TITLE: Thinking About Untapped Extra Credit Opportunities AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: April 30, 2016 11:02 AM DESC: ----- BODY: I don't usually offer extra credit assignments in my courses, but I did this semester. Students submitted their last scheduled homework early in the last week of classes: an interpreter for a small arithmetic language with local variables. There wasn't enough time left to assign another homework, but I had plenty of ideas for the next version of our interpreter. Students had just learned how to implement both functions and mutable data, so they could add functions, true variables, and sequences of expressions to the language. They could extend their REPL to support top-level definitions and state. They could add primitive data objects to the language, or boolean values and operators. If they added, booleans, they could add an if expression. If they were willing to learn some new Racket, they could load programs from a text file and evaluate them. I had plenty of ideas for them to try! So I asked, "If I write up an optional assignment, how many of you would take a stab at some extra credit?" Approximately twenty of the twenty-five students present raised their hands. I just downloaded the submission folder. The actual number of attempts was a complement of the number of hands raised: five. And, with only one exception, the students who tried the extra credit problems are the students who need it least. They are likely to get an A or a high B in the course anyway. The students who most need extra credit (and the extra practice) didn't attempt the extra credit. SMH, as the kids say these days. But the more I thought about it, the more this made sense. These reflections have me thinking... If I want to help the students who most need the help, I need to find ways to reach them sooner. I did try one thing earlier this semester that worked well for many students: the opportunity to rewrite one of their exams at home with access to all the course materials. A couple of students wrote surprisingly candid and insightful assessments of why they had performed below par under test conditions and supplied better work on their second attempt. I hope that experience helps them as they prepare for the final exam. I've been teaching a long time. I still have much to learn. -----