Assessing the Process Not the Product of Learning

image of a ladder lying in a forest
I’ve written before on how I believe pedagogy should focus on the process and not the product of learning. I could write about this in theory forever, but I realized that I succeeded last semester in doing it in practice, so I thought I would share what I’ve done.

For context, I co-teach a Creative Thinking and Problem-Solving course, which is a liberal arts option at my institution. The module I teach constitutes half the course, and is focused on educational game design. My students are undergraduates, mostly freshman, mostly Egyptian. The largest assessment in my module is a group project where students design their own educational game. In the past, I’ve focused on the learning process in the way we build towards this activity, but I’ve had part of the grade focus on the quality of the actual game the students produce. This semester, I did not put any grade on the actual product. Instead, here is what I did grade:

  1. Students blogged about the learning outcomes and description of their game to receive feedback from others on how to improve their game; they were graded on doing the blogpost itself (which highlights their process of thinking about the development of their game), and on how well they responded to the feedback of others in terms of modifying their game
  2. Students also did some background research to develop their game better, played a prototype of their game in class and gathered feedback from colleagues; they then blogged about how the background research and feedback from colleagues helped them modify their game idea
  3. Students then played the final version of their game at our university library, and got feedback from passersby (this activity in and of itself is ungraded)
  4. Students created a “making of the game” video reflecting on their process of creating the game as a group. I graded that product, but it was really a product that was reflecting on the process :)
  5. Students wrote their individual reflections on the process of working on the game, their own role and learning, and how they would have improved the game if they had more time. I graded this product, but it was more of a reflection on the process of learning :)

Now, it is not like we never discussed what the elements of a good educational game were. Students had opportunities to play and critique games designed by Egyptian game designers (as I wrote previously). When students critiqued each other’s games, we discussed first what the elements of a good educational game should be, and they gave each other feedback on those aspects, as did I. But not a single part of the grade itself looked at any of those criteria. I always feel that giving students a few weeks to design an educational game will never produce a perfect game, and that as they play-test their game, they will get ideas for how to improve it – so I am more interested in how they learn to improve upon their product, how they would have improved their product if they had more time, rather than how good the product turns out given the time limits they have.

I realized that as a teacher I learned much more about the students’ learning process while grading their work than I did about the quality of the games they produced. And I realized that this was the right thing to focus on,that it was what mattered to me ultimately, as much as I loved playing their actual games. I also learned some really interesting things about my own grading process and got a million ideas for my future teaching, which I will talk about in an upcoming post.

Have  you assessed the process rather than the product of learning? How did that work out for you? Tell us in the comments

Flickr photo May as Well by Fio ( shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

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