Sunday, March 09, 2008

Here's a Tip

If your professor, who has the reputation of being a hard-ass and who has already exhibited to you that she is a hard-ass, offers you extra credit on the midterm that could give you as much as a third of a letter grade bump to your final grade in the course, probably it would behoove you to at least attempt doing a question for extra credit. At minimum you'd have gotten a point, just for trying. Maybe you'd have gotten 2, if you said something marginally interesting.

It is astonishing to me that but one - one! - student did the extra credit. Hell, one student in the group only did two of the three questions that were *required*. (It was an essay exam, they were given 4 questions, had to write on 3, and they could choose to write on the fourth for extra credit. They got to *choose* which question would be the EC question. And did I mention it was a take-home? That they'd had for a week and a half? This was totally not an issue where they couldn't have managed some bullshit response for the fourth question. Again, had they just *tried* it they'd have gotten a point. And I told them that I'd be generous with that ahead of time.)

Need I note that the only person who did the EC option was BES? And that she's already gotten an A on her presentation and is averaging a low A on her short response essays? In other words, she totally was the only one in the class who could *afford* to ignore it?

You know, you try to be nice to people, and they don't even take you up on it. Lame.


Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Could the rest of them have run out of time or something? If the only student to answer all four questions is among the best in the class, then maybe the others didn't have time.

Was there one question they all avoided -- or is there some other pattern to their answers that would explain not knowing the answer for the last question?

Dr. Crazy said...

I think you responded after I initially posted, while I was actually editing the post to note that it was a take-home exam. And there's no rhyme or reason to what they chose to answer - if it were that they all chose not to answer one question, I'd totally take the fall on this one - even if BES did all 4. And there are other strong students in this class. One I know is just busy and doesn't give a shit about grades, another had pneumonia. This doesn't explain the others, though, particularly the one who I know is *brilliant* (if a bit flaky) and already totally fucked his presentation in a way totally uncharacteristic of him (actually, I may be calling him in for a meeting.... I'm a little worried, as he's just not himself this semester, and I've had him twice before, and there's a definite difference there, which is not about ability or intellect or even motivation).

Pacifist Viking said...

That's interesting: I've found that students are more likely to work hard on extra credit than on the regularly assigned work. I once offered a class extra credit for reading "The Bluest Eye" and writing a two page paper about it: nearly every student did it, and most appeared to work pretty hard on it. I thought it was like getting people to buy things just by putting a "Sale" tag on it: if I just made every assignment extra credit, I'd have the hardest working students ever.

Jane said...

I used to give extra credit at the end of my classes: students could do an optional assignment for up to 10 points back on the exam or assignment of their choice. I figured it was a low-key way for students to make up for "off-days", like a bad exam day. But I stopped doing this when I realized that the only students who did it were the ones pulling solid A's or A-'s already, never the ones who actually needed the points. I figured, why waste my time if it's not helping anyone? It is frustrating, though.

WordsmithWorking said...

First time poster. Long-time lurker.

The rhyme or reason regarding the dismissal of extra credit (or rewrites, in my case) is not only lame, but somewhat of a snuff to my semester good graces.

I find that when students do take advantage, the A students are fabulous; the "in danger of not passing" students basically throw pasta at the wall and hope it sticks.

Big shock, I suppose.

Thanks for many interesting reads.

Sisyphus said...

Well, soon they will come complaining to you, as they realize the error of their ways and the errors of their grades.

And you will be able to respond to them as I always have: Mwhahahahaha!

Mwhaha Hahaha Hahaha!


I hope you do a better Dr Evil impression than I do...

Dr. Crazy said...

Hi Mrs. Z! Welcome!

To everybody else, I'm not actually that fussed about this - really I was more surprised than anything, mainly because I typically offer extra credit in many of my courses, and this usually isn't the response that I get. The students on the low end are typically really into extra credit (more so than the actual work of the course, as Pacifist Viking noted (and hey - isn't this your first time over here too? Welcome! ) and the students who are stronger often attempt something just to ensure they get the grade that they aim for if something goes wrong. What's weird about this situation is that first it doesn't look like what I usually get in response when I offer extra credit and second that this is actually the course that I teach that has the most difficult and most alien material for them.

Eh, whatever. They'll be crying in approximately one month's time, at which time I will say, with a look of concern and sympathy on my face, that there is not a thing in the world I will do for them in terms of offering more extra credit. I think that will probably be a valuable lesson for them.

Seeking Solace said...

I have offered extra credit, amnesty for missing assignments and the students who need it will not take it.

When you're thrown a bone...take it!

The_Myth said...

I, too, am also not surprised.

I figured out long ago that the students who literally BEG for extra credit almost never do it. Or their "attempt" [to use that term as loosely as possible] is often completely off the directions.

It's always the high scorers who do the EC *and* do it well.

Kinda makes the whole idea of extra-credit kinda unnecessary, no?

My big concern is this: Why are so many college students turning into total fuck-ups? It doesn't appear to be over half yet [at most schools, at least], but what used to be 1 or 2 students per class now seems to be edging from one-quarter up to one-third of the total.


Dr. Crazy said...

In the subtext is some of the comments is that it's not useful to give extra credit, so I thought I'd explain why I do so, and why I'm actually a bit of a fan of it.

1) I started doing it at this institution (had never done so previously for all of the reasons that others note) because it is not unlikely that students enter my courses with a complete lack of understanding of the level of work that I require of them (and that should be required in college). Let's just say that not all professors at my institution push students in the way that I tend to do. This means that a very good student, a very smart student, can really colossally screw up the first couple of assignments just because they're not clear about how much work they'll need to put in when they enter the course. Extra credit then provides a "correction" that allows them to get the grade that they probably deserve while at the same time it allows me to give them what I think of as "real" grades that I don't inflate. In other words, they have ownership over making the "correction" as opposed to me doing it for them.

2) I do not give extra credit on demand. I allow for extra credit, but only to the whole group, and only with assignments that are designed as "extra" and that I build into my planning for a course. This keeps it fair, although it is ultimately up to the student to choose to do the assignment or not.

3) Finally, this means that I'm in a position where I can feel comfortable with never allowing students to revise papers for a better grade, an option that I think I'd have to engage if there were no way for students to bump themselves up. My policy on revision is that they should be revising *before* they turn in the final draft to be graded - they should have taken care with what they produced before they submitted it to me. I think that's important since when they go off into the world and have to write something in the workplace, they'll be judged on the first submission, and won't often get a do-over (and even if they do, they'll be regarded negatively because they didn't get it right the first time). Now, obviously, in writing classes I allow revision and encourage it because I'm teaching them the process of writing college-level work. But in my lit classes, well, I expect them to have more ownership over their own process. I'm happy to help before a paper is due, and I do build in a few assignments that lead up to the final paper so they're not totally left twisting in the wind on their own, but no, there are no revisions possible after I've assigned a grade.

At any rate, that's my rationale for offering EC, and generally, I've had a lot of success with it, with students of a variety of levels doing the EC. What this class did is decidedly not the norm.

"Why are so many college students turning into total fuck-ups?"

Well, I blame the culture of testing in K-12, combined with the emphasis on writing about how one *feels* as opposed to constructing a well-crafted argument. I don't think that the students are *actually* fucked up - or maybe they are, but I don't think it's something intrinsic to them - but rather that they've been taught through experience what they need to do to succeed, and what they've been taught often doesn't match up with the expectations of many college professors. Now, the response of some professors to this is that they stop caring and stop insisting on work that students won't do or don't do well, which only exacerbates the problem for those of us who soldier on. I've got no data to support this, but this is my theory :)