Monday, September 07, 2009

The process product dilemma

This chart, from earlier days, illustrates the information the learner discovered about the Sioux Indians. It also represents a sense of aesthetic appreciation of Sioux design and doing something really well. Something to be proud of or too great an emphasis on product?

There seems to be view in education these days that the process of learning is more important than worrying about the quality of the learning itself,and particularly the physical products of student learning. Classroom walls in such rooms emphasize that the teacher and students are aware of a wide range of 'thinking processes' that are often grouped under the phrase 'Higher Oder Thinking' or HOTS.

This emphasis on process includes the key competencies of the new curriculum. Content seem of less importance.

That students need to appreciate that the process of learning is educationally significant what they create, or learn, is equally important.

This splitting into process and product is wrong. In the first place there can be no product without some sort of process. The processes used, at whatever level of skill, shapes the quality of the product, or depth of thought that will be realized.

Similarly the product or end in view that we aspire to create shapes the means we employ and provides the criterion against which choices in present are made. What is seen is the manifestation of those processes.It is from those processes that we are able to make certain inferences about processes. It enables judgements to be made and provides opportunity to provide feedback if necessary.

Process and product therefore cannot be dichotomous. They are two sides of the coin. Processes can be improved by attending to the product and products improved by making inferences about the processes. Students respect thoughtful attention to their work because it testifies to them that their teacher are taking them and their work seriously. Achieving worthwhile products, using any media, provides great satisfaction and feelings of competency to the learner. And done really well provides aesthetic satisfaction that comes from personal excellence.

If teachers focus on higher order thinking, or key competencies, as the most important aspect then we will get 'higher order thinking for thin learning'.


Anonymous said...

You are the first author I've read who understands the dilemma of classrooms. Teachers who don't attend to product (artifacts) do not follow a process as many will contend.

The bilingual team in my district understands this too. They provide the training for teachers, but lament that teachers are reluctant to follow.

The reluctance seems to come from a concern that not all the standards could otherwise be taught in a year. That's a huge contradiction for teachers and students. Schools will always work toward the mean with lower expectations at the expense of student achievement.

Imagine my struggles with today's schools when I have around 200 immigrant students that I am preparing for college, yet my own children will probably not finish high school because their teachers fail to understand the purpose behind school.

Bruce Hammonds said...

It does worry me that so many teachers are so thrilled to point out thinking processes they make use of but have no real worthwhile 'products' to show for it. While process is obviously important students like to see something to show from what they have been 'processing' - a 'product', or new ideas about something they can demonstrate or do.

In your situation rushing through processes at the risk of doing fewer things well would be counterproductive as you say.If students cant do what they have processed they haven't done it?