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Ethics In Educational Research Essays On Depression

In our recent article,Ethical Teaching in the Classroom and Beyond, Doug Woody and I present the following case:

Extra credit. In an introductory psychology class the professor, Dr. Hamilton, decides to offer extra credit if students register to vote in the upcoming election. Hamilton works for a get-out-the-vote group affiliated with a ballot initiative to increase spending on education, and offers to have students help out on Election Day for a few extra extra-credit points.

Is it ethical for Dr. Hamilton to make this offer? What’s your gut-level reaction? How might you decide? What are the criteria for judging the ethics of extra credit? Why all these questions?

I’m asking these questions because extra credit is a common, complex and controversial issue. According to an interesting survey by Hill, Palladino, & Eison (1993), lots of psychology professors use extra credit assignments, and most appear to be thoughtful about it. One finding is that professors are more likely to use extra credit assignments when they see educational value in them. For example, researchers have found that giving extra-credit pop quizzes helps students learn better (Fuad & Jones, 2012). Some extra-credit opportunities that Hill and his colleagues asked about seem very relevant and beneficial—for example, “doing a research paper,” “summarizing a research paper,” and “correctly answering optional essay questions on an exam.” 

One criterion for ethical extra credit, then, is beneficence. The activity should have educational value or benefit. And, the value needs to be related to course content. Hill and his colleagues present a few ideas for extra credit that bear no relationship to the course. Adopting a pet. (Really?) Donating blood. These are nice things to do, but not really related to course content. If Dr. Hamilton were teaching political science, the experience of registering to vote might (might!) be OK, but probably not in intro psychology. 

To the extent that Dr. Hamilton is advancing his personal/political agenda at the expense of his students’ education, he has a clear conflict of interest. For example, it clearly would be wrong to give extra credit only to students who vote in a certain way. The conflict would be less obvious (but still there) if registration were the only grounds for credit.

Here’s an interesting conflict of interest:  The most common extra credit activity in psychology courses is to have students participate in research being done by faculty or graduate students. Professors like to say that such participation is related to psychology, which it is. They also like to say that it has some educational value, which it often does. Some professors, however, like to say that the reason they give extra credit for (or require) such participation is for the benefit of students. My opinion: That’s not the case—the extra credit or requirement exists primarily for the benefit of the researchers. My evidence for this opinion? In my experience, I've never seen a department create research participation experiences for students when faculty members do not need participants. My solution:  Let’s be honest with ourselves and with our students that faculty interests play a role, and make the experience of participating in research as educational as possible for students.

Justice is another relevant ethical principle. Is the extra credit opportunity available to all students? Most psychologists (Hill et al., 1993) seem to feel that extra credit should be available to all students, not just those with bad grades or those who ask for it.  What if lots of students in Dr. Hamilton’s class have already registered to vote, or are not eligible to register, or are busy on election day?   

One more consideration for now:  One professor in the Hill survey said, “I believe extra credit defeats the purpose of knowing the material.” If students get a higher grade because of effort tangential to the course, what does the grade mean? Let’s take this to the extreme:  Picture yourself on the operating table, and your surgeon says, “I never learned how to remove an appendix, but I graduated from my residency because I adopted a puppy!”

I’d love to hear your views about these issues. I’d even be willing to offer extra credit….


Fuad, M .M., & Jones, E. J. Using extra credit to facilitate extra learning in students. International Journal of Modern Education and Computer Science, 4(6), 35-42.

Handelsman, M. M., & Woody, W. D. (in press). Ethical teaching in the classroom and beyond. In D. S. Dunn (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Undergraduate Psychology Education (in The Oxford Library of Psychology Series). New York: Oxford University Press.

Hill IV, G. W., Palladino, J. J., & Eison, J. A. (1993). Blood,sweat and trivia: Faculty ratings of extra-credit opportunities. Teaching of Psychology, 20(4), 209-213. 


Mitch Handelsman is a professor of psychology at the University of Colorado Denver.  His most recent book is a collaboration with pioneering musician Charlie Burrell on Burrell’s autobiography.  Mitch is also the co-author (with Sharon Anderson) of Ethics for Psychotherapists and Counselors: A Proactive Approach (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), and an associate editor of the two-volume APA Handbook of Ethics in Psychology (American Psychological Association, 2012).

© 2015 by Mitchell M. Handelsman. All Rights Reserved

Source: Mitch Handelsman

Танкадо находился в Испании, а Испания - вотчина Халохота. Сорокадвухлетний португальский наемник был одним из лучших профессионалов, находящихся в его распоряжении. Он уже много лет работал на АНБ.

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