Monday, December 05, 2005

Book Reports: Process vs. Product

In our preliminary conversations with Dr. Ruf about Xavier's learning style, she mentioned that he was more process-oriented than product-oriented. Process-oriented learners want to learn something and then go on to the next thing. For example, given a worksheet with a dot-to-dot, the process person would do the dot-to-dot but consider it a waste of time to color the picture after she figured out what it was.

Or on Xavier's science fair project on blood-typing last spring, he was all excited to learn how it works, right down to the antibodies and antigens and the genetics of how blood types are passed on from one generation to another. But once he had that down, he was not the least bit interested in putting together his display. Gluing words on cardboard did not add to his knowledge base, surprisingly enough.

Dr. Ruf said that process-thinkers often lose their homework. ;-)

A product-oriented thinker likes to show what they've learned. They like to get things done, collect data to show progress over time. Schools are like this--they want concrete proof that you've learned, i.e. worksheets and projects; practice charts and reading logs; grades and test scores, homework. Partly this is because they are responsible to prove to someone else that their students have learned what they need to learn. Partly this is because most teachers I know are product-oriented. Why else the universal obsession with book reports?

Oh, I know. It provides practice summarizing the main idea--an important skill on fill-in-the-dot tests. It introduces critical thinking about literature (although without some guidance, I doubt this is really the case. Most kids are not going to leap from "This is a very very very very very (what was the word count again?) very good book" to "The way the author treated Character A seemed harsh" on their own). And book reports provide practice in public speaking when they are presented to the class. But really, aren't they really just a way to prove to the teacher that you actually read the book? And if you weren't forced to write a report, isn't is possible you would have chosen something longer and more interesting although harder to write about?

Maybe not, but I know the books I read to report on were considerably shorter and less challenging than the books I was reading for pleasure. I noticed the same thing in Wolfie last year and, to a lesser extent, Xavier this year.

I wonder if kids are more likely to lose their math worksheets or their book reports? Maybe I should ask Dr. Ruf.

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