Gregory Schraw, Theresa Wadkins, and Lori Olafson found that students mostly procrastinated because of other priorities. We instructors often get reminded that students have other classes. But topping the list of priorities was personal relationships. This reminds me of a time that I contacted a student about his excessive absences. He said he had to work, but that he knew school should be his top priority.
I didn't say this to him, but my thought was that school should be nowhere near his top priority. His health, psychological and physical, should be number one. Then personal relationships. Even supporting himself financially has to come before school. But none of that changed the fact that I would be grading him based on his performance in my class--it's a writing grade, not a leading-an-exemplary-life grade.
A few weeks ago, a writing center tutor asked me if I thought we should treat students differently based on why they didn't spend sufficient time on their papers. If they were working 40 hours a week, or had family problems, wasn't that a better excuse than partying too much? Or sitting around chilling instead of working?
I suppose it depends on what we meant by "treat differently." It would probably be a bad idea to have some all-purpose lecture about how if you sign up for a class, you have a duty to complete it to the best of your ability. So if I'm conferencing with students who are putting off writing for different reasons, obviously I should have different things to say to them.
But I took the tutor to be toying with the idea of grading more leniently on those with legitimate excuses. And that's just not my style. Either the paper is up to snuff or it's not.
Schraw, Gregory, Theresa Wadkins, and Lori Olafson. "Doing the Things We Do: A Grounded Theory of Academic Procastination." Journal of Educational Psychology 99.1 (2007): 12-25.