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Professors talk extra credit assignments

Staff Writer
It’s that time of the year. Many students are on the hunt for any possible extra-credit assignments, hoping to boost their grades at the last minute. A few extra points can bring a failing grade into the passing range.
The university holds no regulations concerning extra credit criteria. It’s at the discretion of individual professors whether they will allow students to make up lost grade points.
Much of the campus is torn on the issue of extra credit. Many students have never enrolled in a class where extra credit is an option, and even when it is offered, the amount of work required is far too lengthy and time consuming for some to feel it is worth the effort.
A six- to 10-page essay assignment stands between freshman Paul Khederian and a few extra points added onto his final grade in one particular class.
“He [my professor] didn’t exactly say what the assignment would be worth, at all. And knowing his grading system style, I’m not particularly optimistic about it,” said Khederian, who double majors in justice studies and political science.
Khederian made note that he has no intention to complete this lengthy assignment, but he still has his ears open whenever extra credit is announced.
“I will be doing one for my history class. It’s only a one-page paper, double-spaced, which is very reasonable,” he said.
Extra-credit opportunities vary classroom to classroom, and professors at the University of New Hampshire certainly seem to have different outlooks.
Jesse Morrell, a UNH lecturer who teaches human nutrition and obesity courses, offers her students a limited amount of extra credit.
“In my experience, I have found that some are firmly against it,” Morrell said. “‘Extra credit? That’s so high school,’ they might say. While others are happy to offer students the opportunity to further engage in material beyond the normal expectations of the course…heck, if a student wants to do more, why not encourage that?”
“Most instructors have a good handle on the courses they teach and the expectations of the curriculum, so they structure the grading components accordingly,” Morrell continued. “We want to reward the most proficient students accordingly…and we don’t want to pass through a student who hasn’t managed to develop a minimum level of competency.”
Morrell often teaches large classes of around 400-500 students, and she has developed an extra-credit policy that reflects her efforts to be consistent and fair.
“I tell students that I understand that life happens and that there will be days you can’t hand something in on time, or your exam performance isn’t all that hot,” she said. “But it is hard for me, as the instructor, to decide which situations are legitimate or which situations aren’t. So I avoid that and simply offer all students the same opportunity to complete the extra credit.”
Catherine Moran, who teaches sociology, is a UNH lecturer who opposes extra credit.
“My general philosophy is that all of the points available in a course should be earned within the assignments and assessments that are part of the course,” Moran said. “These are known to students before the semester even begins, when the syllabus is first posted online.”
Rather than providing extra credit for her pupils to do on their own, Moran follows a structure that allows students to gain such opportunities within the classroom setting.
“I also try to build in ample opportunities over the course of the semester for students to improve their grades and, more importantly, gain more mastery of the material,” she said.

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