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What is the difference between product-oriented and process-oriented evaluation?

Quick answer:

Product-oriented evaluation focuses on the final product of an assignment, like an essay, and offers a grade only for that. Process-oriented evaluation, on the other hand, focuses on the entire process of an assignment and calculates a grade based on performance of each activity in the series that creates the final product.

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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.

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Let's discuss the difference between product-oriented and process-oriented evaluation through an example. Two teachers assign their students to write an essay about the meaning and possible interpretations of a particular short story.

The first teacher gives the student a detailed set of initial instructions about how to critically read the story, research secondary sources, develop a personal interpretation, and write an effective essay. Then she lets the students work on the assignment independently, answering their questions, of course, but not spending much more class time on the assignment. On the due date, the teacher collects the essays and evaluates the students only on the final product of their reading, research, and writing efforts. The essay is what gets the grade. This is product-oriented evaluation.

The other teacher, though, handles the essay assignment in quite a different way. She assigns the essay preparation in stages. First, she tells the students to read the story closely and take notes. Then she gathers the class to discuss the reading, allowing the students to share their ideas and receive feedback. She grades them on their participation in this activity. Then she assigns some worksheets to help the students complete their secondary source research. Again, she gathers the class to discuss the results, and the students share their discoveries and research experiences while the teacher grades this part of the assignment.

Next, the teacher encourages students to work in groups to discuss their personal interpretations of the story. She moves from group to group to make sure that everyone is participating. Then the teacher tells the students to write the outline and then first draft of their essay. They critique each other's work, and the teacher provides feedback about the draft. Finally, the teacher assigns the final draft of the essay, which she reads and critiques. The grade for the assignment, however, is not calculated just from the essay alone but from the entire process of reading, discussion, research, interpretation, and writing. This is process-oriented evaluation.

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When evaluating student work and assessing for learning teachers tend to choose two trends of appraisal: product or process.

Current research is partial to process-oriented rather than merely product-oriented evaluations for many reasons.

Process-oriented evaluations are based on observing the development of the learning processes as they occur in the student throughout the lesson. It is a step-by-step interaction where there is input and output at all times between the teacher and the student. During a process-oriented evaluation the student is allowed to make mistakes, as they constitute an important part of the entire exercise. An example of a process-oriented evaluation is the teaching of writing. Time and patience are worth the investment in this type of evaluation because the teacher can really see how much the student is actually learning.

Product-oriented evaluation seeks to assess performance through a finalized product that should meet specific requirements. The teacher may or may not choose to engage in the process that will bring about the final product, because that is not what is being considered. Rather than through interaction, the product-oriented evaluation is often accompanied by a rubric that the student evaluates himself to see if the expectations of the final product are being met. It is a summative, and not a formative type of evaluation that could work as a short-term solution, for specific projects. An example of a product-oriented evaluation is, for instance, a writing homework due the next day that must include certain things to achieve a good score.

In all, both evaluations will eventually result in a product, but only in process-based the teacher gets to actually work one on one with the student.

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