This post originally appeared on Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), the leading national organization advocating for 21st century readiness for every student. P21 brings together the business community, education leaders, and policymakers who believe our education system must equip students with rigorous academic coursework and the skills to be successful employees and citizens. View Original >
Driving Question: How Can We Assess Creativity in the Classroom?
Explicitly and effectively assessing creativity is one of my passions. I was lucky. My parents put me into many arts programs, music programs and the like to build my creativity. Later it would become an area of study as I practiced vocal jazz, and sung in my musicals and chorale groups. In fact, it was that work I can strongly attribute to my current creative abilities which I have been able to transfer into “non-arts” subject matter and ideas.
Indeed, we know creativity is not limited to the arts, but that also means we need to provide instructional opportunities for students to be creative in all subject areas, be assessed on creativity, and improve.
Let’s be clear, we are using the word “assess” here. Assessment does not “equal” grading. Those are two different things, although the can complement and build upon each other.
Some schools do put in a creativity grade, while others may feel uncomfortable doing so. Regardless, students need to know where they are at in terms of the creativity in order to set goals and improve. Assessment does this with or without grades.
The first step to assessing creativity it to know what it is. Despite popular belief, it is not a nebulous concept. Creativity, in fact, has quality indicators to it that help us to understand what it looks like and how we build our creative skills. Rubrics exist that articulate these quality indicators, such as the Buck Institute for Education’s Creativity rubrics for elementary and secondary grades.
In a rubric published in the Ed Leadership article “Assessing Creativity,” Sue Brookhart describes the category of very creative with the description “Ideas represent a startling variety of important concepts from different contexts or disciplines” as well as “Created product draws on a wide variety of sources, including different texts, media, resource persons, or personal experiences.” In BIE’s K-2 Creativity rubric, two quality indicators are “I can help pick the best idea” and “I can think of ideas for what to make or do in the project.” These are some samples of helping students understand what creativity looks like, and gives them quality indicators. We need to unpack creativity in this way because students may or may not know what it is, let alone how to get better. Simply saying, “Be creative,” will not give students the specific goals to work toward.
Creativity with Content
Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Students must have some “thing” with which to be creative. For example they can be creative with World Religions content knowledge or solve linear equations in a creative way. In addition, tying creative thinking to an important concept or idea provides a great opportunity to assess more content-based standards along with creativity; giving them both equal footing in the assessment plan.
When teachers design a unit or project, they begin with the end in mind, target specific content skills and objectives that they want students to learn. From there, they consider how students can be creative with that content. What context will they give students that demands they be creative with the content? What voice and choice will theygives students in products students will create?
Consider this example. A teacher might design a unit where she wants students to learn about world religions, as well as speaking and listening skills. From there, the teacher might come up with the context about discrimination that occurs with world religions and tasks student with uncovering and solving this issue of stereotypes and discrimination. Next, the teacher might provide voice and choice to students in the products they create as well as the audience they intend to target. While the learning of content and skills is focused, the space and demand for creativity is there as well.
Formative and Summative Assessment
Teachers can assess creativity in a final product or in summative assessments. If the unit or project calls for a creative product, a criteria for evaluation might be creativity in addition to the content skills and knowledge students have to demonstrate. However, if teachers intend to summatively assess creativity, but they must formatively assess in order to scaffold appropriately and to have students build their creative thinking skills.
Paired with a good rubric, they can formatively assess one or many quality indicators of creativity. Students can set goals and reflect upon these creative goals. As the final product calls for creativity, journals, reflections and even oral individuals can be used to check for creative indictors. These formative assessments can be used as self, peer and teacher assessments to improve creative skills. It further fosters that creativity is a process. For a quality final product that shows creativity, the creative process must be valued through formative assessment.
Assessing creativity must be intentional when teachers plan instruction. If we want our students to be creative, then we must assess it. It we want creativity to be valued as much as content, then it is must be assessed just like content. The good news is that it can be done, and we have the tools to do it!