Putting in zeros on missing work isn’t beneficial

Unnecessary stress for students

Colin Canaday

Even before the pandemic, students were under constant stress from all of their classes. With the pandemic, this stress has only been exacerbated. Because of this, it is important that teachers only put in zeros for a student’s assignment when it is the final resort, and teachers should instead opt for incompletes.

Getting a zero on an assignment is typically just a reminder to the student to get their late work in quickly. In fact, I would say, very few times the student has forgotten about the whole assignment altogether or has chosen to not do the assignment and deal with the zero. In either of these cases, it is preferable to either contact the student or their parent directly in order to inform them about the missing assignment, or simply put in an incomplete.

Communication is key in distance learning. Although it may be easier and faster to simply put in a zero instead of reaching out to the student beforehand, by putting in that extra bit of work, there is the potential to save a lot of stress on the student’s end and has the ability to give the student the drive necessary to complete the assignment.

Even without direct communication, putting in an incomplete is preferable to a zero.  According to the experiences of teacher Andrew Miller, “Zeros do not reflect student learning. They reflect compliance. Instead of zeros, we should enter incompletes, and use these moments to correct behavioral errors and mistakes.” Zeros create the perception of permanence; if you see a zero in a grade book, it seems as though the time resolution is gone. With incompletes, however, that is not the case.

More slack should be given to students in distance learning as opposed to traditional, in-person learning. Even in the case that a student still hasn’t turned in an assignment after contacting them, it is important to remember the burdens of distance learning and the possible extenuating circumstances that may be stopping a student from completing an assignment in the given time frame. It is also important that class policies take this into account as well, such as more general rules regarding these issues rather than just viewing them on a case-by-case basis.

This pandemic is a stressful time for everyone, and the burden to reduce that anxiety lays not just on ourselves, but on our educators as well. In order to create a stress-free environment, there needs to be an open dialogue between students and teachers. Zeros accomplish nothing that couldn’t have been accomplished in a dozen more beneficial ways.