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Extra Credit Quandaries

Should an instructor offer extra credit? There are many opinions regarding extra credit. Some education professionals hold the notion that giving extra credit is unfair and inflates grades. Others insist that students should earn their grades based only on expected work. The decision to offer extra credit can be difficult and ultimately comes down to the instructor’s personal education philosophy, the expectations set by the institution, and how the extra credit contributes to the value of the educational experience.

So you want more extra credit? How about doing all of the regular credit?An instructor may not want to offer extra credit if students are not motivated to complete the regular assignments. It may be better to revise assignments in this scenario. It’s also not fair to provide only a handful of students additional points to improve their grades. This might result in more grading as well. Providing meaningless extra credit -that is not related to the curriculum- could give the impression of poor planning.

An instructor may want to offer extra credit to motivate students to engage with new concepts on their own terms. Extra credit opportunities can give students a chance to show creativity that tests usually don’t provide, especially in high enrollment courses. Providing an extra credit question or two on a test can also minimize stress. To ensure fairness, inform students of any extra credit opportunities in the syllabus. This gives students a chance to plan accordingly.

Ways to Offer Extra Credit

Write discussion board questions

Students may come up with thoughtful questions about a given course topic that the instructor may not have considered. This can increase student engagement.

Conduct an interview

When students reach out to professionals in their field, it can help with networking and gaining real-world experience. Sharing their interview experience with their classmates can further that network and knowledge-base.

Gain cultural perspective

Asking students to attend an outside lecture, conference, community or school event can help them gain a new perspective related to the curriculum.

Find additional sources

Offering students points for finding additional sources for a given topic to add to course materials will increase engagement and add to the value of the course.

Create exam questions

Students can submit their own exam questions that an instructor can use in question pools in later versions of the course. This practice can increase retention of information and will contribute to the effectiveness of the exam.

Volunteer

Students can participate in charity work that may or may not relate to the curriculum. Students gain professional and personal growth while strengthening the community, and if it’s a group effort, it can be a significant team building opportunity. It also encourages civic responsibility.

Identify typos

Offering students points for identifying any typos in course materials such as the syllabus, written lectures or exam questions can encourage students to read the materials more closely and will increase the quality of the course overall.

Do you offer extra credit? How? Or why not? Tell us in the comments below.

Additional Resources

  1. Do You Give Extra Credit in Your Classes? It Should Stretch Your Students
  2. Extra Credit Can Help All Students Improve
  3. Extra Credit is Unfair and Inflates Grades
  4. Extra Credit is Unfair to Students
  5. No Extra Credit for You
  6. The Conundrum of Extra Credit

This article was written by DeAnna Soth and Tracy Smith.