Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Play, and the Privileging of Process over Product

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Serendipitous, really ,that I read this recent post on Hybrid Pedagogy entitled ‘Exploring the Dungeon: the importance of “play” to learning‘ (by Jeff Everhart) just as i was thinking of writing this post. I won’t comment on the entire article, but on the part relevant to this post: learning as process vs product

So I’ve written a lot about the topic, and still I get into conversations where people say, yeah yeah fine, so focusing on process is great, but you do care about the product, too! It’s important. Well, yes and no. Do you mean long term or short term? Because short term, I honestly don’t care about product. It’s how focusing on process helps student learning (including “product”) long term that matters

My point is, the focusing on the process does two things (mentioned vy Jeff Everhart) that are important for the long-term learning of students:
1. Everhart suggests that using play in our classes should encourage students to want to learn beyond what we require of them. To me, this “goal” can only be achieved by focusing on their process of engaging with the learning, so they could be motivated to do it later on their own, for…
2.. (Continue from previous para) Their own goals. Everhart makes the distinction here that you rarely see: he talks about going beyond student-centered and towards student-created/produced goals.

There is greater learning value (obvious to me, anyway) in helping students both practice creating their own (learning) goals and building their curiosity/motivation to go out on their own and learn outside any goals or structures we as educators have in place for them. Aren’t those the larger goals of education? If so, why aren’t we doing more of this? As I commented on Everhart’s post, I believe play is one way of achieving this, but not the only way.

The “product” that matters, then, is the student’s own self-defined goal, and as educators, if we wish to equip them to meet those goals, is to focus on process, something they may use again and learn from failing at, rather than focus on some arbitrary end “product” we define outside our students’ world/choice/desires.

Would love to hear what others think.

P.S. And so, strangely, the whole rhizo14 autoethnography, to me, is a wonderful exercise in process, whatever end product each of us ends up wanting to create with it. The longer it takes us to decide (and there need not be a final product that we “stop” at) the more interesting the conversations about it are. The process of creating the raw data in itself was valuable, to me, anyway.

5 Comments

  1. Maha, thanks for sharing. An end product has a way of putting an end to process at times. I have seen it happen over and again. Maybe it’s a good thing we are not aiming for a dead-end product(or so i would hope).

    Len

  2. I am also very intrigued in the relationship between play and learning and the interactions between the two. I think once you have a child and observe how they learn, explore and interact it becomes clear there is a close relationship between play & learning (especially in the early years…before we start drumming it out of them with formal schooling….).

    I agree with the notion that student created goals and assessments/assignments can be more effective – certainly to help students take ownership and accountability for their learning (as anyone who has engaged with a cMOOC experience – yes, I just also read your cMooc / connectivism post! – might attest). The reason it doesn’t happen more often is probably because it’s not as ‘convenient’ – not as easy to assess/compare/measure/rank a cohort of students against a bell curve (which is what it – at least in formal settings – seems to be all about, right?!!). It may be as well, that – like what you’ve said about cMoocs perhaps not being a form of learning that everyone is comfortable with – is that perhaps students do need to be at a certain level of skill/ knowledge / maturity in the domain to set appropriate goals…?
    Not sure what you think about that, but just a thought. It may just be that not all students are comfortable with it because it goes against their expectations and ‘upbringing’ in formal schooling – throughout our lives we’ve just had learning goals and assignments set FOR us – that’s just how formal teaching works right? It totally throws people off sometimes to turn that on its head. We need to “unlearn” / or “learn” how to set our own learning goals.

    Process vs product? they’re not mutually exclusive though are they? It’s possible to incorporate both as part of the learning – e.g. have students create a ‘product’ but also narrate their process.

    • Thanks for the meta-comment, Tanya 🙂 I agree they’re not mutually exclusive, just that the “product” discourse is problematic in what it deprioritizes while privileging the product part

      Re: connectivism, i think you are onto something really important here: the very young and the very mature seem to learn best when they are given freedom to explore autonomously, right? So is school what’s standing in the way by its hidden curriculum of conformity, etc.? Hmmmm

      • possibly…school and then the workplace after it… I’ve been thinking about this a bit too, especially since we got called in the other day to have a ‘chat’ with the preschool principal about our almost 4 yr old’s apparent distractedness and daydreaming at school. He gets caught up in playing and his imagination and doesn’t always notice when he’s being called, or when things are happening in the real world around him. He’s also not great at following routines (this is our fault for being a little casual & disorganised with home routines…).

        But it got me thinking about this tension between play/exploration and structure – completely unstructured exploration or play isn’t necessarily productive / constructive – but what is the ‘right’ level of structure to wrap around it? Because all games have set rules; and it’s no fun and doesn’t make sense unless people follow them….

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