Process and product-oriented approaches respond to two different types of assessments that take place within a course. An assessment is defined as a "measure of worth". The information acquired through different types of assessments help to determine whether the course is complying with the goals and objectives that it must set prior to the start of teaching interventions.
Now, let's be clear on the fact that process and product-oriented approaches are merely two out of 10 types of assessments that must be included in course evaluation. Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993) in the textbook Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers cite the following possible assessments within a course. They are:
- Formative (progressive) vs. Summative (readiness for progression)
- Informal (casual) vs. Formal (detailed)
- Continuous (ongoing) vs. Final (terminal)
- Divergent (inconclusive, comprehensive, such as project based learning) vs. Convergent (one-answer, final)
Therefore, process-oriented approaches consist on a range of projects and tasks geared for students to demonstrated the different problem solving techniques that they use to go about an activity. These problems solving techniques include deductive thinking, critical thinking, making inferences, and other types of divergent and convergent techniques.
The product-oriented approach, as the name implies, aims to get that final demonstration of mastery that will demonstrate the readiness for progression that is typical of similar kinds of summative-type assessments. In an ideal scenario, the form of assessment using a process-oriented approach would be part of formative assessment, and the product would be the summative measure.
How is this important to course evaluation? It is important because the implementation of these types of approaches demonstrates that the student is the center of the instruction and not the instructor. It also shows a shift of paradigm from a centralized, routine, and almost rigid system of learning into one which is developmentally appropriate for the students. Not having opportunities to observe progression through a process-based task is the same as giving up 50% of the complete data that would enable us to see progress. Products are not the final answer, and it is in the process where teachers can see the most growth. Growth is the ultimate goal of a course and we want to ensure that growth is ever-present in every course evaluation.