Tuesday, April 28, 2015
“Can I Do Something for Extra Credit?”
Good luck with grading!
I have a clause about extraordinary documented emergencies in my syllabus. It specifies when they need to ask for help, and is pretty specific about what sorts or things qualify, I use it occasionally, and haven't had a problem.
What I ended up figuring out is that even a generous set of policies won't turn a student from a poor student into a strong one. So, I stopped making those kinds of deals.
My Dean always emphasizes "do what the syllabus says" to our new adjuncts and new faculty, but I also need to remember to pass on that info and some war stories.
But you left out that old standby, the Incomplete. There are good reasons for them, and I've even had one student actually finish one of those, but the rest of the requests are just wishful thinking.
I'll share my fave tactic: Remind them that an I automatically turns into an F at the end of the next semester (they often do not know that), so their plan to turn a D into a C via an I for the final exam they aren't ready for is more likely to turn that D into an F.
You're creating expectations in students that are wholly unrealistic and enabling detrimental behavior (i.e., "I can slack off for 14 weeks and bail myself out by writing a vapid, 5-page 'How I Feel' paper completely devoid of originality, substance, introspection, critical thought, appropriate attribution, and proper grammar"). You're also mocking those of us attempting to maintain some semblance of academic standards.
I generally grant "incompletes" only for medical problems, though I will do so sometimes for family emergencies also. Just being too busy doesn't cut it. Most incompletes are never finished, so I regard it as a fairly low-cost way to handle students who are failing but are convinced that they are just behind schedule.
More naively, I've only offered incompletes when I can find some documentation (or potentially get some on file) for medical or other issues that generally fall under what the institution puts in for the attendance policy. I've said that I need this in case I'm checked up on—it turns out I may have been correct!
Other extra-credit has tended to be during the term, to get students to academic activities after class (the carrot, in other words). Not everyone can attend these, so now I'm wondering if that's something I should stop….
I gave a 2 question multiple choice quiz at the end of each class. So I always knew who was there. I had a scheme for aggregating the quiz scores to the equivalent of a test score. If the overall quiz score was better than the student's average (genrally of three) test score, I *added the overall quiz score as a fourth test score*. Otherwise, I ignored it.
So it was an opportunity open to everyone through out the semester. It was not one big thing. It could only help, not hurt, someone's grade (mostly it made more difference). And if anyone asked for an "extra credit" opportunity, I said, "Read the syllabus--it's described there." (When I got that, it was usually from someone who had missed half or more of the classes/quizzes.)
One bit of "extra" credit I include in some of my classes is grade replacement. The final is comprehensive and divided into sections corresponding to the regular exams. If students do better on the "exam 3" section of the final than they did on the actual exam 3, I use their grade from that section of the final as their regular exam grade.
It's clearly written in the syllabus, and it's equally available to all students, but it can be helpful for students who struggled at the beginning of the semester but improved later on. They still have to demonstrate understanding of the material, they just all get a second chance.
I highly recommend that all new instructors, but especially CC instructors, be encouraged to read an older piece of work by Martin Spencer (1979) titled: "On the Conflict of Social Philosophies in Higher Education." If your teaching philosophy aligns with that of a contract basis, the best option is to simply allow students to resubmit their work in lieu of offering extra credit...it would then even be possible to allow multiple resubmissions if the student is willing to put in the work.
My advice on an incomplete is a bit different than what GSwoP@10:05 says. My college's policy is that a student has to be passing and have completed a substantial part of the course to be eligible for an I, which lets you blame someone else for doing something sensible. That gets rid of the ones who missed two out of three exams and want to make them up over the summer. If my college didn't have that policy, I would put it in my syllabus.
But some students require different handling to get the best from them and from the teacher too. I've had students in class to learn the five-graf essay who were reading Montaigne and Dr. Johnson on their own and clearly taking lessons from those masters.
They begged me for more work, harder work, different work, work at their level, work they could be proud of, work where I could really offer them help.
In other words, to go off syllabus and turn their experience of ENG 101 into a writing tutorial.
So, does the teacher owe more allegiance to the student in front of him or to the institution paying him to teach a course?
2) Agreed - extra credit can serve as a valuable incentive for participating in related outside activities, such as going to the tutoring center, attending office hours, etc. I've used it when I want students to bring in "realia" materials. They forget otherwise.
3) I LOVE the idea of "mastery" learning - allowing students multiple times to really get it right instead of just marking them wrong and moving on. However, that places a horrendous burden on the instructor to not grade just 30 assignments (assuming 30 students), but suddenly to grade 60 or 90 as students turn in draft after draft. In my experience, some students continue to miss the mark in new and creative ways each time. Do you give up when they've had 3 chances? Never give up on them and continue grading their revisions well into the next semester? What do you do with the honor's student who isn't happy with an A, but wants to revise for an A+? Advice for practical ways (institutional or instructor-level) to deal with mastery-based learning would be great topics for a future column!