July 20, 2011

Revisiting Extra Credit Policies

By: in Teaching Professor Blog

I remember being surprised when I first read the results of a survey on extra credit published some years ago in Teaching of Psychology. Almost 20% of the 145 faculty (across disciplines) reported that they never offered extra credit and another 50% said they offered it only under exceptional circumstances. The two most common reasons for not giving extra credit were that it encouraged lax, irresponsible student attitudes and it was unfair to offer it to select students (say those doing poorly). I also think it is avoided because it means more work for faculty and most of us already have more of that than we can handle.

The question of giving students an extra chance is, like most pedagogical issues, less cut and dried than it might first seem. If the second chance is designed so that it represents a robust learning opportunity, if its completion means that a student who hasn’t mastered the material finally does and if learning is our ultimate goal, then complete opposition to second chances or extra credit seems less defensible.

We also should be called to take a second look by some of the creatively designed strategies teachers use to give students a second chance. They are far removed from the ubiquitous worksheet that can be dashed off with little cerebral effort. For example, I was re-reading an article I haven’t read for sometime and had forgotten that it contained what the author calls a “second chance exam.”

Here’s how it works. The instructor attaches a blank piece of paper to the back of every exam. Students may write on that sheet any exam questions they couldn’t answer or weren’t sure they answered correctly. Students then take this piece of paper with them and look up the correct answers. They can use any resource at their disposal short of asking the instructor. At the start of the next class session, they turn in their set of corrected answers which the instructor re-attaches to their original exam. Both sets of answers are graded. If students missed the question on the exam but answered it correctly on the attached sheet, half the credit lost for the wrong answer is recovered.

The benefits of this strategy? Students reported that they thought they learned more having to look up answers rather than just being told the answers during the debrief. They also reported that the strategy reduced exam-related stress. The teacher felt the strategy put students at a higher cognitive level. They had to think about the question, determine an answer and then decide whether or not they had answered the question correctly.

Does a strategy like this contribute to lax student attitudes? They still suffer consequences if they don’t know something. They have a fairly short timeframe to track down the correct answers. And it isn’t a strategy offered to some students and not to others.

There is no question that students are hungry for extra credit. Often they seem more motivated to do the extra credit than the original assignment. Is that because they think extra credit is easier? Or, does the motivation derive from not having done as well as they expected on an assignment? It could be the latter. A few years back, someone wrote an article for The Teaching Professor which described a kind of insurance policy extra credit assignment. Completing sets of extra homework problems was optional, but if students turned them in on the designated date, points awarded for the problem sets could be applied to a subsequent exam. Surprisingly, only a few students took advantage of this “insurance” option.

I’m kind of left thinking that student attitudes about extra credit (which we probably have to admit derive from previous extra credit experiences) are not the best, and I’m not sure we help them learn when we succumb to what they want. But I also believe there are some viable ways to offer students a second change and some legitimate reasons for doing so.

References:
Norcross, J. C., Harrick’s, L. J. and Stevenson, J. F. (1989). Of barfights and gadflies: Attitudes and practices concerning extra credit in college courses. Teaching of Psychology, 16 (4), 199-203.

Deter, L. (2003). Incorporating student centered learning techniques into an introductory plant identification course. NACTA Journal, (June), 47-52.

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Comments

Peter Dorman | July 20, 2011

In my first-year composition course, I offer students an opportunity to re-write a previous essay in an attempt to raise their grade. This reassessment essay assignment comes at the end of the term and carries a couple of caveats. Students may not use this assignment to submit a paper they previously did not turn in. And the grade on the reassessment essay replaces that of the original assignment. This discourages students from turning in anything less than what they feel is their best (or at least better) work.

Donna Flint | July 20, 2011

I give a chance for students to correct their exams:
1. choose a reason why you missed this problem (a) thought I understood it, but didn't (b) didn't think this would be on the exam, so I didn't study it (c) made a mechanical error (d)…….
2. find an example in your book, problems, or notes similar to (or exactly like) the question on the exam- cite this
3. give a complete solution to the problem you missed.

grading: students can earn half their missing points back- percentage of those points determined by possible 4 points for correction per problem missed- no partial credit given. Ex: Missed total of 25 points, had to correct 5 problems- got 17/20 possible correction points, they get 25*17/20 points back on the test.

Goal: end student complaint that the test is harder than the homework; help students identify where test questions come from to better facilitate studying

This is optional, but most students choose to do it.

Mary D. Healey | July 20, 2011

While I do believe that the "extra credit request" is a throwback from high school, I do think we can help students take a more mature attitude toward it. The idea of having students put the exam questions they were unable to answer on an extra sheet of paper and then take responsibility for researching the aswer is a great idea. I would go one step further and ask that they also explain why they could not answer that question in the first place. Then the instructor can work on adopting a policy about extra credit that is fair, not a "give away" and will contribute to LEARNING. After all, we are all working on educating the students the best way we can and isn't our goal to make them learn?? Mary D. Healey, Professor of Biology

atl | July 20, 2011

I require research on topics that are pertinent to the course. This helps those who have tests anxiety or otherwise just do not do good on tests. When they do take the tests, I give them an opportunity to find the full complete answers to all the questions they missed and give them one third to one half credit for it. I also do little daily activities for credit which helps their grade. Options need to be given for those who will do them. I do think we need to do more than just give tests.

Robert | July 20, 2011

I teach a light (non-mathematical) science course, and many of the students don't seem to know how or what to study for such a course. To help them out, I developed a summary of the important topics for the class, and a definition sheet to make them look up some of the commonly-used technical terms. None of this seems to help the non-science majors, so I give them every opportunity I can to gain enough points to pass. I know I shouldn't do that, but the alternative is to fail all of them, & that looks bad on me.

Dr AudreyAnn Moses | July 20, 2011

Hi Robert, I understand how you feel. I teach psychology and I have to make sure I weed out the the students that are working hard and still struggling from the ones that are just "social loafing". I think that it is our responsibility as educators to make sure our students get what we are trying to teach them and any road that works I take it slight of just giving them a grade. Even after extra help I have had to fail a student or two but I feel comfortable in knowing that I gave them every opportunity to learn. By the way, I would probably be one of those students struggling in your class :-).

Karen | July 20, 2011

I teach in a (baccalaureate-level) Medical Laboratory Science professional program; our students must pass a certification exam after graduation, so mastery of the material is critical (both for certification and for professional practice). Students who pass an exam are allowed to use resources to submit detailed corrections of missed questions, for which they can regain partial (1/3) credit. A passing grade is required so that students still study for the exam, instead of relying disproportionately on correction points. Students routinely tell us they learn a lot from correcting their errors.This is the only form of extra credit I provide, however – no last-minute requests from students doing poorly at the end of the semester!

Dr AudreyAnn Moses | July 20, 2011

I teach Psychology and I feel that one of the best ways to help students see what others are feeling is through community service. As a part of my course assignments I give a community service project that all of the students are able to partcipate in if they choose. It is extra credit and there are rules. I don't pressure them about it and after I talk about the requirements a couple of times in class I don't mention it any more. It is on their assignments sheet. Most of the students participate in it and they really enjoy the community service. It is interesting, however, that they ones that need every point they can get, don't participate in the project anyway. If I see an assignment going in a certain direction, contrary to where I thought it would go, especially during discussion, I may add an extra step and count that step as extra credit for everyone. I don't normally give extra credit to individuals unless they have been sick or some other extraordinary circumstances. I don't believe that extra credit should be used so that a student can make up for work they did not attempt to do when it was originially required.

Jim F | July 20, 2011

I usually offer some sort of re-test since I teach challenging accounting classes. I NEVER allow work or rework outside the class since I don't really know who is doing the work. The re-test option creates extra work for me to compose and grade the extra, but I have found that the rate of learning seems to vary greatly and some students just need more time to absorb the material.

Andi | July 20, 2011

I typically do two things that provides some extra credit in my composition courses. The first is that I offer a few points of extra credit for turning major essay assignments in early (1 point for one day early, 2 points for 2 days early, etc.). I usually cut it off at about 4 or 5 points. This not only motivates them to not procrastinate, but it also helps me to get their papers back to them sooner. The other extra credit opportunity I offer is usually in the form of an unannounced extra credit day. When the students show up I have a Jeopardy-like game prepared for them. Every one who attends gets maybe 5 points of E.C. and the team with the highest score gets 10. All questions are taken directly from course material. It allows them to interact with the material in a fun way and it also allows me to see what they've retained. I tend to be very firm in my grading and I do not allow late work, so I feel that this is a good way to meet them in the middle.

ESC | July 20, 2011

I don't allow students to do extra credit in lieu of completing the assignments that are part of the course. However, on my exams, I do allow the students to do an "Exam Redo." When the exams are returned, the students may "redo" the questions and problems they missed. They mus follow specific guidelines such as citing a reference in the textbook for the corrected information, writing out the problem completely, showing all work, and explaining why this is the correct answer and/or why the original answer was incorrect. For this, they can earn up to 1/3 of the points they missed. Many students take advantage of this- it is enough credit so many can bring their letter grade on the exam up to the next letter grade, but not so much that it is worth not studying for the exam in the first place.

Lynn Rainard | July 20, 2011

I offer extra credit from the first day of class. It is limited to 10% of the total number of points a student can accumulate throughout the class and must be earned weekly in small increments. The advantage is that those who want to "pad" their grades in the event of an emergency have the opportunity, and those who want to earn a grade through extra credit rather than extra effort on required assignments are quickly silenced.

Interestingly, with few exceptions, the students who take advantage of the opportunities are those who do not need it. They are energized and dedicated students. The exception tends to be students who recognize their limitations (typically learning disorders) who know they need to make a special effort to achieve their desired level of success. In both cases, they are motivated students.

Why do I give extra credit? It is actually less bothersome than telling students no. My experience is that only the most motivated students make use of it since they understand that the extra credit requires a weekly effort, not simply a big push at the end of the course.

Danny Marshall | July 20, 2011

In my Introduction to Communication class (Interpersonal Communication) I place a large degree of emphasis on the learning experience that takes place in the classroom. Therefore, students know at the beginning of the Quarter/Semester that they will be receiving a set amount of extra credit points for attending every class session. Attendance is an issue, and this method of extra credit does encourage learning through participation.

Patrick Kearney | July 20, 2011

I have found some students need a second chance, so giving an opportunity for extra credit works for me. The ultimate goal is for the student to learn. Giving the student an opportunity to go and search for the "answer" only reinforces the learning.

Dr Roe | July 20, 2011

This is an interesting conversation; I teach business oriented classes and used to give extra credit. but I don’t do this anymore. This is because, strangely enough, I think it’s a disservice to the students as their future bosses won’t give them extra credit or extra time to complete an assignment. I do allow students to submit a draft of their final paper which I will edit and go over for them. I think this helps them improve their writing and research skills and it’s to their advantage as their final grade on the paper represents a large percentage of their final grade. I also give them a rubric at the beginning of the class showing how I intend to grade the paper. The first time a 'social loafer' takes my class they never take me up on my offer and sometimes even turn their work in late. Once s/he receives their grade some are quick to ask for extra credit. My response is usually something to the effect- "If this was a major work assignment and your boss was depending on you to complete it on time and properly, what do you think your boss would say?" This one question usually forces them to admit they didn't commit the time and do the work they needed to do, and to acknowledge their boss would either be screaming at them or fire them. The majority of them must take several classes with me, and I have found that the next time they take a class with me the quality and timeliness of their work usually improves dramatically.

drxina | July 20, 2011

I use extra credit similarly to the "blank sheet" example – however, I offer the opportunity in-class only. Students complete their quizzes in my General Psychology course individually in blue or black ink. They then put their blue or black ink pens away, and receive a red pen from me. They then have about 20-30 minutes to get into their learning teams (which are randomly set from the beginning of the term) to share and discuss their answers. I watch carefully to make sure that students are only using red ink during this group consultation, to catch and punish cheating. They use the red-pen time to consult with their group members, identify probable wrong answers, and write to me about any new learning they take from discussing with their team. I grade the quiz based on their original answers, but give partial credit back for excellent explanations for new learning about wrong answers. The discussions during the red pen exercise are closed book, but very lively. Students love them because they not only get a chance to earn points back, but also because they value the immediate feedback on their quiz performance, and the discussion enhances their understanding of the material.

Holly | July 20, 2011

Rather than instituting a blanket or formula extra credit, I have begun to rethink the issue of learning objectives and the student need for feedback in order to be successful. I have begun posting assignments earlier to allow more time until they are “due” and then allowing 3 attempts at that homework. Students have the opportunity to decide whether each attempt was their best effort. Other assignments have been broken into pieces so that students can acquire necessary skills and/or knowledge as they combine the pieces into the final product. I took a written assignment and first required them to submit their proposed topic and bibliography (cited properly)first. I then gave them feedback to the topic (needed to be more specific, broader, etc.) and I also gave them feedback on their proposed sources (this helps me to guide them in selecting good academic and researched backed sources). Next, I have them submit their rough draft, they receive feedback on grammar/spelling, formatting, need for further research, any information to help them demonstrate what they are learning from the material. Lastly, they turn in their final revision. I broke the total points for the paper into the parts and assigned points at each step. If they took the feedback and made improvements in their final version, I could add points to the previous segment. (For example, if they found better sources for their bibliography and used that information, I gave them points back in that first segment.) If they followed my feedback to their rough draft, the points for the final paper replaced those of the rough draft. Students who simply gave me another copy of their rough draft with no improvements, simply retained the score awarded at that segment. This was offered to all students, so those who felt skilled at writing could elect to ‘stop’ at the rough draft stage. Or, if they got the grade they were hoping for, they could decide that was good enough. That way it is based on student choice and those who needed the extra help could take advantage of it to better their grade and those who didn’t need that much feedback to produce a satisfactory paper could opt out of the last step.

Mark Palmer | July 20, 2011

Extra Credit and an extra chance are two very different things. There are many ways to be flexible and reasonable without offering extra credit. I never offer extra credit; but do my best to accommodate each students' circumstances.

linda | July 20, 2011

I teach Psychology. Awesome ideas, thank you everyone. I sometimes give extra credit and this work is actually made available to all the students. Mind you, those with an A do not need it but are the ones who will complete it first. I tend to look for activities and light surveys that will contribute to their self-awareness, study skills, etc. I have so many articles and surveys accumulated that I want them to have the opportunity to learn more. I work with adult students and they have many issues, children, work, car trouble. I cannot not try to provide opportunities that will help them a bit. It is like make-up work for them. As you all know, each class is different and sometimes they all step up to the plate and hit the home runs.

Chris | July 20, 2011

It is a waste of time. Second chance means a drop in standard. I am strongly against the idea. Allow the students to repeat the course, and more will be learned.

Nichol Dolby | July 20, 2011

I like your addition to using the exam question "second chance". It gives the faculty member a chance to improve how they teach a topic or concept if they understand where the student(s) go wrong with it.

Mark Palmer | July 20, 2011

A second chance or different opportunity does not mean a drop in standard. Being flexible and accommodating each student's circumstances means do everything we can to ensure the student's meet the standards. Being hard and fast about repeating the course as the only option is a disservice to many students.

At the same time, we need to recognize that being flexible and accommodating – cannot mean doing everything to get students enough points to pass a course. I believe that no student should be allowed to take a follow on course unless they get a "C" or better. There are courses where students learn the fundamentals, but can't seem to tie them together at the end. In these cases I think there need to be practical alternatives to repeating the entire course, where they would be bored to death in the beginning. Is this "extra credit", is it a "second chance"?

Stephanie C | July 21, 2011

I do not give "extra credit". In my opinion, 80% of the time, the core problem behind students wanting extra credit or second chances is poor schoo/life/work balance. Especially with online courses, they overestimate their available time and underestimate the time required for the course. I ask in the first week about how many hours they are taking, where they work, etc to get to know them (of course) but also to "flag" students who might be over committed. I discuss with them if I am concerned and tell them honestly what their chances of success might be given the work load for the course –and remind them that I don't offer extra credit.

I DO offer "second chances" though. If a student lets me know something is going on in their personal life that is going to keep them from completing or performing their best work, I will work with them to find creative ways they can still demonstrate their learning. I do want to help them succeed and learn and for those students that have that same goal, we can usually come to some sort of accomodation that we both feel is fair.

D Smith | July 21, 2011

I offer extra credit only in cases of illness or unavoidable problems, family disasters, etc. While this article offers a good method and reasons for doing extra credit, it still misses important issues. To begin with, students–especially at the college level–must learn that there are cut-off points in life, and tests are one of them. On the job and in other life situations, they won't keep getting an extra chance. Giving extra credit, even as suggested here, keeps on giving them the message so entrenched in their attitudes: They don't have to get it right the first time, because someone will always come to their aid. In addition, if they really want to learn, and they should–they're paying enough for a college education–they should on their own look up answers to incorrect questions. If they aren't motivated to do that on their own, we're just adding another crutch they'll depend on. Too many of them are far too dependent.

College is time to grow up, and preparation for tests is part of that. Encouraging students to look up incorrect answers and then letting them make the choice to learn or not to learn without offering additional rewards is critical to their assuming responsibility for their own learning and adult lives. Repeating some of the material on future tests is a way to reward those who accept this responsibility without adding additional work to the teacher's already overwhelming workload. Let's stop expecting teachers to rescue students and start expecting students to hold themselves to a higher standard! Let's explain what they need to do to succeed, and let them choose to do it! Teachers shouldn't have to grade tests twice and recalculate grades. Let's offer students the dignity and freedom of being adults: give them the necessary preparation, tools, and strategies for test preparation and success, and then step back and accept what they choose to do. Let's stop rescuing them and help them to learn how to take real responsibility for their learning without depending on constant carrots and second and third chances.

Loretta Driskel | July 21, 2011

I offer extra-credit in several ways. One is an option that students know about in advance and can take advantage of at any time approximately half way through the semester, it is not due until the end of the semester. This opportunity is supplemental to the material we cover in class, so if they choose to complete it they have mastered an additional skill and have new knowledge. The reason I offer this particular assignment is because students often "screw up" at the start of the semester when the class and often the college experience as well, are new to them. Once they understand how my class works, they often feel disappointed with themselves for their performance in the first few weeks of class. This extra credit gives them the opportunity to recoup those lost points and feel good about the rest of the semester and my course.

Loretta Driskel | July 21, 2011

One other option for extra-credit that I use is called a "trap-door". Buried at the bottom of one of my virtual lectures (they are less than a page!) I ask the student who has read that far, to give me an example of how they use what I just talked about in their own life by sending me an email. For just doing this, they get a gold star and a poor grade on any lower weighted assignment changed to a 100. The LOVE this opportunity and it lets me know who is reading and who is not.

Very few of our students are fully matured when they attend college for the first time. Life is about maturing and we, as teachers, are there to help them grow. I make mistakes all of the time, and I sure do appreciate when someone says "forgetaboutit" and gives me another chance.

Loretta Driskel | July 21, 2011

This is an excellent idea, drxina. I am going to share it with my colleagues.

Loretta Driskel | July 21, 2011

I believe, Dr. Roe, that students do not always do poorly due to lack of committment and if they do, then they usually will not bother to complete the extra-credit anyway. For example, I noticed that my student "Joe" was doing poorly on tests and sent him an email to ask what was up because most students were doing very well. Turns out , he apologized and told me he is just a poor test taker. I offered him an alternative way to reach the same goals. If he knows the stuff, why punish him because he can't show me he knows it in the same way as the other students? So in this case, he can do the alternative assignment and the extra credit and his final grade will be more reflective of his achieving the course objectives.

Mark Palmer | July 22, 2011

I agree with your last two posts. Although I think "forgetaboutit" is the wrong term, I think its more either "let's work together so you learn from it and grow" or "I am glad you owned up to it and learned from it".

I would much rather have them make mistakes in college, than in the workplace,

We need to recognize that although we are preparing students for the workplace, college differs from the workplace. For example, I (and I suspect many others) require work submitted to be more detailed than in the work place, so that we can see where the students is right/wrong and tell them why so they can learn. I hope that in the work place no one requires that a critical calculation like the pin diameter for a beam support or a heart valve must be done in 20-30 minutes, with 2 or 3 different problems.

Finally, if a student tells me they have 3 major tests back to back and would have to go 6 hours without a break, I move mine. I see this as rewarding intelligent planning and proactive time management.

Joyce Milambiling | July 22, 2011

I sometimes add a question that I inherited from a geology professor at Boston University to the end of exams for extra credit . It's called "The Nine Planets Question" (long story) and goes like this: "Ask and answer a question that you expected to be on the exam but was not." I usually award up to 3 points for a well-phrased question and answer. The most creative one I ever got on an Introduction to Linguistics exam was "Name four of the seven branches of the Indo-European languages." That student was awarded full points for sheer nerve!

eddoc | July 22, 2011

I am on board with the idea of a second chance if there has been a personal situation that warrants one and if this second chance truly offers a learning experience; however; I do have trouble with “extra credit”. My philosophy has always been if you cannot complete the work that is required how you can you complete “extra” work.

M. E. Miller | July 22, 2011

I have found I need to be vigilant that the 'bonus' option points do not allow replacement for the planned content to be acquired.
For the counterpoint, my colleague and I team teach a course, that when we have made long quizzes [not exams] the students complain, but if a portion of the content is a required quiz and additional content is on an optional quiz, the majority of students do both! In reflection, I think what is happening is the students feel more in control of what they are learning in this optional offer. E.

Dr Roe | July 22, 2011

Loretta, I think this is in part an issue of definitions and maybe even personal ethics for me – extra credit to me is an additional assignment that lets a student earn more potential points than their classmates. I don't consider this 'fair' unless I let all of the rest of the class have this option as well, which could quickly become overwhelming in terms of additional work for me to grade. When I said I don't give extra time to complete work I was referencing how I handle 'social loafer's' who (to me) are not students with learning disabilities or who are ill.

Strangely I have found the reverse of what you have encountered when dealing with students with disabilities (especially physical ones) and social loafers. Students who should be asking for extra help often don't ask. For example, I had a student come it in to take a midterm and her lips were blue; she had pneumonia but didn't want to bother anyone. I sent her home and told her to call me when she felt better to reschedule the exam. Another, who was a paraplegic, never asked for extra time to complete assignments even when he was hospitalized. I have a teenager with cystic fibrosis, and he can be in the hospital for weeks at a time, so I am very sensitive to these kids/adults. I know that many of them don't want what they perceive to be special treatment, they want to be treated like everyone else.. So, I don't give them extra credit, instead I work with them to figure out ways they can complete the class assignments. Sometimes it’s as simple as giving them a few extra days, or dropping/picking up their assignments at the hospital, but with others I need to come up with more creative approaches such as giving relaxed oral exams instead of stressful written ones. While my 'social loafers' always let things slide but then show up the last day or week of class asking for extra credit assignments.

Yolanda W | July 24, 2011

After I have graded a test, I give the test back to students and give them 20 minutes to go back through the test with a textbook and their notes. They find the correct answers but also have to identify the page number or the lecture in which the correct answer can be found. They re-submit the test and I award up to 10 extra credit points for corrected answers.

Carl Beekman, Ph.D. | July 25, 2011

I do not give extra credit. What I did this past week, 2 different students submitted below desirable papers; therefore, I offered fthem a chance to rewrite it on a different topic so they could learn from their grammar and punctuation problems.

I also resommended them to use the online writing lab.

Marae | July 25, 2011

I teach various English classes. I don't do extra credit per se, but you might say I have extra credit built into the curriculum. For example, for all assigned essays, students are instructed to submit a rough draft (which counts toward class participation) and a final draft. If the final drafts are basically in good shape but full of proofreading errors, I take off a point apiece, give the paper back to the student, and say something along the lines of, "This is too good a paper to be getting a 22 because you didn't bother to proofread." They are then allowed to correct errors and resubmit it for full credit. I rarely have to do this more than once. Also, I give 8 quizzes over the course of a term, but only the best 5 are counted. If they show up to class and do their work, they almost always wind up with an A or B and are amazed at what they can do.

David M. | July 25, 2011

In life (i.e., the "real world"), there is usually no "extra credit." You do what you're supposed to do, period. I don't mean to sound like an ogre, but I view university life as the real world. I tell my students that from the get-go. To put this in context, I teach a large introductory psychology course (over 300 students, mostly freshmen) at a research university. Because, among my undergraduate courses, I have 750 students per year, I frankly don't have time to get involved with extra credit, so that, too, is a factor. Now, in general psychology, we have a participant pool, like most larger universities, and our Dept. policy is for students in our introductory courses (General Psych. I. and II.) to participate for 2.5 (Gen.Psych.I) or 1.5 (Gen.Psych.II) hours for the entire semester, which is not much. I count THAT as extra credit, and students can participate for up to an additional 3.5 hr for additional extra credit. (Students who opt out of the participant pool are given an alternative assignment that counts for extra credit; that assignment is up to the instructor but is supposed to provide similar pedagogical value to having had participated in an experiment. In my case, they design an experiment based on some topic that I've covered that semester, and I assign the topic.) Although I like the idea of the blank piece of paper at the end of the exam, especially for its pedagogical value, I would simply not have time to deal with that. (I have TAs, but NOT for that kind of work–they run the laboratory component of the course.) In my upper-division course, which is "small" (i.e., 140 students, and that's "small" for me), I add a few extra credit questions to each exam. I agree with other posts that extra credit is a holdover from high school, and I tell that to my students, along with the fact that this is not high school. I feel I give them enough work to do to master the material I cover without resorting to an extra credit component. But, again, I admit that my point of view is cloaked in the context of the large size of my classes.

marybart | August 1, 2011

Andi, I really like these strategies! Could you send me an email? I have a follow up question I'd like to ask. My email is mary.bart@facultyfocus.com. Thanks!

C. Groth | August 4, 2011

Well said! While I understand that many college students have busy personal and professional lives, I also recognize that priorities may need to be reordered during the time they are attending college. I tend to agree with those posts that argue second chances are rarely given in the real world, and I encourage my students to make every effort to get it right the first time. If the classroom is treated as on-the-job training, students are more likely to perform at their best. In my 30-year teaching career, I have tried to foster the idea that "there's no such thing in life as a free lunch." The term "extra credit" tends to send the wrong message to students who often procrastinate or slack off on some assignments because they know there will be a chance to recoup the points they lost. I would much rather give students bonus points for outstanding work rather than reward them for poor performance.

marybart | August 11, 2011

Today (Aug 11) the author talks more about the issues around extra credit with the article "So What Did We Learn about Extra Credit?" http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-pro

Rita Waller | August 12, 2011

I will sometimes put extra credit questions on a test. The questions are designed to be challenging and require critical thinking more often than not. Never do I offer extra credit assignments that are busy work designed to insure that a failing student will pass the course, although I have colleagues who practice this.

Barbara Bretcko | August 25, 2011

When I try this approach to extra credit this fall I'm going to ask that students cite the source for their revised response. Did they find the information in the book, in their notes, online? This could lead to a worthwhile discussion of how students study.


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  1. Extra Credit thoughts « iTeach Alaska
  2. Extra Credit – Sharing What I Find
  3. Group Link Post 07/21/2011 | KJsDiigoBookmarks
  4. Sites Along The Way: You Don’t Want To Miss These 07/21/2011 « myweb4ed
  5. Natural Blogarithms » Blog Archive » Second Chance Exam
  6. Teaching grab bag | TCU eLearning
  7. High School “Success” Policies | Education & Web 2.0
  8. MyWeb4Ed » Blog Archive » Sites Along The Way: You Don’t Want To Miss These 07/20/2011 (p.m.)

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