Introduction

No matter how far they stray from the standards of common-core curriculum, educators often find themselves wanting to add to their lesson plans halfway through a semester. Extra credit opportunities can often ease the circumstances of these situations, allowing students a chance to further enrich their schooling. However, educators have different opinions about the effectiveness of such a practice. Some may argue that earning additional points on their own terms may motivate students. Others argue that the opportunity discourages students’ motivation in their required assignments. By any means, extra credit has had a history of catalyzing learning in some classrooms, and highlighting inequalities of opportunity in others. Before enabling it into their classes, teachers should weigh the effectiveness of such a practice, and find fair methods of creating such opportunities for their students.

Resources

With the offering of extra credit being such a routine, yet polarizing practice, the internet is swarmed with articles and activities surrounding the topic. Utilizing the following resources could assist teachers in deciding whether to or how to blend these credits into their classroom structure.

Lesson Plans

  1. Extra Credit Activity Examples: This page from TeachTCI lists 10 ideas for extra credit assignments. The activities allow for students opportunities to complete activities that strengthen their academics, as well as ones that get them more involved with their local communities. Some of the activities involve attending school activities or listening to speakers, experiences that the students might not normally gravitate towards. These ideas are meant to limit exploitation of inequalities among students and to give all a fair chance at extra points.
  2. Engaging Activities: In this post, schoolteacher Erika Romero begins by reflecting on her implementation of extra credit as a means of getting students to go above and beyond in applying what they’ve learned. She gives five examples of ways in which she has incorporated opportunities for extra credit into her classes. She delineates the activities and the students responses thoroughly in the hopes that teachers can gain ideas for creating similar assignments. She describes plans in a variety of formats, including reflection papers, peer responses, event attending, and digital projects. Teachers can look up to class formatting should they choose to allow chances for bonus points.
  3. Middle School Ideas: This resource from ProTeacher Collection lists 10 examples of extra credits that one teacher offered for her sixth, seventh, and eight grade classes. This page could be helpful for educators teaching within that grade range who may need some ideas. Most of the assignments can be completed by students on their own schedules throughout the year, limiting the chance that a student will be too swamped to accept such opportunities.

Articles

  1. Unfair for Students?: This op-ed piece from Small Pond Science illustrates why one teacher strongly refuses to offer extra credit in their classroom. The teachers claims that most forms of extra credit and pay little respect to a students’ time. The writer lists six common reasons that teachers will engage in the practice, and attempts to refute each one. The article goes on to say that when students become accustomed to the practice, they tend to strive less on required assignments throughout the year. When students study less for their required assignments, the quality of their education ultimately depreciates. In turn, the constant availability of the custom implements unhealthy behaviors and as a result should not be encouraged by educators.
  2. Pros of Extra Credit: In this article from Inside Higher Ed, Professor Deborah Cohen from the University of South Carolina at Beaufort, explains her shift in teaching style and decision to offer opportunities for extra credit in her classes. In the opportunities that she offers, she pushes her students to engage deeply with required materials and campus culture. She holds her students accountable by basing her grading system on the effort that students put into the assignment. She requires a two-page paper with every event that students attend for extra credit, but she finds that many students attend the event out of their own curiosity and choose not to submit a paper. 
  3. Analyzing Forms of Extra Credit: This chapter from the book Charting a Course to Standards-Based Grading, by Tim R. Westerberg explores the use of extra credit, eventually ruling against certain forms of the practice. The section criticizes the practice of bringing in classroom supplies in exchange for a grade boost. It suggests that rather than call it “extra credit,” teachers should call the act what it is: one of “citizenship.” As such, those actions should not be met with a reward that would in turn marginalize students less capable of affording these supplies. The author then goes on to defend his stance forms of extra credit, but still for the standard of giving students second chances. This chapter touches upon some very insightful points in warning against some of the most prevalent yet most depreciating teaching practices.

Informational Sites

  1. The Extra Credit Question: This page from the Chronicle of Higher Education analyzes the different perspectives on whether or not to include extra credit, listing reasons why teachers would or would not want to include it. The article also lists eight strategies for teachers in incorporating extra credit assignments. Overall, the article gives plenty of great information for both sides of the question, and even lists advice for those considering incorporating the practice into their classrooms.
  2.  The Laws of Extra Credit: This TeachHub article lists the unwritten “laws” of giving extra credit. For teachers who would like to offer extra credit in their classes, this article presents advice and guidelines for setting boundaries. Teachers often need to be careful with how they give extra credit in order to optimise the students’ learning. This article gives instructions for best improving the classroom’s efficiency through extra credit.
  3. Extra Credit: An Undeserved Gift or a Second Chance to Learn?: This transcript of an online seminar, by Maryellen Weimer, Ph.D attempts to teach educators how to offer extra credit more fairly and most effectively. The speaker aims to keep these opportunities reinforcing “procrastination or other irresponsible behaviors.” 

Within the seminar, four different educators share their experiences with extra credit in their classrooms, with feedback from Weimer. The lecture acknowledges that even college students are not fully matured and still make mistakes. Therefore, another chance at succeeding should be appreciated, but only in the circumstances that encourage the right types of habits from the students. Weimer lists a plethora of options for teachers who decide to incorporate the practice into their classrooms.

Conclusion

Teachers oftentimes find that many of their students choose not to take advantage of most opportunities for extra credit. Simply having the opportunity available has the potential to highlight the students that care the most about their learning. Or perhaps it highlights just the ones that care mostly about their grades. Either way, the different methods of implementing extra credit opportunities into the classroom can have a major impact on student absorption of class materials. Teachers should decide carefully and be willing to back up their decisions when organizing these tasks into their gradebooks.

 

Additional Resources 

  1. Study on Extra Credit’s Effect on Student Learning: This four-page study conducted by Brian Miller from the University of Delaware investigates the underlying effect of extra credit on student learning. The study compares exam score of 1204 undergraduate students to their level of participation in extra credit assignments. It found that the mean exam scores for those that completed more extra credit assignments ultimately fell higher than the mean scores for those that choose not to participate.
  2. Pros and Cons: This resource from the Spartan Oracle includes two different articles, one written in favor of extra credit, and the other against it. Both writers articulate their points concisely and clearly. The page presents the arguments in an interesting way, placing both opinion pieces side-by-side and allowing the reader to decide with which one to identify more closely.
  3. Middle School Science Examples: This site created by a middle-school science teacher lists detailed, science-related extra-credit assignments for her students. This page can give teachers, regardless of what subjects they teach, ideas for assignments outside of general curriculum. The teacher also some ground rules for students who complete these assignments, including that they must have turned in at least 80% of their work. The teacher’s clear expectations outlined on this website can stimulate teachers in creating more fair opportunities for their students.