Process vs. Product

Once again I am reminded as to the importance of teaching to the process instead of the product. Today I was working with a student who has for his entire educational career had a 1:1 aide. This student is very ‘high functioning’ and should be succeeding by all measures. Unfortunately he has been so over prompted & over reinforced in an attempt to get a product– grades, he lacks the skills necessary to succeed on his own. He is oblivious to the process. Students need skills, not just good-grades. We are starting form square one teaching this student self monitoring skills, independent work skills and organizational skills. And we only have 4 years!! This may seem like a lot, but these skills take years and years to develop. Instead of just reinforcing students for an end product, often times that we over prompt them to obtain, we need to reinforce them for implementing the correct processes to achieve that product.

An example of this is homework. If a student struggles with homework, often times we rely on teachers and aides to inform parents of the homework so parents and tutors can then sit with the child to complete the homework, which the student will in turn, be prompted by a teacher or aide to turn in. The student is then reinforced for ‘doing his ‘homework.’  What has the student learned? We will set aside for the moment the act of doing homework and learning the material, because this is often times also over-prompted, and focus on the process. Assuming this student makes it thru high school with good grades and gets into college- What happens? Will the professor email mom and dad nightly with the homework? Will the college fund an aide? No, the student will flounder miserably because they lack the skills they need to succeed.

So, what does this mean?  We must delay the temporary gratification of the product and teach our students the process of being successful learners, adults,employees. We need to put their need and their right to independence above our need to see that ‘A’ or that star on the chart. We absolutely must take the time to plan for our students futures instead of focusing only  on today.