What Changes When You Pass/Fail

I know that mid-way through week seven of the semester (week six of DBC) my engagement and stake in the course fundamentally changed. I do not know how much of that change came in the moment I decided I needed to prioritize my thesis whatever the costs to my independent study grade might be, and how much of that change came slowly after I decided to pass fail the class. Because my whole syllabus was set up as complete/incomplete, pass failing the course did not significantly change the effort I put into my work, but it did mean I chose not to complete all the work. If, for example, I had chosen not to finish week six or write the week seven exam, but had not pass/failed the course then I probably would have tried to finish weeks eight and nine of DBC, perhaps on schedule but more likely at the end of the semester. I would have gone back to attempt that work to give myself the 3.33% of my grade that each week of DBC was worth. Though there is value in that learning, it is hard to think about doing that work just for the completion grade in a syllabus that was generally self-designed (by which I mean no one else was deciding that I needed to do that work for any external reason). I wonder if I would have chosen a different final project – one that mapped more directly to the skills I developed in DBC, instead of one that offers what seems like the more long-term benefit to me – had I not pass failed the class. In many ways pass/failing the course has freed me up to actually make my own decisions and steer my own learning. It has in turn put more of the responsibility on myself to be accountable to completing work to my expectations. I know I have done less work since deciding to pass fail the course, and although the ability to make that choice was largely the reason I decided to pass fail, I still feel conflicted, and guilty, about not constantly pushing myself to put in more time and energy.


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