Whither Extra Credit?

Document created by David K. Williams on Apr 1, 2016
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Dr. David Myers and I once discussed assigning students an extra credit opportunity from a philosophical standpoint. In a nutshell, he was con and I was pro. My reasoning for extra credit assignments is twofold. First, to encourage motivated students to explore a topic in greater depth than is usual in an introductory class. To some extent, this mimics an honors section of General Psychology, which our community college has discussed, but not yet added. Second, after many years of teaching, I grew weary of students asking for such opportunities. I finally decided to add one or two extra credit assignments to my syllabus addendum. That way, whenever a student asks, I remind them to check this addendum. And, in answer to the frequent response, "I lost it," I instruct them to check our course site on the College's learning management system (LMS).


In my introductory class, I generally make one extra credit assignment due just after mid-term, and the other a few days prior to the start of final exams. Given that this is "extra credit" for students, and I don't want to create a lot of "extra work" for me, I make these assignments easy and quick to grade. Typically, I add 5 or 7 points to students' cumulative, final exam scores, depending upon the specific assignment. For example, I post a link to Dr. Myers lecture on "Happiness" on our LMS. After watching this video, the student takes an online, objective quiz, also on our LMS. To prevent cheating, I do not allow students to see quiz results other than the total score. Another assignment "automated" in such manner, is one I often use at the end of the term to correspond to the final unit in my General Psychology course (i.e., Personality/Psychological Disorders/Therapy). This consists of asking students to read two chapters from Dr, John Suler's excellent book Madman, about a clinical psychology intern working in a psychiatric unit. The publisher makes these two chapters available free online, no doubt as an enticement to purchase the book. It must work as several students have told me they enjoyed the assignment and plan to purchase Madman.


Another extra credit assignment I am fond of is an article summary. I prefer this to an article "critique," due to difficulty introductory psychology students have understand research journal articles. The latter type of assignment seems more appropriate for advanced students. I will upload an example of an article summary assignment I recently created for my Human Relations online class, elsewhere on this Psychology Community site. You will notice that I provide a form to scaffold students responses and limit the amount of material I must read. (See reference to "extra work" above)


I am curious to see your thoughts on extra credit, citations for articles on this topic, and ideas for extra credit assignments that you may wish to share.