I have a student with an apparent chronic health problem. He misses a LOT of classes, and hasn't turned in work.
So, we have an office that handles these sorts of things; they basically send us a note that says something along the lines of:
Okay, so there's a problem, perhaps, with the total lack of documentation. But I sure as heck don't want to ask students for their grandfather's death certificate or a note from their doctor saying they had a really bad cold or whatever. I seriously do NOT want to have to deal with those sorts of things. And I think students are adults, and need to be treated as adults.
The Office of Such Things is notifying you that Student X has been contacted our office about a problem. You're required to work with Student X to resolve any problems in your class resulting from the problem which we can't specify.
PS. The Office of Such Things doesn't document health or other problems; we're merely reporting that Student X has contacted us.
So let's stipulate that I totally believe that Student X has a legitimate problem. (No, I'm not naive enough that I believe all students are always telling the truth, or that no one has ever decided to hang out in bed because they don't feel absolutely A-one, but let's assume that some problems are legitimate.)
My problem is in accomodating Student X's needs. He hasn't been in class for two or three weeks at a time. Am I supposed to spend 6-9 hours going over material with him that we worked through and discussed in class in those 2-3 weeks? Am I supposed to somehow reproduce class discussion to incorporate the voices of all the other students? And who do I contact about getting an extra 6-9 hours in my week, anyway?
And how do I involve him in Peer Editing when he hasn't been to class, didn't write a paper (so no other student could peer edit his work), and he wasn't there to peer edit another student's work. Once the work is turned in, I don't really see a point to doing some artificial exercise in which I'd what, write a fake paper so that Student X could pretend to peer edit? Make a copy of a paper I've already graded so that Student X could pretend to peer edit?
Peer editing in this class is 15% of the total grade, and Student X has missed half of that.
10% of the grade will be a group project. Do I assign Student X to a group knowing that he's going to contribute minimally if at all, that he hasn't participated in discussions, and so hasn't built up the common experience and knowledge groups will need to do well in the presentations?
I've suggested dropping my class, in more extreme cases, but not all cases are this extreme, of course.
And yet, I'm not totally unsympathetic to a student with a health or personal/family crisis during the semester. I don't want to be punitive.
In a term, be it 10 weeks or 15, we do a fair bit of work in two weeks. In a 10 week term, a student who's out for 2 weeks misses 20% of the learning and work in the class. Some of that s/he can make up by reading a text book, but if the instructor is earning his or her pay, some of it can't be made up by reading a book.
Pedagogical theory and research, especially research into writing practices and learning, stress the importance of group projects of varying sorts, peer editing, presentations, and so forth, as part of the learning students should do in college.
But cases where students miss classes repeatedly, their absences will have an adverse effect on other students, and it's my responsibility to make sure that other students don't suffer because someone else isn't doing the work.
Let's imagine that all absences and such are legitimate.
How do you handle missed peer editing?
How do you handle missed group work or presentations?
How do you handle missed assignments which are time sensitive? (By time sensitive, I mean assignments we'll be working with in class or something, and which won't contribute to if late.)
How do you accomodate missed exams and quizzes?