Now that I actually realize what the assignment point pool tracking thing entails (I was not totally on board before), I’ve realized what a great idea it actually is. Instead of being graded on how good our finished project is (which is a hard to do objectively), we are being graded on the little things that will lead up to a good project.
This has got me thinking about how different professors try different methods of motivation for big projects. For instance, last semester I was in two classes that had large essays due near the end of the semester, one fifteen pages and the other 25-50. The fifteen-pager was for a science class, EARTH 380, and most of my fellow students were Geology majors looking to get their ULWR credit. I was the only one in my discussion section who seemed enthusiastic about my topic and writing the actual research paper, but the professor was very thorough in breaking down the assignment into manageable chunks spaced out over the semester, and was very clear on what his expectations were the whole time. Not everyone enjoyed writing the paper, but everyone got it done, and had gone through at least four drafts by the time it was submitted.
In contrast, every single one of my classmates in my senior thesis-writing course was passionate about their chosen topic. We were given near-complete freedom over the semester; the only concrete date was the due date. Despite our passion for the subjects, nearly everyone in the class floundered because of the lack of structure. The only reason I was able to succeed in writing my paper is because I met frequently with an advisor who gave me constant feedback on my drafts, and because I used the structure given by my EARTH 380 class to map out what I should have accomplished for my senior thesis at each point in the semester, rather than hastily writing the whole thing in the last two weeks of the semester.
For most of my life, I’ve assumed that passion for your work is the most important component for success. Now, however, I realize that if passion can’t be narrowed and focused into consistent day-to-day work, it’s no use for anything more than a hobby.
Question for the comments: have you ever had a passion project that you just couldn’t get started on or finished? Have you ever enjoyed a project you didn’t initially care about because you had enough external motivation to actually delve into the topic?