Saturday, October 28, 2006

Extra Credit...

Since Blogger won't let me comment, I'll write my own post about a post at -- Reassigned Time: Extra Credit.

At my large CC the students come in, go to class and go out again-- often very quickly (the parking lot is like a subruban high school, and equally dangerous at class breaks...). They have a very low level of participation in extra-curricular activities. I would fault them for being short-sighted and ignorant, except that I WAS them when I was an undergrad.... I worked too much, took as many credits as I thought I could pass with an A and treated the campus like a high school I didn't want to spend any more time than necessary around... and it was my loss.

Fast-forward to me as a college teacher. I teach a hard subject and all the majors I've taught have been conversions (i.e. they come in as something else and I persuade them to major in philosophy...). So-- they don't realize that the subject is difficult when they walk in the door. This usually leads to lower than expected grades... Like Dr. Crazy, I don't think they ought to be punished for that in the end -- sometimes it is difficult to understand how much and what kind of work needs to go into preparing for an exam or writing a philosophy paper...

My most recent solution to this continuing problem is to allow students to get extra-credit for going to an extra-curricular activity and writing a 2 page reflection paper about the experience. They may do 2 of these, which together are worth 20% of ONE exam or 10% of one paper... (my points system weights papers much more than exams.. they are worth 5 points each). The catch is that they need to participate on-campus -- in something, really --- anything. It may be going to the play, a campus activity or club meeting... it may be doing set work for drama or attending a debate event. It really doesn't matter what it IS... as long as they are doing something on-campus outside of their regular classes. They are also having to write about it -- which is a chore for most of my students.

I find that this does cut down on the grade-grubbing experience... when I can show them what they missed and they can make-up some of the points, the argument is much shorter. There are rarely instances in which this will give a student a grade they don't deserve... it may pull a student from a very high B to a very low A--- or a very high C to a very low B. Since we don't have pluses or minuses... and those students would be getting a B-plus or C-plus, the impact on them is great -- and I see it as some level of compensation for the straight grade options we have...

3 comments:

Dr. Crazy said...

Hey IPF! I'm glad that you responded on your blog! It sounds like 1) we have similar situations on our campus with students participating in campus life and 2) like we have very similar approaches to the idea of extra credit. Thanks for weighing in!

Dr. Lisa said...

This is way weird, as I was just pestering my colleagues about whether they assign extra credit.

When I have done this in the past, I find that the students who don't need it do it! Do you find this? I have decided I am going to try to avoid it in the future in favor of letting them drop their lowest grade. That gives them a little cushion, but does not put me in the position of grading more stuff.

GuideOnTheSide said...

The question of extra credit should be framed in the context of the final grade an its meaning. Most will agree that the final grade should be a measure of a student's level of competence in the subject matter outlined by their instructor.

Extra credit is often free points added to the numerator of the final ratio of earned points to total possible. If your instruments (tests, papers, assignments) are measures of ability you have totally biased the final grade upwards with the addition of "extra credit." It is no longer a level playing field if some students do not do the extra assignment.

A professor that often does the same courses as I do gives extra credit. Some of her students do poorly on the extra credit assignment. They may get a 65% for instance. Assume this is D work and that the rest of the non-extra credit work was averaging 65%. This extra credit in her class is enough to push the student into the C range. This student was not competent or prepared for the next class in the series, but many students don't care because they know how to play to the points and get through.

The issue is the same for students at the top (B to A).

There are good motivations for giving extra credit. Alternatives such as providing oportunities for rewrites, redo exams, and EXTRA ASSIGNMENTS (that add point to both the numerator and denominator) can be utilized.