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Should extra credit be offered?

As a student myself, I both like and dislike the idea of extra credit.
At some point, it will help my grade when I need. But another time, difficult extra credit assignment discourage me performs in class.
For example, as finals are closing in, lot of students like me build up the anxiety right before the exam, trying to study as much as possible to get a good grade. If the professor offers extra credit and I did do it. I can still get good grade despite poor performance on the exam, therefore less pressure into the week of final. I do believe the end goal of education is gaining the knowledge, not punish for what you don't know.
On the other hand of the spectrum, extra credit are not always fair as professor claim to be. Not every student can attend a guest lecture on a Friday night, there always be a conflict. And what make me furious are those extra credits that have no relation to the course material. The cases maybe few, but the whole idea of second chance also can discourage one from try harder. Be honest, I hardly do my last homework if I guarantee an 90 from previous grade + extra credit bonus.

Thinking ahead, does the real world have extra credit? a second chance if you mess up?

I think the question really come down to what kind of education experience we are dealing right now and what should be for next generation.

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  • Apr 30 2013: The real world does have extra credit in a way.

    You get rewarded in life for going above and beyond, for taking every "extra credit" opportunity as it appears and doing it well. However, in real life, doing "extra credit" will provide only a little buffer towards failure.
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    Apr 28 2013: It's simply another tool to be used by a broken system. One only needs extra credit if the grade is all that matters. If actually learning the material was more important than our GPA's then no one would care about how much the midterm was worth, or if they could get an extra 2% credit on the final for going to a discussion or talk on campus about the class topic. If you come to end of the semester and you have a D, the vast majority of people simply want to make that letter change. They have little interest in filling the gaps in their knowledge so they can use that information later.
    • Apr 29 2013: When you say broken system, I assume you mean the letter grade. for the sake of argument, without grading(GPA), what push the student to absorb the knowledges? In my 3 years of college, half of my classes consist of major related courses and half of them are gen ed courses. There is no guarantee that all my classes are interest to me that without any grading in the class. Furthermore, grade not always reflect one's learning result, but it did indicate where they are in terms of course material.
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        Apr 29 2013: I mean the higher education system in the U.S. as a whole. It has become a branch of the service industry, where customers (students) pay for a product (education) that is produced by employees of a company (faculty at the university). It is a passive experience for the most part, where the majority of students go to class and are told what and how to think by someone whom society has deemed an "expert" on a certain subject for one reason or another. You go to class, the professor spoon feeds you information, you memorize it and regurgitate it on the exam. After doing this for four-ish years and paying $80,000, you receive a piece of paper that states that you have a certain level of knowledge in a certain area. You then are told to get a job so you can pay back those loans and/or contribute to society.
        Our system is about producing something off which we can make a profit, not learning simply for the sake of learning. Unfortunately, it still tries to function like a learning institution by requiring students to have elementary knowledge in a broad range of subjects (gen eds). This is inefficient. If you go to school to learn a trade (engineering, medicine, forensics...etc) then your course work should focus exclusively on that. If you are going to school to get an education (i.e. to broaden your mind and have a greater understanding of the world) then getting a degree with which you can obtain a job shouldn't be expected/needed (and cost should reflect that). If you are there to learn, grades don't matter. if you are there to get a job which requires mastery of the material, then they do.
  • Apr 28 2013: I think extra credit should be an option to raise the lower end of a normalized grade bell curve to an average score, no higher. I like the lesson taught by offering such opportunity to work through your difficult areas or instances where some unusual circumstance caused you to perform poorly on a test in class. In life, in many instances it is slow and steady that performs better over time.

    There is something to be said for mastery of a subject demonstrated by application of a certain amount of skill within a set period of time. However, in a competitive environment of test performance, using the amount of material expected during a set time to stratify class grades with no curve to reflect acceptable low end ranges as well as high end ranges seems unfair. It seems there should be two questions asked in every class. 1)Did the student learn enough of the course material to achieve proficiency? 2) How should grades be assigned? A simple statistical score might not reflect the best answers to these questions, although generally they will provide an unbiased and defendable answer. An easy judgement method.

    I too had a lot of test anxiety to overcome. I would infinitely prefer a take home test that asked complex questions and allowed me to demonstrate my application of concepts learned rather than a classroom test. I would spend hours on such tests and feel at the end my work was as good as I could go and competitive with my peers.

    Academic competition is a very high pressure fact of life in today's schools. I believe you will see suicide rates increase in the next generation similar to what was experienced in Japan among students. The finality of not being the best or getting into good schools can be devastating to an 18 year old.

    The balance between motivation, pressure and self-esteem is very delicate, particularly when emotion is suppressed. Teenagers are trying to figure out adulthood. Grade pressure can be the straw that breaks the camels back.
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    Apr 28 2013: In "real life" one has opportunities to correct some errors and not others. It depends how grave the error was. A person also has an opportunity often to provide unexpected value, and to take on assignments that go beyond what people in your line of work ordinarily do. II isn't "extra credit" but you may get credit of some kind for it.

    In personal relationships, people who mess up often manage to make up for it with extra effort.

    It shouldn't be something unrelated to your work or relationship or whatever, but I am sure there are people who keep their jobs despite mediocre or questionable performance because of something else they offer. It would be the exception, i think, to normal practice.

    In terms of what I did as a teacher, I gave no extra credit assignments but dropped the mark on one homework assignment or excused one homework assignment each term. On an exam in an advanced class, I might include an extra credit problem so the score could go over 100%. I did this because the mark was supposed to measure command of the course content (so unrelated EC makes no sense) and because I wanted students to put their effort into the work at hand and preparation for assessments rather than to expend little effort on the first time around because of the prospect of redo or extra credit.. When I taught in lower ed, students also got effort and citizenship grades, but those were not rolled up into the grade that was meant to signal command of the course content.
  • Apr 28 2013: good points, but why not?