Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No Extra Credit Required

There have been some discussions in my neck of the woods lately about extra credit. It will probably surprise no one who’s been reading this blog for very long that I don’t like extra credit, don’t see a need for it, and think it actually undermines learning, but I’m not going to delve into that right now.

Instead, I wanted to reference one small piece of that discussion which revolved around offering students extra credit for charity-related activities like canned food drives or Toys for Tots. My thoughts on that are very similar, offering extra credit for students participating in charity-type activities not only undermines the learning, but it undermines the caring.

So when I wanted to give my students the opportunity to participate in some of my small activities around Kiva, I let them know there would not be any extra credit involved. It was not a requirement to participate, but I hoped they would. Now, I did challenge them a little bit with
Some folks think teenagers won’t do this kind of thing if there’s not a payoff for them in it – we’ll see if they’re right.
But it was all pretty low-key. I talked briefly about it that first day in class, referred to the blog post if they wanted to know more, then simply reminded them at the beginning of class each day that if they had any change to contribute that they could give it to me now or drop it by my office throughout the day.

Our goal was a quarter a day per student for the remaining ten days we had of class, which worked out to $62.50 for the twenty-five students in my class. We ended up at $77.26. (Including one student who chased me down in the cafeteria on the last day before break – which is three days after the last day my class meets – to hand me 85 cents.) I said I would match up to $100, so I’ll be matching with $77.26. My Dad apparently still reads my blog and he said he’d match at 50% of what I matched, so that’s another $38.63. And then Rob in Afghanistan, who I’ve blogged about before, sent me an email letting me know he would be sending me a $100 check as well.

So that works out to $293.15 (okay, I’m gonna chip in another $6.85 to make that $300). Now, I know that’s not a huge amount of money, and I didn’t take advantage of the full educational possibilities here (see some of Bill Ferriter’s excellent work with Kiva), but it will still make a difference for the entrepreneur(s) we fund with this (and, of course, when it gets paid back I’ll re-loan it again and again – that’s part of the beauty of Kiva).

Students are always going to want extra credit. At least they always will as long as we model for them that that’s the way things work. But I think if we lay out our thinking for them, they’re going to step up most of the time – just like my students did. Will teenagers do this kind of thing? Yes, they will.

And no extra credit is required.


  1. Karl,

    Nice work on the Kiva fund-raising. It's a great thing.

    I can't help but point out the obvious though. Grubbing for extra-credit would not exist if the school were not so addicted to grades and grading.

    The only way to ensure maximum learning at each student's level to their fullest potential AND increase the empathy, collaboration and compassion we desire in students is to eliminiate the stakes associated with being judged, ranked or sorted.

    Happy holidays!


  2. Gary - I agree completely and am doing what I can to move in that direction.

  3. This is odd. I just happened on your blog and it was the second thing I've read today about Kiva. I hadn't heard of it before today, but it has my attention now, that's for sure.

    Thanks for the good read and the good idea!


  4. Karl-

    Great post. I agree that extra credit has no place in schools. Much the same way that learning should be its own reward (or at least its own assessment)giving should be its own reward as well.

  5. Thanks for participating Karl. I have written a post about this years event. http://makeitinteresting.blogspot.com/2010/12/so-how-did-025-day-work-out.html.

    Let's do it again next year.

  6. I feel the very same way about extra credit and I don't use it in my classes; good to know that I'm not alone!