Discussions surrounding process versus product have become more and more common in the past several years, but some may not really understand how the two are related. When speaking of product, the focus is on the final result of the children’s efforts. In other words, what did they create? On the other hand, as the word suggests, process is concerned with the actions or steps the children take on their journey to get to their end creation. The children’s thought processes and choices are important.
A common area for the process versus product discussion to occur is in the area of art. I like to use the term crafts, versus art, when discussing this topic because when the focus of the activity is on the end product then children are often involved in a craft project. Think of when you visit a classroom near Valentine’s Day and you see twenty very similar looking “heart people” where the body is made from a heart shaped piece of construction paper and the arms and legs are strips of paper folded accordion style. Far too often the heart and strips of paper used have been cut out ahead of time by the teacher. The children’s portion of the craft is to fold the paper back and forth to make the arms and legs and then to glue the strips and the googly eyes on to the heart. Very little, if any, creativity takes place with this activity.
On the other hand, art work that has a focus on process provides children with the opportunity to be creative, and the final product is not the main emphasis. This is not to say that no importance is given to the end product, just the steps to get there are not planned out by an adult. An example of a process oriented activity could be when a teacher reads a book about nature, then gives the students open-ended materials and ask them to create a piece of art that represents nature to them. The teacher is there to support the children but not dictate how the process will evolve.
Lisa Murphy, a.k.a. the Ooey Gooey lady, offers helpful guidance to educators when trying to determine if an activity’s focus is product or process. Lisa states, “If it takes YOU longer to get it ready than it takes THEM to do it…. Chances are it is NOT process oriented art!”
For this post, the focus of the process versus product discussion was in the area of art. In a future blog post I will look at other academic areas where this topic also comes into play.