Tell Me About Process Learning

When I first witnessed a process learning classroom, it reminded me of the high performance cross-functional teams I had worked with at NCR/AT&T. I said to myself, "This is how I want my students to be able to perform when they leave my classroom."

Here's what it looked like. All students were engaged in a real-life activity, working in teams at round tables or even behind PCs. The instructor "facilitator" was moving from team to team listening intently and asking questions rather than answering them. Everyone was involved, everyone was engaged. There was no place to hide. Learning was in process.

The goal of process learning is to empower students to become lifelong learners; therefore, emphasis is on student learning. In process learning, educators become facilitators of the learning process, assessing students' performance in real time to help students understand, develop, and refine life-long learning skill processes. Conventional educators have focused primarily on essential knowledge skills vital to further educational efforts. Facilitators in a process learning environment focus not only on development of knowledge skills but also on the learning process. This includes lifelong learning skills like information processing, assessment, teamwork, and management skills.

A "process class" is very different from a traditional class. Implementation of process learning includes cooperative learning, discovery learning, journal writing, assessment, and technology. Activity sheets, developed by the facilitator, provide student teams with the minimal rigid structure needed to succeed at a task. Through the use of quality tools and techniques, students and faculty facilitators can incorporate continuous process improvement into their classroom activities. Curriculum design for process learning activities stresses the use of critical thinking questions, assigned roles, quality performance criteria, planning, and assessment to complete a realistic learning task. The learning facilitator moves from team to team, listening and asking questions as opposed to lecturing. The class motto is TRY IT.

Sue Merrell, 1997

"The fixed person for the fixed duties, who in older societies was a blessing, in the future will be a public danger." Alfred North Whitehead