Creativity has always been a double-edged sword in education. Most educators agree that allowing creativity to be a crucial element in learning and a classroom is more important that standardized testing and standardized learning; however, the question of how to assess creativity is one that has challenged educators for many years.
The first step in assessing creative thought or tasks is in designing the tasks themselves. While educators may assume that any assessment that offers choice will automatically invoke creative thought, that is simply not the case. We must ensure that the design of the task itself requires creative thought or problem solving, rather than following pre-existing steps or models (Wiggins 2012).
Truly creative students put things together in new ways, which is one of the reasons that the maker movement so nicely works to assess creativity. One way to use the maker movement to design authentic, creative lessons is to ensure that students have multiple pathways to success. If students are all expected to reach the same conclusion in the same way, there is little room for creativity (Martinez & Stager 2014). However, when students are given a learning target and a set of materials, it will be up to them to creatively problem solve, investigate, and create. Tasks should be rooted in standards regardless of how innovative and creative they are. The Common Core Standards for ELA are mostly skill based, so those critical thinking and writing skills can be applied through Project-based learning, the maker movement, and other forms of authentic assessment rather than essays and multiple choice tests. In fact, the common core lends itself to authentic assessment as it asks students to transfer information and apply their learning in a variety of contexts–this is creative work. The ability to make connections between pieces of writing, speeches, visual rhetoric, and synthesize additional information in a new way is creative in and of itself. It will be essential, therefore, that I design maker lessons or assessments with clear goals in mind–the outcome may be unknown, but the task should have purpose behind it and be rooted in standards or learning targets.
Additionally, it will be important to separate the ideas of assessment and grading: grading creativity is a challenge, but assessing creativity is a must. Offering constructive feedback so that students know where they are being creative and when they are relying too heavily on the work of someone else can help students re-think their processes and increase their creativity in the future. Brookhart (2013) encourages students to be creative rather than imitative, and strategic assessments and formative rubrics can help us inform students of their potential imitation (Brookhart 2013). It will also be crucial in this process to include and engage students with the rubrics and assessments. Reviewing the rubric together and helping students understand creativity-based language can help students be more focused in their attempt to be non-imitative.
There is no simple answer for approaching, teaching, and assessing creativity in the classroom. It is possible, however, to grant space and opportunity for creative thought, and to help students understand the creative process. Brookhart (2013) provides characteristics of creative thinkers and workers, which would be helpful to share with students before any task. Brookhart (2013) asserts that creative thinkers:
- “Recognize the importance of a deep knowledge base and continually work to learn new things.
- Are open to new ideas and actively seek them out.
- Find source material in a wide variety of media, people, and events.
- Organize and reorganize ideas into different categories or combinations and then evaluate whether the results are interesting, new, or helpful.
- Use trial and error when they are unsure how to proceed, viewing failure as an opportunity to learn.”
By sharing and using this language to inform our thinking on creativity, and by acknowledging that creative tasks require more than voice and choice, teachers can successfully engage students in the creative process and use authentic assessments like the maker movement to inspire play, passion, and creative work.
Brookhart, S. (2013). Assessing Creativity. Educational Leadership: Creativity Now, 70(5), 28-34. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb13/vol70/num05/Assessing-Creativity.aspx
Martinez, S., & Stager, G. (2014, July 21). The maker movement: A learning revolution. Retrieved from https%3A%2F%2Fwww.iste.org%2Fexplore%2FarticleDetail%3Farticleid%3D106
Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/