Every semester, in every course, one hears some iteration of the following question, “Professor Y, can I get extra credit?” This question seems to be one that is common among students of all ages. I heard this request from children in the 5th grade, adolescents in middle school, and young adults at the university. While I understand a student’s desire to have these additional points, I rarely, if ever, grant extra credit. I am not suggesting that all teachers should take this same approach as many have used it to great effect. However, I have also witnessed teachers use extra credit without having an intentional purpose behind it and students are easily confused by some teachers’ use of extra credit. Therefore, I want to share with you why I choose not to offer extra credit in my classes.
- My job as an educator is to help students learn the material that has been entrusted to me in a warm, engaging environment. My job is not to ensure everyone gets an A, though I have had classes where the vast majority did so. In an article discussing extra credit, Sackstein, points out that learning is not about points to earn, but about mastery of the skills and knowledge necessary to take the next educational step (2014). In my first semester of teaching, I offered extra credit and I noticed something rather alarming. I witnessed students skating through class since they knew they could make up points later. For these students, it was about the grade rather than learning new skills and developing knowledge. Extra credit provides a loophole for laziness throughout the year and this my first reason for not offering it in my classes.
- While not all students will use extra credit as a reason for laziness, I also see extra credit as unfair to many students. I feel that my classroom should be as equitable as possible and extra credit does not allow this. For instance, I have had non-traditional students who worked full time, took care of their children, and took 18+ credit hours per semester. Their workload was already overwhelming and they barely had time to sleep and could not take advantage of any extra credit opportunities. Additionally, I have witnessed international students who were already working, taking their normal course load, and taking additional English courses to improve their writing and speech. Again, these students could not take advantage of extra credit. For this reason, I do not feel extra credit is warranted in my classroom.
- Finally, I do not believe in giving extra credit because it only leads to more work and frustration for both teacher and student. Unfortunately, many students believe that extra credit is earned merely by doing the activity or completing the assignment. Students often feel that their effort alone merits extra points and a higher grade. However, in many cases, if they had exerted a little extra effort on previous assignments, they would have no need for extra credit. Moreover, teachers already have ample grading and assessment to handle and extra credit only adds to this load. More work is only warranted if students will truly benefit from greater knowledge and skill development and extra credit rarely accomplishes this.
Each time my students hear my answer concerning extra credit, there are usually a few audible sighs and occasionally, an angry, “What, Why?” I always explain to my students that if they do the required work, come to every class, and focus on learning the material rather than getting a certain percentage of points, they will be quite pleased with their grade. I still receive a few requests at the end of the semester, but I reaffirm my beliefs to students. Not everyone is happy with my stance, but for the reasons outline above, I am confident in my decision. What are your thoughts on extra credit? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Sackstein, S. (2014, December 8). No, you can’t do ‘extra credit’. Retrieved from Education Week: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/work_in_progress/2014/12/no_you_cant_do_extra_credit.html
I recently completed my PhD in Education (Curriculum and Instruction) at the University of Wyoming. I have published multiple articles in peer reviewed journals and have a book chapter coming early next year. I aim to explore issues of privilege and equity of education, especially as they pertain to STEM education.