More thoughts on education: product or process

After reading David Muir's blog entry "Education: product or process" that was triggered by George Siemens' blog "How things change...", I felt quickly that education must be a process. But I never had really thought about it. My main argument is that a product would be well defined and finished at some time. I am looking at education as something always ongoing. So it does not meet the criteria of a product. Education might have different phases and/or change its focus at during the times, but it is something that is continuous. If the assumption is right that education has to do something with learning and we speak of life long learning than it follows there must something like life long education.

This is where I got in trouble since our educational systems seem to see it not as a process but as a product. For example here in Germany we are currently changing from the diploma to accredited bachelor and master programs at our universities. The accreditation process requires to define competencies that a has after completing a course or module. At the end of the university education you would have a well defined set of competencies a student will have acquired. So here the criteria of a product are well met. This is also shown in the way we are evaluating our students. We try to find out whether a student can show the competencies that should have been acquired at a specific time (e.g. the end of the module). Again, we are behaving as if education would be a product. If education would be a process it would be necessary to evaluate things like the starting situation of a student when he/she signs up for a course, the environment, the context the student and the educator is working in, and the resulting changes at the end. How about long term effects that will show up in the years to come? We are definitely not doing that. Because it is to hard to do?

So that will leave me thinking education is a process but behaving like education is a product. Maybe university is not such a good place for an education (as a process).

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I thought it was interesting that shortly before I did a follow up post on this topic, you obviously felt a need to scratch the same itch!

As I said in my comment, I'm increasingly of the opinion that it is not so much "product or process" as it is "product and process and lots more besides. Education is messy and difficult - which is probably just as well or I wouldn't have a job. :-)

It is really amazing how wonderful a blog is working in order to straigthen out your own thoughts, I felt the same way. I think you brought it all to a point in the summary of the comments you got. Thanks Ulrich

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