Process or Product? Why not both?

Process or Product? Why not both?

Learning is a journey that has numerous steps, falters, missteps, and successes along the way. Since we are young and learn to walk, we all have experienced hurdles and roadblocks. We learn to overcome them… Or most of them. And we learn how to face challenges along the way. At some point, our focus is not on the journey or the process, but on the results. In elementary school, we learned long division and vertical multiplication. We memorized the rules to get the correct answer. Recently, the New Math approach has shown students how the process works hoping to embed deeper understanding into their minds.

A recent blog article discusses the new math approach, and it is more about the process than the product. Through new educational initiatives, students focus more on the journey than the end product at a young age. But this has numerous parents worried. As parents, we are used to seeing grades as the result of their complicated work. But this is now de-emphasized due to research indicating stress levels in students rising. And coming off the tails of the Covid Slide, we want our kids to get their motivation back. We want their confidence to increase as they fill in the numerous gaps left behind. 

So we focus on the process—the journey. We are learning from mistakes and growing from them. And we measure how far students have come from where they started since not everyone starts at the same place. It is truly an individualized approach to measuring how much one has learned. 

But this changes.

Somewhere along this journey into adulthood, our view changes. Yes, knowing how or why something works is nice, but it is also lovely to get the answer and move on. This monumental switch happens at different times for everyone in their lives. Most adults have a nice balance between the two approaches and try to focus on the process for things that interest them and the product for the more mundane tasks. 

Bringing product based education into college.

A recent new hire from Western Michigan’s academic affairs division is controversial because of his results-oriented view on public policy. But this appointment is very telling of where the school aims to go. They want to see results in the form of jobs and opportunities for their students after they graduate. The politics behind the world of education are much more controversial than most realize. So this decision cannot be taken lightly. Results-oriented leadership will bridge that gap from process to product-focused learning. 

Won’t students focus on themselves?

This, however, will not be a return to individualism. Dean Vasquez is well-known for his commitment to community, diversity, and equality. We know him for bringing communities together while emphasizing educational equity. He believes in making education more accessible to anyone who wants to learn. Zinkerz Gives Back, a recent initiative, is attempting to lead the way on a smaller scale by giving back to the community through free homework help to ensure all students receive the help they require. 

Is this a bad thing?

Some may argue that focusing on the product destroys the learning experience. Others would say that it is the whole point. But students need to learn for themselves what is best for them. They need to hold onto the love of learning and baste in the process for tasks that excite them. But they should also know how to get through the tasks that don’t and focus on the final product. In short, we need to understand both learning methods and adapt them to meet our needs.

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