To illustrate the difference between product-oriented and process-oriented evaluation, let’s first go to an example outside of education. The Philadelphia 76ers, a professional basketball team, used the phrase “trust the process.” For many years, their product—their team—was bad; they lost most of their games. Yet the team claimed that they had a method—a process—that would make them better in the long run. Sure enough, thanks to the process, the 76ers turned into a winning NBA team: a quality product.
The example of the Philadelphia 76ers can be applied to the learning environment. Say a teacher gives her students an essay assignment; they must discuss the economic policies of former president Barack Obama. The teacher is only concerned with the final product. All she cares about is an accurate, articulate essay.
One student, Tonya, produces a great product. She describes Obama’s economic policies clearly and accurately.
Another student, Nina, does not produce such a great product. Her discussion of Obama’s economic policies are sometimes murky and often inaccurate.
While Nina did not have produce a winning product, she did undertake the process of trying to find and articulate accurate information. Now, because she went through this process, she has a better understanding of how to conduct credible research. Her mistakes have not been in vain. She has increased her information literacy, gotten a better handle on which sources to trust and which to challenge, and can apply this improved process to her next essay assignment.
Meanwhile, Tonya, the person who produced the great product, didn’t do so because of her process. Her product was the result of copy and pasting. She found a similar essay about Obama’s economic policies on the internet, copy and pasted it, and passed it off as her own.
While Tonya might have won in the short run, she might find it hard to continue writing quality products, especially if her teacher catches on about her lack of a process. Meanwhile, Nina may have suffered a setback, but at least now she has a sustainable process that will likely produce a higher grade on her next assignment.
Of course, if their teacher was evaluating based on process, then Tonya wouldn’t have received such a good grade and Nina wouldn’t have received such a bad grade.
Indeed, process-oriented evaluation tends to be more holistic. It takes into consideration a number of elements. Meanwhile, product-oriented evaluation tends to be more exclusive. It focuses on one element: the final outcome or product.