Including Process into Chinese-style Learning

Source: The Marketplace,  May 2011

Western observers say that Chinese lack ‘independence and initiative’ and ‘critical thinking skills.’ Both are true, but another explanation is that Chinese don’t understand ‘process.’ In a society where students’ futures are determined by their ability to get the right answers quickly in three days of multiple-choice examinations, ‘process’ is in fact an alien concept.

In contrast, a Western curriculum emphasizes process over results. In science class, students conduct labs by asking a question, building a hypothesis, experimenting, observing, and drawing a conclusion. In English and history classes, students write a research paper by planning, researching, assessing and analyzing information, formulating a thesis, writing an outline, and editing drafts. Even in a mathematics examination, students are expected to show their work processes. Process is time-consuming and frustrating, and high school teachers and college professors drill it into us until it becomes force of habit.


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