September 25, 2015

Student Assembly Votes to Ban Extra Credit Incentives for Study Groups

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Students in the College of Arts and Sciences may soon be freed from the obligation of attending study groups. Citing the need to differentiate teaching methods according to individual needs, the Student Assembly voted overwhelmingly Thursday to ban the practice, and will send the resolution to the Education Policy Committee for a final decision.

Varun Hegde / Sun Staff Contributor The Student Assembly convenes at Willard Straight Hall on Thursday September 24, 2015. Thursday September 24, 2015

Varun Hegde / Sun Staff Contributor
The Student Assembly convenes at Willard Straight Hall on Thursday September 24, 2015.
Thursday September 24, 2015

The resolution, Affirming Learning Style Diversity in Introductory Science Course, proposed the removal of penalties incentivizing students to enroll in unofficial study groups.

“We encourage professors to organize study groups, but we do not think it should be mandatory or grade incentivized,” said Gabriel Kaufman ’18, undesignated at large representative.

This issue is especially pertinent to the thousands of students enrolled in science courses, which often rely heavily on study groups to advance curricula goals.

“Thousands of students in specific courses, like Introduction to Biology: Comparative Physiology and General Chemistry I are offered the ‘extra credit’ equivalent to approximately a full letter grade worth of points if they attend weekly study groups,” the resolution said.

However, the resolution said that because science classes are usually graded on a curve, denying extra credit to some students is the practical equivalent of penalizing them. If you refuse to go to a study group and miss out on extra credit, you will have a disadvantage compared to your classmates, which will put you lower on the curve and yield a lower overall grade.

Members of the SA sponsoring the resolution polled 180 students on whether they thought study groups should be incentivized with higher grades. The results revealed that 39.56 percent of students polled completely agreed with making study groups optional, 25.82 percent agreed, 17.58 percent had mixed feelings, 7.69 percent disagreed and 9.34 percent completely disagreed.

Emma Johnston ’16, executive vice-president, said the poll represented too small a sample size to give a meaningful indication of the effect of incentivized study groups.

“You had 180 people take your survey, but in this semester alone there about 1,700 students in [study groups],” Johnston said. “… You need a little more proof and to ask students particularly what they want instead of study groups.”

However, Johnston said she supported the substance of the resolution, and voted in favor of it. She later added that she thinks a broader show of community support would have proven beneficial when the resolution’s sponsors have to convince the Education Policy Committee to make the changes they suggest.

Matthew Stefanko ’16, S.A. vice president for finance, alone voted against the resolution, defending the idea that students should be rewarded for attending study groups with better grades.

“I am still not sold on this idea of a free market education philosophy because we actually have data that people who go to this do better in the course,” Stefanko said. “I am not about to let Representative Kaufman, as much as I respect him, interpret this data to say that this is wrong for X, Y and Z reason.”

The resolution passed by a vote of 22-1-2, with two community votes counting in favor.

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