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You can't evaluate creativity using a standardized test

10. Add a column for “Creativity” on every rubric
Creativity is a 21st century currency, and the best way to make sure it happens is to give points for it. They’ll get with the program stat. - 10 Ways to Fake a 21st Century Classroom, Terry Heick, TeachThought, February 12,2013.

Rubrics help clarify criteria for success and show what the continuum of performance looks like, from low to high, from imitative to very creative. Assessing Creativity, Susan M. Brookhart, Educational Leadership, February 2013

  • If you can't measure it, can you prove it can be learned?
  • If you can't measure it, can it be objectively and consistently scored?
  • If you can't meaure it, can you hold teachers accountable for teaching it?
  • If you can't measure it, can it really be important?

I struggle with these questions when it comes to creativity. While the Rubric for Creativity Ms Brookhart shares in the Assessing Creativity article linked above is one of the more pragmatic stabs at addressing creativity, I was still disappointed. The first quality indicator looks like this:

Note the terms startllng, important, and same. Other indicators in the rubric include the terms wide variety, original and surprising, interesting and helpful. All virtues of student work that I would say are largely subjective. What is original or startling to a first grader may be tired old stuff to his teacher - and perhaps vice versa.

I sincerely appreciate Ms Brookhart's article, but I wonder if she is not on a fool's errand (as I have been) in looking at ways to assess creativity. Because teaching true creativity requires second order, not first order, change. School as usual, including its traditional assessment tools, will simply not work.

Educstors will need to stop looking at student work as right or wrong, but perhaps as effective or not effective. So questions will come up like...

  • Did your new approach to solving this math problem result in an accurate answer?
  • Did your original poem elicit the emotional response you intended?
  • Did your trial use of plastic wheels give your vehicle better mileage?
  • Did your experimental free-throw style result in increased shots made?
  • Did your "crazy" campaign result in less trash in the school hallways?

Is efficacy the true measure of creativity and innovation? Are rubrics, fill-in-the-bubble tests, or other means of objectifying assessment even relevant to creativity? The creative iPhone didn't just make a phone nicer to look at; it created a tool that made people more effective.

Image source

Some of my other ramblings on creativity...


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Reader Comments (1)

Thanks for a thoughtful post. I found it through the NWP newsletter.

I liked your distinction between first order and second order change, and how effective and not effective might be better "indicators" than right and wrong. These get to the idea that creativity is about accomplishing something, rather than demonstrating acquisition of a predetermined set of information.

I might add a second level of questions below those that you posted, ones that helps teachers (and learners) see how creativity sometimes operates in the realm of coming to understand underlying principles, in addition to outcomes.

By this I mean that sometimes a failure in one area -- if we reflect on it -- can teach us a lot about the principles that lie under an activity, or set of activities. For example, when I was learning to make pottery a rigorous firing process involving open flame and chunks of wood caused many pots to explode and crack. Some, however, survived. I began to explore the shapes that survived and realized that they dissipated heat in interesting ways, which created patterns on the surface of the pots that were really cool. What seemed like a complete failure taught me a lot about heat transfer, clay, shapes, and really fast oxidation (fire!) Also, that experience taught me some more general ideas about reflection, close observation, and not rushing to judgment, which could be transferred to other areas as well.

Below are some other questions that might be added to the ones you have about effectiveness? These get at the question of applicability of underlying principles. They would require a conversation, however:

** What big ideas (principles) do you think you discovered in this attempt?
** How did this discovery help you with your next attempt?
** How might you use what you have discovered while doing X when doing Y?

Thanks for getting me thinking!

February 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Peterson

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