What is Process Learning?

It's About Improving Performance

The learning process skills needed by students are the same as those needed by the workforce in general. The rapidly changing workplace requires workers who possess learning process skills to master new technologies, learn organizational structures, and new products, etc. Process learning is one model of how to systematize our college-wide response to this challenge.

Workplace Demands

In response to the rigorous demands of the workplace, we believe that the Sinclair student needs more than specific skills for a specific job. Students require finely tuned learning and problem solving skills that will serve them for life. These skills for life help students seamlessly transfer from one learning institution (Sinclair) to the next learning institution (or their workplace) and beyond. When our students become self-learners, they will self-assess and continuously improve their own learning processes.

Process Learning Beliefs

Process learning is founded in the belief that instructors can systematically help students become better learners. In turn, better learners become not only self-directed but also develop the ability to assess their own performance and use assessment feedback to improve future performance on a learning continuum, which ranges from a trained individual to a self-grower:

  1. Trained individual is a person who possesses specific knowledge for a specific context with no transferability to another setting.
  2. Learned individual is a person who possesses broad knowledge with only minimal transferability.
  3. Lifelong learner is a person who possesses skills to learn in the future.
  4. Enhanced learner is a person who possesses a broad set of performance skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communications, assessment, and teamwork (with maximum transferability).
  5. Self-grower is a person who self-assesses his/her own performance to improve future performance.

A systematic approach ensures growth of student learning skills and performance improvement.

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Process learning systematically addresses the need to develop lifelong learners.


L = Lifelong learning
E = Empowered learning
A = Assessment (self & peer)
R = Rotating team roles
N = Nudged into new learning

Process Learning Background

Process learning got started at Sinclair through faculty interest. In spring of 1996, Tom Huguley, Bill Struhar and Sue Merrell traveled to Kirkwood Community College to participate in a Process Education Teaching Institute in response to an invitation from Pacific Crest. Pacific Crest is the educational consulting firm that facilitates Process Education Teaching Institutes across the country. After attending this three-day institute and sharing process learning ideas with others at Sinclair, it was determined that there was significant interest to deliver a Teaching Institute at Sinclair in July 1996. Since that time, a group of faculty members has met monthly in a Teaching/Learning Support session to share experiences and work to continuously improve the teaching/learning processes at Sinclair.

To further promote process learning, a core group of faculty volunteers banded together to propose a Learning Challenge project titled, Taking Process Learning the Distance. Team members include Debbie Badonsky, Bobbie Easterling, Sue Merrell, Bill Struhar, and Steve Wendel.

The overall project goal is to develop college-wide interest and expertise in process learning through successful pilots in traditional, distance, and corporate classrooms. Deliverables of this two-year project include faculty development opportunities (including monthly support meetings, teaching institutes, and workshops); a student-centered Foundations of Learning course; interactive CDROM to assist faculty and students; curriculum redesign in traditional, corporate, Interactive, and Web courses; and intercollegiate partnership with Kirkwood Community College. The process learning team has been working together for one year as of spring quarter.

Through all project efforts, the Taking Process Learning the Distance Learning Challenge team plans to build on the college's commitment to lifelong learning and learning-centered experiences in the classroom and at a distance. The intent of the project aligns well with Sinclair's mission statement:

"We help individuals turn dreams into achievable goals through accessible, high quality, affordable learning opportunities."

Process learning beliefs and strategies also support a number of key performance indicators, part of Sinclair's Core Indicators of Success, as follows:

Indicators Key Performance Criteria
Access to Success Student satisfaction with goal attainment. Variety, availability, and accessibility of different modes of instructional delivery.
Lifelong Learning

Student satisfaction with quality of instruction and knowledge acquisition.

Graduate satisfaction with goal attainment, quality of instruction, and knowledge acquisition.

Employer satisfaction with students = critical thinking, problem solving, and communication competencies.

Student achievement of competencies and skills that sustain lifelong learning and flexibility in the workforce.

Student Development Extent to which Sinclair enables students to assume responsibilityfor their own learning.
Quality Workplace Flexible workforce that can adapt to need for multiple skill sets as job requirements change.

Fad or Well-Founded?

Process learning is a comprehensive, systematic application of constructivist learning theory. Constructivist learning theory is built upon the belief that students truly understand that which they create and/or discover; in other words, students must create personal meaning out of a situation. This is a direct contrast to older symbolic reasoning theory that quite simply believed students acquire knowledge by listening to the lecture or through osmosis. Constructivist learning theory realizes that students need to interact with information-read about it, write about it, speak about it, negotiate about it-to develop their own personal and lasting meaning from it. Process learning expands upon Bloom's taxonomy and develops a more complete set of skills for life. In short, process learning activities challenge the student to acquire knowledge and use it to solve problems while developing meaningful skills for life.