I’m confident that most of you reading this post have had students you would coin your “Level 4” students. These are the students who consistently score above average on tests and assignments. Often times, these students may also possesses learning and social skills beyond their peers. For some of these students, when an assignment is received, they want a clear path forward. They don’t want to be concerned about the process, and their teachers may not either. The focus rests solely on the product because that is what is assessed. Over the years, this is how these students have been trained to do school; they simply want to be told what to do, and they know how to please both their teachers and their parents/guardians. They have mastered compliance.
This approach represents a significant challenge for educators who place an emphasis on process over product. Their intentions may be at odds with their “Level 4” students. The clear path these students seek is no longer clear. They just want to produce a product within clearly defined parameters. When we focus on the process within the scope of finding problems, and developing innovative solutions to these often complex issues, the path is anything but linear.
It’s not just the students either who value product over process. In most cases, parents/guardians value the product-driven approach. School is one of those rare institutions where everyone feels an affinity towards the education system because they went to school. In all likelihood, they were exposed to a product-driven, not process-driven model. Their child may be experiencing tremendous success with a product-driven approach. They want educators to just tell their child what to produce, so they can comply with the instructions and success with be reflected in their grades.
The compliance mindset is a signficant obstacle to overcome for educators who desire to move the needle. However, if we seek an altered learning paradigm for students, we need to make this investment. When we focus on process, we negate compliance and allow students to channel their own learning. In turn, we not only engage, but empower learners. Once empowered, it is difficult to look in the rearview mirror.