Why I Do Not Use “Extra” Credit

If you ask most students, extra credit typically involves the completion of some task-laden activity to pay penance for low grades. In that context, extra credit is at best an oxymoron, at worst an academic travesty.

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From an academic standpoint, extra credit should not be expected of students who have not done the regular credit. (That’s why I accept late work.) A person cannot eat an extra helping of potatoes prior to finishing a first helping, right? Rather, extra credit should be for students who have done all the regular credit and want to learn more. Extra credit, though not typically viewed as such, is actually an enrichment activity.

How About a Do-Over Instead?

When a student “needs” an extra credit word search to pass a course, I prefer to let them have a “do-over” on the regular credit. Many students will decline once they realize work is involved, but that’s ok.

Academically, the do-over is a far better option. Does it really matter if a student takes two or even three tries to demonstrate mastery of a topic? Last I heard, lawyers have as many chances as needed to pass the bar exam, and I know of many teachers who had to take their PRAXIS exams more than once. These people are not half lawyers and half teachers. So why should a student get half credit for two attempts at demonstrating proficiency at a skill? The goal is to learn the skill, not to punish latent learning, right? This is why I think extra credit is punitive and useless.

Mind you, I am not suggesting giving the student the same exact assessment or assignment. A similar task that assesses the same topic can be created for do-overs. I have at least three forms of every test that I use in my sequentials. For some topics, I have even more. Naturally, this is more work on my part, but it is truly what is in the best interest of the student.

What’s the Catch?

The one Caveat I insist on is that I will not do a re-assessment without re-teaching. This means that a handful of students will have to seek re-instruction on their valuable time. Only after I have worked 1-on-1 can I be sure that a students is ready for a do-over.

Some teachers may be asking, what about those incorrigibles who abuse a do-over policy? What about them? You might argue they are metacognitively astute. In any event, life always seems to sniff out the slackers (and life will give them a second chance). In the meantime, I will keep doing what I know is best for those who are working at the learning process.

Where do you stand on extra credit and do-overs?