:22):
Fairness is an interesting and complex concept. And sometimes its strict interpretation is given an importance that I don’t think it really deserves. I read with interest to the Twitter thread not long ago on this very topic in which one of the professors made a good point. If I let a student turn in an assignment late, is that fair to students who struggled to get it done by the deadline, not knowing, or maybe afraid to ask if I’d give an extension?

Kevin Patton (32:00):
I don’t know, but I do know that I can’t think of any harm being done to anyone by giving that late student a break. These days, I’m kind of okay leaving the flock behind for a moment to go help that one lost sheep. I’ve shared several times in this podcast that I use a strategy I learned when my kids became teenagers.

Kevin Patton (32:33):
When I was confronting them with some issue, I tried to see their faces as they were when they were five years old, sweet, innocent, cheerful faces. That helped me be more empathetic and compassionate and helpful and loving than I’d had been in that moment of irritation and disappointment with my teenager.

Kevin Patton (33:03):
So, I try to picture my students of any age as sweet and earnest little kindergarteners when they tell me that they’re going to be late with their paper or other assignment. And when they ask if they can take their test after the deadline, that has been working really, really well for me. And I’m a happier teacher, too.

Kevin Patton (33:28):
Before I finish, you may remember that when I teach my regular face to face A&P one or A&P two course, I have all my tests online and open with a window of a week or so, maybe sometimes even two or more weeks to take the three attempts that they’re allowed to on each test. The midterm and final are paper test, but I use my Respondus software to generate three or four random variations from my exam test bank to use in class, all with mostly or entirely different test items. And I can generate yet another variation at a moment’s notice and print it out if I need to use a makeup test.

Kevin Patton (34:14):
And I don’t have deadlines at all in my fully online pre A&P course. Students have the entire term, which is usually a half a semester or a summer session or one of the other short mini masters that we have at our community college. Their only deadline is to have it all completed by the last day of the term. And I do mean, the very last minute, midnight of the official end of the term.

Kevin Patton (34:43):
You know what? Even after frequent nudges in the form of course announcements and emails about the deadline, I still get the occasional request for an extension from a student. And this used to really bug me. I mean really, all the built-in leniency, and you’re still asking for an extension? Of course, I don’t ask that out loud, but in my head I’m shouting. Okay, maybe I’m not shouting, but I’m using a firm tone at least.

Kevin Patton (35:19):
But I eventually just started saying to those students, “Okay, no worries. We’ll make it work.” And then I’d explain to the student, here’s my deadline for submitting grades. It’s a deadline that affects not only my employment, but also affects the grades of every other student in the course.

Kevin Patton (35:43):
So, I’ll give that student a new deadline of, oh, I don’t know, a few hours before my actual last moment to submit grades deadline. And then I have to ignore the panic emails from various people in my department, and division, and the college ,reminding me that I’m about to miss my deadline. And my student then, well, the one that missed the deadline and I gave him an extension, they either get it done in time or they don’t.

Kevin Patton (36:18):
They almost always do though. And when they don’t, well, you know what? I’ve done everything I possibly can within the limits that I’ve been given. Now, that may be a good place to leave things, but you know me, I’ve always got one more point to make.

Kevin Patton (36:36):
I just want to explain that I do lay out the advantages to students in meeting their deadlines. I do that by giving them a link to an article about these advantages very early in the course. And I’ll put that link in the show notes and episode page so that you can link to it too, if you want to, or at least go look at it and maybe it’ll give you some ideas for doing something along those lines that fits better in your course. And I want to reiterate that when I have chronic missers of deadlines, I do treat that as a special case to figure out, oh, how to solve it.

Kevin Patton (37:16):
One thing I’ve come to realize, something that was there in front of me all the time, and that is, there are quite a few people who have four or more grandmothers. It does feel odd when a student claims that their grandmother’s funeral is that day for the third time or maybe the fourth time or maybe the fifth time. And I think, wait, how many grandmothers can they have? But you know what? Families are not all uniform, are they? There’s lots of blending and other kinds of things that can create situations where someone may have quite a few grandmothers.

Kevin Patton (37:54):
Now, I can’t speak to the odds of them all having funerals within the same semester. But you know the point is, is that often there are things that we can’t see or just aren’t seeing that play into things that really are barriers to our students, actual barriers to our students.

Kevin Patton (38:15):
One thing I won’t do, which I admit I did sometimes early in my teaching career, is demand documentation of a student’s excuse. In fact, I don’t even ask them for an excuse. That won’t change the fact that they missed the deadline, will it? Nor will it change the fact that my primary goal is to get them back on their learning pathway. Whether it was a funeral or a bunch of funerals or their own illness or whatever it is. That doesn’t matter. All I’m concerned about is how can we make this right? How can we get you back on that success pathway?

Kevin Patton (38:55):
You may have course characteristics that affect how you handle deadline extensions. And I think we all recognize that. For example, you may have to follow a department or college policy, or maybe you have a thousand students and no teaching assistants or well, all kinds of things.

Kevin Patton (39:12):
Okay. Last point, I promise, last point. Okay, you’re not believing me, are you? But really, I’m promising last point I’m going to make on this is, yes, I am aware that they won’t, “get away with these shenanigans” when they get to this or that professional program or career.

Kevin Patton (39:34):
But in my course, they’re not in a nursing course or a medical course or a clinical rotation or treating a client. They’re only in my A&P course. They are in formation. That is, they’re not fully formed yet. They’re in formation. They’re still kindergartners in a way. They’re in a place where mistakes can still be made and kindness still be extended. I can counsel my students about how deadlines will become increasingly important and that now is the time to develop strategies to make that work without necessarily applying those penalties that they’re going to face later on.

Kevin Patton (40:21):
Okay, now I’m done. Really, I’m done. No more points. Okay. I’m done for the moment. We’ll just leave it there. I’m done for the moment.

Staying Connected

Kevin Patton (40:30):
Want to get a lively debate about extending deadlines started at your next faculty meeting? Well, you can prime that pump by sharing this episode with a colleague. Simply go to the APprofessor.org/refer to get a personalized share link that will get your friend all set up.

Kevin Patton (40:55):
If you don’t see links in your podcast player, go to the show notes at the episode page at theAPprofessor.org/112, where you can explore any ideas mentioned in this podcast. And while you’re there, you can claim your digital credential for listening to this episode.

Kevin Patton (41:16):
Now, I know you have an opinion about extending deadlines for students. Well, we want to hear about it and anything else you want to bring up. Just call in with your questions, comments, and ideas that the podcast taught line. That’s 1-833-LION-DEN or 1-833-5466-336, or send a recording or written message to podcast@theAPprofessor.org. And you’re invited to join my private A&P teaching community way off the social platforms and listservs at theAPprofessor.org/community. I’ll see you down the road.

Aileen (42:05):
The A&P Professor is hosted by Dr. Kevin Patton, an award-winning professor and textbook author in human anatomy and physiology.

Kevin Patton (42:18):
Please apply for a microcredential for this episode, by the deadline. If you missed the deadline, well, that’s okay. We’re living in strange times, aren’t we? There’s a lot of health misinformation and disinformation coming at us from all directions. As science faculty, we have an obligation to promote only evidence-based information and critical analyses. Let’s all help each other keep everyone safe and healthy.

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Last updated: February 24, 2023 at 16:12 pm

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