Creativity and Evaluation

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Note: The following is a blog post. For a more complex, full-version appraisal of the topic, click here.  

When I received the final assignment for CEP 811, in all honesty, my initial reaction was, How boring: finishing a creative, innovative course with a reflection on evaluation and assessment, which James Paul Gee refers to as “the most painful, ludicrous part of learning” (On Grading with Games, 2010). As I reflect on this course, however, I wonder if perhaps creativity and assessment are not mutually exclusive. One major way I have grown is that I have come to believe there is very little in education that cannot be evaluated, including creativity. This is as it should be for two reasons, the first being that education involves evaluating student progress and providing students opportunities to do so. When we do not offer students chances to grow we rob them of opportunities, such as the Squishy Circuits experience, to try, fail, investigate, adapt, try again, and succeed. These are powerful experiences that help children cultivate curiosity and build confidence. I intend to incorporate elements of creativity, problem-solving, and perseverance in my classroom, hopefully with a grant to acquire a class set of kits. The true test evaluative tool will be asking the question, To what extent are my students incorporating these principles into their continued learning?

A second reason for the importance of creativity evaluation is that without it, there will likely be little reason to incorporate it into learning. Having learned the power of lessons informed by technological, pedagogical, and content knowledges (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) I believe all learners are exceptional and they deserve innovative learning experiences. Many teachers decry a “one size fits all” education, but with no way to evaluate creativity, how can we actually center our lessons around it?

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Educator Grant Wiggins suggests that “The point in any performance is to…achieve the purpose of the performance” (2012). I want to be clear with students about purpose behind assignments, especially those involving creative expression, teaching students how to recognize they have done well. Rubrics were one aspect of this course I felt nervous about but later came to value. I have long felt that rubrics inhibit creativity. However, I found that when I engaged deeply with a topic, the MOOC, for example, and produced by best creative effort, I easily met the rubric criteria. Bolstered by that success, I felt liberated to take greater risks. I plan to incorporate such risk into my teaching, which is not to say “I plan to write more rubrics.” I do plan to increase intentionality in communicating parameters and expectations of projects to students- and then releasing them to experiment.

More and more I become convinced that everyone is a maker, but that “creative” and “artistic” are not synonymous, and we need to recognize the multiplicity of creative types. Increasing student pride in what they have made –whether words, equations, or art-, that which is “uniquely theirs” helps to “capture students imaginations, stimulate their curiosities, and inspire their successes” (Gee, 2010). I certainly experienced this during this course- complete with all the requisite elements of unfamiliarity, panic, frustration, hope, nervousness, increased confidence, and triumph. I hope to take students to a place where, when their creation somehow fails, they can still think, No worry- I made something, I have made successful things in the past, and I will make more things in the future. This risk is what will drive us forward- teachers, students, and thinkers worldwide. How could I not want that for my students? How could I not “dramatically expand the notion of what a classroom can be” (Isslehardt, 2013).

Strong standards and concrete expectations need not be devoid of these elements. During college, I had a professor of

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Spanish who, after a particularly difficult midterm, reminded the class that the most important questions to ask, always, was Are you learning? Coming from someone a self-made immigrant with tremendous perspective, this was simple yet powerful truth, and it has stuck with me. Standardized curricular exemplars play a distant second-fiddle to where this generation of students is going next. If my students can answer the question of Are you learning? with a resounding, passionate, creative yes- that is my highest expectation and my greatest triumph.

References

Gee, J. (2010, July 20). On grading with games. [YouTube]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU3pwCD-ey0

Isslehardt, E. (2013, February 11). Creating Schoolwide PBL Aligned to Common Core [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/PBL-aligned-to-common-core-eric-isslehardt

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108 (6), 1017-1054.

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/

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