After reading the Ellis article this week, I think that I am more of an advocate of the “process” point of view when it comes to education and curriculum, though I will also argue that the “product” viewpoint has its place in education as well. The article spoke of Jerome Bruner, an advocate of the process approach. He claimed that “to instruct someone in these disciplines is not a matter of getting him to commit results to mind; rather, it is to teach him to participate in the process that makes possible the establishment of knowledge” (Ellis). In other words, memorization holds only so much importance in education. What really matters is that the students understand how to investigate, to come to conclusions, and to learn about learning. Because what use do we have for memorizing when we can use calculators, find something on Google, or ask Siri to tell us answers to questions we might have? Technology has really changed how we see and use information and facts. Once I finished with my undergrad, I found that practically none of the knowledge I had learned in school was useful to me. What I found useful in working was my previous job experience, volunteer experience, internship experience, and experiences in class that were hands-on or project-based (and also related to my job). When I was interviewing for preschool positions, often I did not know exactly what I needed. But I know how to find answers when I have questions, and I know how to get information I need, and that was what employers found more valuable.
However, memorization should not be discounted entirely. In the classes I tutor, I see kids use calculators to find answers to simple math problems such as 2/2, 4×10, and 28-9. In the Ellis article, Lynne Cheney argues that the process approach believes that “we can teach our children how to think without troubling them to learn anything worth thinking about…that we can teach them how to understand the world in which they live without conveying to them the events and ideas that have brought it into existence” (Ellis). Her argument is that we shouldn’t be teaching how to learn without giving them something to learn.
I believe that a combination of both, with an emphasis on the process approach, is an effective model for teaching. A later quote from Bruner mentioned that in order to help students remember those facts they are supposed to memorize, there needs to be some connection, some process that allows them to create that link. As teachers, I think it is important that we be able to help students organize these facts in their minds by giving them a toolkit for investigation and research, but at the same time ensure that they aren’t missing out on something vital. In a younger math class I tutor (4th grade), the teacher spends several days working on the process of a strategy, then spends several days helping students translate that to their paper. He gives them the language they need to be able to do this, and the kids love math. Plus, they’re pretty good at it. An example would be when they were learning how to multiply large numbers. They spent a few days working on arrays with square manipulatives (multiplying relatively small numbers), then they began drawing them on paper. After a few days, they then learned open arrays with much larger numbers. By the end of the unit, the students were all math wizards.
I do not believe there is one right way to educate kids. I think that pulling an idea from here, a philosophy from there, helps me to see that since no one way works for all students, then I need to find what works for students as individuals. The process and product approaches to curriculum are the same. When I am in charge of my own classroom, this is something I will certainly keep in mind when implementing curriculum.
Ellis, A. School curriculum. Educational Foundations. Retrieved from: http://mountainlightschool.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/session-9-ellis-school-curriculum2.pdf