Should students be allowed to design their own extra-credit projects?

Graduate students in Mass Communication Teaching are asking questions about decisions they are making for syllabi they are developing for undergraduate communications courses.

Q: Instead of giving the students a list of assignments for extra credit, can I let them design their own projects to allow more creativity and flexibility?

A: As a teacher, I like letting students have some choice in their work. You’re right that allows for more student creativity and can let students design projects that play to their strengths (i.e., Lynne Sarasin’s student learning styles and Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences).

But opening it up for students to design their own extra-credit  project would have a number of challenges.

Even if you decide that your students can design their own extra-credit, you’d want to provide some guidelines or samples to help them select an appropriate project. How much time should the project require? Would you accept different formats (i.e., a paper or a podcast or a storyboard)? Will students feel like their work is being assessed equally?

Would you have each student turn in a proposal for the extra-credit project? Otherwise, you could have a student invest time and have a project that wasn’t “appropriate” – but you didn’t know that until the project was completed, as you hadn’t known what the student was doing.

Is the extra-credit project to be completed independently or can student work together? If they work together, do they all receive the same grade?

You haven’t indicated how much this extra-credit project will count. But the larger the extra-credit project’s impact on the student’s grade, the more you want to have the project’s assessment well considered and explained to the class before they begin developing their projects.

The more uncertainty the students have about the assignment, the more questions you’ll get (and often right before the deadline for the project). Those questions can become overwhelming if you are teaching a large class.

What advice do you have about designing extra-credit activities?

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