Michele Turner Aug 18 2020

Getting There Is Half the Fun: Encouraging Process-Focused Learning

Enjoy the journey. This is a phrase that I like to tell my students, meaning the learning process is just as enjoyable as the learning outcome. One of the most effective learning habits that yields academic results is focusing on the process instead of the product. Instead of just focusing on completing the paper, the project, or the exam, we encourage students to enjoy learning for learning’s sake. We work on developing students who are curious and want to have a deeper understanding of the world around them.


My teaching colleagues and I have developed projects that encourage problem solving, that have more than one “right” answer, that welcome risk-taking or wildly divergent thinking, and that can be tailored to students’ individual interests while simultaneously meeting grade-level learning benchmarks.


For some students, this way of learning involves some “unlearning.” They have to unlearn relying exclusively on the teacher for approval and, instead, prototype his/her own ideas and test them for effectiveness, thereby, learning from their own mistakes. They have to unlearn that one iteration is enough; true learning often takes multiple attempts. They learn that failure is a natural and expected part of the learning cycle. They learn that satisfaction not only comes at the end of a project but rather it can be infused throughout the cycle.


One way that parents can help their children develop this skill is by praising hard work and not just praising achievements. Students who understand that tenacity, grit, and perseverance are valued above trophies, A+ grades, and external accolades tend to be better suited for university and beyond. They develop coping skills and are more adaptive to setbacks. They are more independent and more optimistic that they have the skills and mindset to tackle challenges that will come their way. They understand that the journey is just as worthwhile as the destination.