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Elizabeth Robinson - November 5, 2012 8:00 am MST

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Elizabeth Robinson - November 5, 2012 8:00 am MST

Effects of Allowing Student Resubmission of Assignments

Elizabeth Robinson - November 5, 2012 8:00 am MST
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As instructors, our mission is to guide students towards academic success within the classroom. Yet, what happens if a student missed a key concept of the assignment for the week? Do we automatically give them a low score, with an explanation on how it should have been done, or a brief description on what they should have learned from the assignment?  In continuous assessment of the web-based environment, Kerka and Wonacott (2000) explained that the significance of instructional feedback could directly affect what students learn and how effectively they would do so (p.4).

Thus comes the opportunity for students to resubmit their work. Allowing students to make additions and re-submissions of the concepts in an assignment they had a hard time grasping, not only allows them to gain more points in the course, it allows them to gain the knowledge we were trying to convey in the first place. This helps the student, but also helps the retention rate of the school. Many of you may think, “But, this would make more work for me, both in grading assignments and posting more feedback and guiding material.” While it’s true that this strategy might make more work for you as an instructor, but isn’t that why we are here? To assure students are achieving their academic potential, to give them that little “push” to strive for excellence?

This level of attention and feedback is especially important online, where  students need instructors who will motivate them, who will work just as hard as they do on their homework, therefore making sure they are obtaining the information needed to retain knowledge and pass the course. Sometimes students feel there is an invisible “online barrier,” otherwise known as Michael G. Moore’s theory of transactional distance, in which students cannot reach out to their instructor for help or with questions or concerns. Perhaps they believe we are all robots, and those emails they receive are just automated responses. We need to let our presence be known, whether it be through the quick dial of a telephone to explain the concepts over again, or sending the student a short video explaining things one step further.

With continual interaction and the development of a relationship with the student, we can learn what  strategies help each individual student learn best, and therefore take that knowledge and apply it in how we teach. By taking our teaching methods one step further, we can enhance the students education. So when we read the student’s paper and realize, although we can see they tried, they did not truly understand the reading, we can then give additional instructional methods so they can resubmit and further their learning. This is why we are here: to engage, to guide, and to build a relationship with each and every student so they walk out of our courses thinking “I truly understood, most if not all, the information taught in that class.”

My own experience suggests that the extra teacher effort required in resubmission adds real value that students recognize. Here are their own words (used with permission):

The resubmit option has allowed me to go back and reexamine my original post and to rethink my previous answers. It has allowed me to learn more than I would have if I hadn’t been allowed to reexamine my answers. Thank you for allowing your students to learn from their mistakes and to grow from them.
Michelle Shelley

I love the resubmit option! There have been a few times that I realized that I missed something after submitting. It definitely saved me from losing points quite a few times.
Christi Marie

I personally thought that I learned more by being able to resubmit the assignment. I think that sometimes we may think we did what the professor was asking for, and then when it was not exactly what was called for, we are given the chance to improve upon it, therefore making us understand the assignment a lot more thoroughly!
Bethann Steiner Lince

I for one like the option of being able to resubmit assignments. When things don’t seem clear or there are things that are pointed out that we did not understand, it gives us the opportunity to correct it and rethink the questions or assignment in a different light.
Azalee La’Shay Clay

Sometimes our eyes get crossed and our minds get clouded with so much reading we tend to miss certain things. The resubmit opportunity is such a helpful tool.
Denise McGhee

I think the resubmit option is a wonderful opportunity. I turned in a journal entry early, and you (the instructor) gave me the opportunity to resubmit, and asked some questions I hadn’t considered. I still turned it in on time and I learned more from the assignment. Great learning experience.
Rosie McFadden

I absolutely feel that being able to resubmit an assignment has positively affected my learning experience. It is important to remember that we are enrolled in this program to learn. Getting feedback is important in the learning process. I had the opportunity to resubmit 2 assignments and learned more each time. I hope this will be the norm in all my future courses.
Ann Sims

Because I was given the opportunity to resubmit an assignment or two, both times in which I just didn’t understand what the assignment was asking, it made it possible for me to actually learn the material and not “wing it”….not to mention I was able to stay on high honors.
Kyle Speer


Kerka, S., Wonacott, M. E., & ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, C. H. (2000). Assessing Learners Online. Practitioner File.

[Photo, “glow“, by Fio licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.]


  1. The decision depends on how learning is viewed within the educational system. If learning is seen as a product, it is enough to give a grade and move on. But if learning is seen as a continuous process then assigning a grade becomes insignificant, and the focus is on in every student moving on with the experience:“I truly understood, most if not all, the information taught in that class”, just as you noted. The reason, though, does not lie in the relationship we have with our students, but in the value our system gives to learning. Too often I have seen educational systems in U.S. place much more value in teaching than learning, which of course increases the objectification of “learning products”, or grades.
    Building feedback loops into the learning process also increases the quality of first submission, as well as the re-submissions of students’ work.

    1. Hi Nina,
      I think you are correct in stating that “if learning is seen as a product, it is enough to give a grade and move on”. Yet what educational institutions need to understand is that learning is not a product; it is an experience, the opportunity to advance one’s knowledge within the field of study. How easy would it be if instructors just simply gave each student a grade, with little to no feedback? Unfortunately there are those out there that do so, and then I feel that they are providing student’s with a “product,” yet I do not feel that this is how education should be experienced. Students are present within our classrooms to learn, to obtain knowledge, and to be able to use that knowledge in the outside world. Giving students the opportunity to re-submit their assignments allows them to truly grasp the information. With detailed feedback, outside articles, videos, and resources, students may be able to use that information in order to understand what we are teaching. I can’t express how vital I feel feedback is to the success of our students! Like you stated, “building feedback loops into the learning process which also increases the quality of first submission, as well as the re-submissions of students’ work.”

      Thank you for your thoughts!

      1. Nina,

        While I appreciate your distinction between the two educational objectives, isn’t it the task of the instructor in the classroom to set the educational objectives and choose the best pedagogical methods? Correct me if I misread your comment, but it almost sounded as though you were using “educational system” with institutional policy. I would truly hope that none of my colleagues are bound by institutional directives or culture to determine how to educate effectively.

  2. Nina, you make some great points which suggest a need to balance–or at least acknowledge the difference between formative and summative assessments at a fundamental level. Grant Wiggins’s book Educative Assessment still ranks as one of my favorite arguments–and blueprints–for building an educational system that recognizes feedback and perpetual improvement as the primary value of assessment.

    The challenge, as Bloom identified in the 2-sigma problem, is that the human resources (which I think we’re suggesting are critical for the kinds of feedback which lead to improved performance) are expensive. In Elizabeth’s example, technology facilitates some of the management of iterative assessment; how far can technology take us in reducing the overall load on human resources? How far do we want it to take us?

  3. While I agree with what has been written I also question the learning process. I have seen students rush through or not give any effort in assignments just to get done knowing that they can always “redo”. Is this the true quality of the student’s knowledge? Are they being trained that they can always redo papers? I think when it comes to writing assignments it’s valuable. I
    am just not sure how we separate kids who don’t put in the effort the first time to kids who actually understand when they are given the opportunity to try again. Now that I am subbing after 30 years of teaching, I question some of the teachers and their abilities. I think this is another aspect that needs to be addressed.

    1. Hi Susan,
      I understand your point of view. But, I do feel that instructors have the option to give the students the opportunity to resubmit. Note the word “option.” Resubmitting is actually not in my course syllabus, yet I give them the opportunity as I write out their feedback on their assignment. I do generally give all students the opportunity to resubmit, but for those whom do a “rush job,” I note within my feedback that while they do have the opportunity to resubmit, they will not be able to obtain full points due to the poor performance or rush job of the first submission. Resubmissions allow for growth, it allows for concepts to be more fully grasped. For those whom throw something together in hopes that they will obtain the opportunity to resubmit, they will not be able to obtain the full amount of points. Yet those whom put forth the effort, and whom just missed a key concept, or whom one could see was struggling yet truly tried, they are able to obtain a higher score while also obtaining more knowledge. The overall benefits are wonderful as a student, and as instructor being able to see the students overall success. I get to see students excel in the course, while being able to see them retain the information that is being presented to them by giving them individualized feedback, bringing in outside resources and videos, and showing them that I truly do care if they retain the information.

      Thank you!

  4. I’ve found an additional value in allowing students to re-submit assignments.

    When I’ve communicated the assignment objectives or requirements poorly, a very neat and clear pattern emerges through the re-submissions indicating my failure. The feedback given to the students is productive, but sometimes the feedback for me as the educator is even moreso.

    1. Hi Michael,
      I think you make a very valuable point. If an instructor views that most of his/her students did poorly on an assignment, could it be our instructions on how to complete the assignment were worded in way that our students couldn’t comprehend? Allowing resubmissions allow us as instructors to also grow within our teaching methods.

      Thank you for your insight!

  5. I make a habit of offering “resubmission rights” for any student who submits their homework for grading before day 4 of the “week” due. (Homework is assigned on Sunday midnight, due before following Sunday, must be submitted by Thursday midnight.) I grade on Friday and send them my feedback. If they don’t like their grade, thy have the option to correct the errors/make changes, and then resubmit for a re-grade with the possibility of additional points. This means I get to grade early (my weekends are freer), can spot problem areas, give clarification or extra instruction, etc. I feel this makes me a better instructor and improves the student’s quality of learning. However, most students don’t take advantage of this. They wait until the last minute, turn in sloppy work, and then ask for resubmission rights. I have even had several try to turn in work on Sunday night (afternoon or right before midnight) and expect resubmission rights. So, I firmly told everyone that I don’t grade on Sundays. I may answer questions if I’m on the computer, but I won’t grade. And once the due date is past, no resubmission rights. My dean agreed but made sure I had stated my position/rules about resubmissions clearly in the syllabus. Otherwise, he said students could have the right to expect resubmissions. That’s something to consider.

  6. Learning is a continuous process. I am surely in favour of re-submissions of assignments for the teacher to understand if the student has gained something more while redoing the assignment. But, often, resubmissions happen only if students are unhappy with their grades. Therefore, I am not in favour allowing a higher grade for a resubmitted assignment since that may not be fair to those who have already done better. If higher grades are not to be given to the student, then actually, it is the individual teacher who must decide whether or not resubmissions should be allowed. I have always encouraged resubmissions (but refrained from grading) and comment on how the resubmitted assignment is better than the previous one.

    1. Dr. Goswami Mathur,
      I wanted to comment upon the statement that you made “But, often, resubmissions happen only if students are unhappy with their grades.” Yes, generally that is why students do tend to want to resubmit. Yet what about the students whom truly want to learn about obtain the information? Resubmitting assignments allows them the opportunity to gain more knowledge on concept/s that they have have misunderstood, and this is now their chance to redeem themselves. In all honestly, my policy is that if a student does take the time and effort to resubmit, and does superb work, I do raise their grade. I think of it as a “win, win.” as students obtain the opportunity to gain more knowledge, while also being able to raise their grade. Why not reward them for their hard work? It helps us as instructors do our job to the fullest extent, as we are doing what we are being paid and love to do-teach. We are using this opportunity to teach the information more in depth, in order to ensure that our students are making the most of their education.

      What are your thoughts?

  7. I am currently a graduate student at Arizona State University and I would like to study homework resubmission policies for an applied project. Do you know of any current scholarly articles that can help me? I would appreciate any help. Thank you.

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