Late term paper

By — on / Negotiation Skills

The PON Clearinghouse has nearly 200 role simulations on a wide range of topics. The following role simulation is a two-party, short awareness-building negotiation between a professor and a student over an assignment submitted late due to a death in the student’s family

SCENARIO: Professor Famous teaches a course on the Theory and Practice of Problem-Solving. On the first day of class, an announcement is always made as to the “no-extension” policy. The Professor explains that the policy is intended to help students avoid the unpleasant consequences of procrastination that he suffered as a young lawyer. This year, when a student did not hand in an optional rough draft, due three weeks before the final, Famous attempted to reach the student by telephone to no avail. The student finally handed in the final paper two weeks late, explaining plans to write the paper in the last week before the deadline went awry when the student’s father died suddenly and unexpectedly.

MECHANICS: This one-on-one negotiation takes 10-20 minutes. Either party can be given additional psychological role instructions. The negotiation can be repeated with the roles reversed. Videotaping is helpful for review.


  • Role specific:
    Confidential instructions for the:

    • Professor
    • Student
  • Teacher’s package:
    • All of the above

PROCESS THEMES: communication; education, as a means; emotions; ethics; fairness; gilligan, two voices; interpersonal skills; issue control; misrepresentation; nonverbal communication; power imbalance; precedents; pressure tactics; psychological games; separating the people from the problem.


This exercise pits Carol Gilligan’s two “voices” in direct conflict. This situation is exactly the kind contemplated by the professor’s policy, yet we have immense sympathy as well for the student’s position, both substantively and emotionally. Is it possible to “separate the people from the problem” here, and if so how?

The professor must also be concerned about whether the intended lesson will be understood by the student, or whether the experience will merely be souring. In the latter case, the professor may want to consider possible impacts on the professor’s reputation, either as a person or as a teacher. What weight should that be given?

What are the student’s interests? Getting an extension? Learning the professor’s lesson? Doing the “right” thing? What, in fact, is perceived as the “right” thing? Like many of these exercises, this is based on a real case, and there seem to be no easy answers.

The case is a good vehicle for revealing various psychological assumptions and nonverbal behaviors, thereby generally increasing psychological awareness.

To purchase a copy of this role simulation, click here.

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