I just finished reading Go Figure's blog post about this topic, and let me tell you, it is one of the most heated debates among teachers! I have always believed that extra credit is detrimental to students. It can falsely inflate their grades and make parents believe they know the topic when, in fact, they scraped by with extra credit. However, there are some reasonable justifications for the other side of the issue.
I have seen my own children bring home "work" that was way too easy for them, or game-type assignments that had nothing to do with the class they were taking. When I as about it, they claim it's extra credit. What is the point of extra work if it isn't allowing the child to demonstrate their knowledge of a subject?!
Having said that, I had a bit of a conundrum this year with my science classes. I had an assignment that I really wanted to give them credit for; it was a great demonstration of their knowledge of the scientific process. However, there were some constraints that we couldn't find a way around.
So here is the assignment: I gave them a sort of scavenger hunt to fill out as we explored projects at our school's science fair. The questions weren't the usual like: "Which project is your favorite?", but more like "Choose one hypothesis that isn't justified and rewrite it with a research-based reasoning." Because the assignment was time (and place) sensitive seeing as how we were only allowed 45 minutes at the fair, I couldn't make it a required assignment. But I also didn't want it to be "busy" work. The purpose was to see them apply the scientific method to an array of experiments. So I accepted reasonable and explainable responses as bonus points on their own science fair project. The entire assignment was only 8 points, so I felt it wouldn't inflate the grades of those who saved their own experiment for 10:00 the night before, but would show me they understood the scientific method, which is what science fair projects are all about anyway.
So, let me know what you think? Extra credit or not...or somewhere in between?
To read the original post go to Go Figure: Curing One Mathphobic at a Time.