More coordination would give students more time

One of the best things about IB classes is that they tend to favor meaningful essays and projects over the nightly “busywork” that many students are accustomed to.

But one of the worst things about IB classes is that they swamp students with these essays and projects, seemingly with little to no regard for the students’ schedules which are often filled with extracurricular activities.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, approximately 55.5 percent of high school students played sports in the 2010-2011 school year—and this number has been on an upward trend for 22 years.

This percentage doesn’t take into account theatre, chorus, or part-time jobs, all of which can require significant time outside of school hours.  And don’t forget about academic clubs such as DECA or the community service required for an IB diploma and most honors societies—after all, who doesn’t want to get into a good college?

So where are students supposed to find the time to complete lengthy projects, especially when multiple teachers hand out large assignments simultaneously?

One frequent argument is that students spend too much time procrastinating on a perfectly manageable workload. But with extracurricular activities, homework quickly piles up, regardless of a student’s work ethic. And procrastination is a very common response to a long to-do list.

Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at MIT, performed an experiment in 2002 on several classes of college students.

The students were divided into groups and told that they had to write either one or three papers by the end of the semester, and that they could either hand in the papers at the end of the semester or set earlier, binding deadlines for themselves.

Since the papers would be graded at the end of the semester regardless of when they were turned in and failing to meet a self-imposed deadline would hurt their grades, the most rational choice would have been for the students to turn in the papers at the end of the semester.

However, on average, students who were assigned three papers set their earliest deadlines 32.8 days before the end of the semester, while students who were assigned one paper chose an average deadline 41.59 days before the end of the semester.

These results suggest the students were aware that they were likely to procrastinate if given the option; their deadlines were attempts to prevent themselves from doing so. But most high school students don’t have this option.

Although students could set deadlines themselves, the fact that the deadlines wouldn’t affect their grades means that most people would have a hard time sticking to them, especially in the face of a multitude of other school assignments and extracurricular activities.

This problem is worsened by the fact that often the competing assignments include multiple time-consuming projects.

Teachers of different subjects make no effort to assign projects at different times, and the result is a chronic inability for students to spend a reasonable amount of time on each project.

Most of the projects and essays students are assigned are worthwhile endeavors; it’s a shame that so many are rushed through at midnight after everything else has been finished.

But there’s a simple solution:  if  teachers worked together to ensure that projects overlapped as little as possible, their students would be far more able to complete the projects well and in a timely manner and procrastination would be an issue of the past.