My colleague David Perrin has published an op-ed in EdWeek where he points out the value of thinking of education as a process, rather than thinking of education as the creation of a product.
Process is what education fundamentally (and etymologically) is, an “educing” or drawing forth of intellectual potential through the cultivation of habits of mind. Habits of mind can be fostered in a variety of ways, such as writing, researching, using project-based learning and cooperative learning, connecting new learning to personal interests, generating multiple solutions to problems, playing devil’s advocate, finding joy in discovery, and recognizing the integral roles of metacognition, and even failure, in the learning process. This list is nowhere near exhaustive, as all of these processes, and many others, are vital to education. Yet few of them register well, if at all, on a standardized multiple-choice test.
The processes of teaching and learning can be messy and nebulous—if not impossible—to quantify. They are also unglamorous; they will never grab headlines the way that national sports championships, or even educational test results, do. As long as politicians and society insist on reducing “success” in education to the product of test scores, dedicated teachers, like Coach John Wooden, will have to block out the noise of “winning,” so that they can focus on the quiet yet vital processes of teaching and learning, regardless of what the scoreboard reads.
I agree it is so important to view education as an internal process that externalized rewards distract and inhibit. Especially in the early years children must find joy in the process and become engaged. Constant testing interrupts this engagement and provides false value to known quantities rather than reinforcing learning as exploration, practice (which involves a certain amount of mistakes), and collaboration. Competitive scoring and grades are a distraction to the real process which should be seen as an integral part of a positive living experience.