Should instructors offer extra credit?

Should college instructors offer extra credit? If so, is it OK to offer grade-raising points for community service, donating blood or attending a cultural event?

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  1. Mark Roulo says:

    “If so, is it OK to offer grade-raising points for community service, donating blood or attending a cultural event?”

    It all depends on what we want the grade to mean.

    If ‘A’ means ‘is a good person,’ then sure.

    If ‘A’ means ‘knows the material to mastery’ (or whatever), then clearly allowing blood donation to move the grade up is a form of lying.

    My guess is that for many K-12 courses grades have a large ‘is a good person’ component rather than being a pure ‘knows the material’ measure.

    I would personally prefer that the grade be a measure of ‘knows the material,’ but I don’t know that I’m in the majority on this one.

  2. From the linked article: A developmental math instructor offers to meet with students to go over problems they’ve missed on an exam. Students who can explain “why the previous solution for each missed problem was wrong and why the correct solution is correct (with a demonstration on blank paper)” can earn back half the points lost, up to a maximum of 10 percent for the whole test.

    That’s not extra credit; that’s just extra (and very good) evaluation.

  3. Peace Corps says:

    I don’t like the extra credit where the student comes up and asks for it. The student usually hasn’t done all the regular credit stuff. For my Algebra 1 class I realized that most of my students didn’t know how to study, so I came up with a way to help them study. They could earn up to 10 Bonus Points for each unit by completing the study guides at the end of the chapter. Only correctly worked problems with all steps (not done in their heads) shown earned credit. This was due at test time. I only had 3 students that regularly completed this work. The others just had better ways to spend their time, I guess.

  4. On exams with particularly dismal results, I’ve tried giving extra credit (1/2 the original point value, all or nothing) for students who redo the problem, show the work, and get the answer right. I don’t do that any more, because it seems like the students who could benefit most from the extra credit don’t bother, and the ones who don’t really need it take advantage of it.

    Extra credit is so not worth it, for those reasons. As I’ve read somewhere else in the blogosphere: No extra credit will be given. There are enough regular credit points available – work on earning those, instead.

  5. Peace Corps:

    Neat idea! I’m always on the lookout for structured extra-credit opportunities, and review problems abound. The step-by-step solution requirement just makes it better and better.

  6. In my college classes, I make a point to say that I do not offer extra credit because I want their grade to reflect (as much as possible) how much they know. I think many of my remedial math students are in these classes because of extra credit throughout high school (passing classes without actually achieving the objectives of the subject).

    With that said, I allow students an opportunity to EARN a better grade through the final exam. My exam questions correlate to questions given on tests… I record the grade on each individual question of every test. When a student does better on an exam question than they did the corresponding test question I give them half the points back in improvement (my grades are done by total points and not averaging percentages). This encourages students to study thoroughly for the final exam and work on those things they didn’t get the first time. Students appreciate the opportunity to improve their grade while I feel comfortable that their grade will still be a reflection of their knowledge.

    I know this isn’t ideal: it increased pressure on an already high stakes exam (department policy requires it be at least 25%) and it isn’t necessarily comforting to the student who fears testing. I just accept that I do what I can and hope I’m fair with integrity.