As the end of the semester draws nigh, I am being asked the inevitable question: “do you offer extra credit?” Although I start the semester by telling the students that I do not, the folks who ask about it are generally not the sort of folks who pay careful attention in class.
Having been asked this question countless times, I have a set response. Actually, a series of responses-people are usually not content with “no” and I usually have to spend a few minutes or even half an hour explaining why there is no extra credit in my class.
First, I point out that my classes have “extra credit like” stuff built in. In all my classes I drop at least 5 low quiz scores and only keep the best 3 of 4 tests. In classes with a paper, the students are required to do an early draft, they get to revise it for weeks, and they even get +5 points added on just for being them.
Second, I point out that adding more work would not mean that the person would do better. After all, if someone needs extra credit, then that means that they are not doing well on the work to date. So, I suggest that rather than asking for an increase in the workload, they should probably focus on doing better on the work that remains. After all, someone who is doing bad work will most likely continue in that trend if given more work.
If the student points out that there is very little work left, I counter by pointing out that since the grades are posted online from day one, they should have been aware of their grades long ago.
At that point, the student often looks at me like I just don’t get it. By “extra credit” they tend to mean “free points” (that is what it meant when I was a student) and all this talk about work is no doubt very confusing. Obviously, I have no reason to hand out free points just because someone takes a few minutes to ask about extra credit.
Third, I point out that if I give one student extra credit, then I have to make the same offer to everyone. But, If I were going to do that, I would have just included that “extra credit” work in the class (and the student would no doubt do poorly on that as well).
Students, obviously, counter by pointing out that they are special. I counter by pointing out that everyone thinks that and every student can come up with some reason why I should give him or her extra credit. Which just goes back to the need to offer it to everyone and hence to the reply that I would have just put it in the class to begin with.