I've always found myself saying things like "it's the journey that matters." I've written blog posts about project-based learning and my fear of obsessing over the finished product rather than examining the learning that takes place. When students did "maker" projects last year, I reminded them that it was about the learning and not the finished product.
However, I've been rethinking that over the last few weeks. See, I love to write. I have a process down. I'm still into the journey. And yet, the product matters. As I work through the first draft of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard, I'm not thinking about the journey. I'm not thinking about the mastery of skills. I'm thinking of the work and how to make it better.
The same is true of canvases I've painted and sketches I've drawn. I've never sat through the process thinking, "I hope I'm learning something right now." Even as I improve, the goal doesn't seem to be sketching to be a better artist or writing to be a better author. Instead, the learning seems to be a byproduct of the creative process. And the driving force of the creative process seems to be the product.
I'm not sure what this means in terms of the classroom setting. I realize that school is more about conceptual development and skill mastery than about product creation. However, when thinking about maker spaces or designer labs, I'm wondering if we're accidentally making it artificial when we place the learning or the journey as the driving force.
What if the driving force is the product and the journey and learning are a part of the reflective process? If that's true, what does that mean for the teacher? Are we the guides that lead the reflection? Or are we mentors who help provide feedback on the product? Or is it both?
John Spencer is a teacher, author, keynote speaker, and incessant doodler. He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard and the co-founder of Write About, a new social publishing platform due out this Fall. He is passionate about helping students find their voice as they grow into stronger writers and deeper thinkers.