Creativity Isn’t Measurable

By | 2016-10-29T11:36:19+00:00 March 28th, 2013|

“What is the difference between creativity and originality?”

What a loaded question.  Before I start to put down my thoughts about this one, I have to say that I have heard this question asked frequently as of late.  I have received emails, engaged in conversations at work, and it has been a target during consulting sessions.  It’s a popular idea to ponder and for good reason.  We are being asked on report cards to grade things like “creativity” and it just feels wrong.  Do you know why?  Because creativity isn’t measurable.

Let me back up a moment.  I have been fortunate enough to enter into an 8-day contract with Upper Darby School District as they commit to embarking on an arts integration journey with their elementary schools.  During one of my most recent sessions, we were discussing how to assess an arts integration lesson.  This is always difficult for classroom teachers to understand, because measurement in the arts can sometimes be less tangible than in, say, a math class.  So when a member of their group raised her hand, I wasn’t surprised…until I heard her question.

“How can we grade creativity?”

At first, I didn’t understand her question, so she clarified that their district actually has a column listed for “creativity” in their report cards and she wanted to know how to provide an authentic grade in that category.  This is fairly common with the push for 21st century learning skills, and it’s certainly up to a district as to what criteria to include on a report card.  Yet, my answer of “creativity isn’t measurable” wasn’t exactly reassuring.

CREATIVE MINDSET BANNER

I believe that creativity is part of the human spirit.  When someone creates something, they are pulling a piece out of themselves and unselfishly sharing it with the world.  Who are we to assume that we can evaluate – pass judgment – on creativity?  Who are we to say that one person’s spirit is better or worse than another’s?  We may be able to assess creativity, because assessment is a way to measure growth.  We can document and see/hear/feel that someone’s creative spirit has grown over time.  But can we label that with a letter or percentage?  I don’t believe we can and it has taken me a few tries to come to this conclusion.

Instead, I propose that what we are really looking to measure or evaluate is the originality within a piece of work.  We want something to be “new”, “innovative”, “novel” – to see something original.  This is something that is tangible.  We can measure what has been made before to see if students are able to learn from that work and synthesize it into something that the world has never seen before.

Originality and creativity live within the same work.  What is produced can be measured for originality. But the one special thing that shines through to represent that unique student – the piece that is hard to put your finger on but you know it’s what makes the work different- that is creativity.  And you can’t put a grade on that.

 

Creative spirit

About the Author:

Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.Email Susan
  • Is creativity a product or a process? I see it as the process of creating something of value. It is much more than an artistic endever. We all have creative capacity. It needs to be nurtured and in many cases taught. Many kids and adults need to be taught how to use their creative capacity. At that point, it is measurable. Anytime we can see growth in our abilities, then there need to be metrics. These metrics should not be used for something punitive like grades. They should be used as a means to give feedback and lead to reflection. For an example of how to measure creativity, check out this rubric created by a team including representitives of the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio State University, classroom teachers and myself.

    http://www.uaschools.org/files/_gVIz1_/9a61b8967342e0e03745a49013852ec4/Creative_Thinker_Innovator_FINAL_Rubric.pdf

    • Brad

      Toby,
      I can’t get to the rubric from the link you supplied. Could you possibly send it to me via email: bfoust@scsk12.org

      Brad

  • Brad

    I’m interested to know your definition of creativity, as well as the school district’s definition.

  • susanedcloset

    Brad – My own personal definition of creativity is “the fingerprint of a human spirit”. But I also believe that creativity means something different to everyone. Again, how can we measure something that is so variant? I don’t think we can. I’m not comfortable going into detail about another school district’s policies, just the interactions that I have when I work with them. Given the question I shared in the post, I think everyone there (and everywhere) still has a lot of questions about the definition of creativity.

  • Jennifer

    Hello Susan, This is certainly an area that is rich for discussion. I work in Montgomery County Maryland, and we are assessing students on their attainment/progress on Thinking and Academic Success skills. When we talk about Creative Thinking Skills we break the skill down into four areas:. In a nutshell they are: Flexibility-being open and responsive to new and diverse ideas, Elaboration- adding details that expand, enrich or embellish, Fluency–generating multiple responses to a problem or an idea, Originality–creating ideas and solutions that are novel or unique. With this level of specificity our teachers find that they ARE able to explicitly teach and thus evaluate students use of creative thinking skills. As you say so eloquently, creativity means something different to everyone. At the risk of sounding like a character from Alice in Wonderland…words mean exactly what I like them to mean, no more and no less :-)…this is one way to approach creativity which values and promotes it.

    • Brad

      Jennifer,

      Teachers in Tennessee are evaluated on their abilities to promote creative thinking in their students. According to the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM) instructional evaluation rubric, creative thinking is evidenced when students engaged in activities that require them to “create, design, imagine and suppose.” The thinking domain, one of 12 domains in the instructional evaluation rubric, is tied closely to the problem solving domain, which includes “creating and designing” as one type of problem-solving type. Teachers are instructed to think of the various thinking types (practical, creative, research-based and analytical) as part of the learning process, and problem solving that results in a product.

      http://team-tn.org/

      Brad

      • Jennifer

        Brad, this looks like a very detailed model. Lots to examine and delve into. What is your role with the TEAM? How long has it been in place and how do you see it working to improve schools and instruction?

  • susanedcloset

    These are some great resources – thank you all for sharing! Quick question – do you feel that “creative thinking” and “creativity” are the same thing? By measuring creative thinking are we getting a valid measurement of creativity?

    • Jennifer

      Hi Susan, I don’t think that creativity and creative thinking are exactly the same. I do think that we use creative thinking when we create. Each person brings their unique spirit to the creative process, and I think we would be ill served to evaluate or judge that spirit. I do think we can assess and measure the creative thinking involved, and the use of the process. If we avoid doing that we are in danger of being the kind of person who says, “I don’t know what art is but I know what I like.” There is nothing wrong with honoring the uniqueness of the human spirit; or different works of art that are created…but we can analyze art without diminishing it. And for our students we can analyze and help them understand their growth in the process of creating.

    • Brad

      Susan,
      Is it possible to express creativity without going through a process of creative thinking? Highly creative people don’t necessarily count the steps as they go through the process, but nevertheless, there is a process. And, creative people create things. I know this sounds simplistic, but the practice of being creative often results in some sort of product. Are you saying we can’t measure a person’s innate creative ability? That may be true, but to modify a phrase from a long-ago popular movie, creative is as creative does.

      Brad

  • Jon David Groff

    Grant Wiggins says we can and should assess creativity. He even provides a rubric for doing so. I’ve used modified versions for my classes to great results.

    http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/

    • I respect and value Grant Wiggins’ work, but the rubric you reference below doesn’t measure creativity. It measures creative thinking. Which, as Jennifer pointed out below, isn’t the same thing. Like her, I believe it IS possible to assess creative thinking and we should do so because creative thinking is a process. Through this, I think that Wiggins’ rubric is very helpful and I thank you for sharing it. However, it’s my belief that creativity itself is not a process – it is part of who we are as people. I don’t think any rubric can measure that.

    • susanedcloset

      I respect and value Grant Wiggins’ work, but the rubric you reference below doesn’t measure creativity. It measures creative thinking. Which, as Jennifer pointed out below, isn’t the same thing. Like her, I believe it IS possible to assess creative thinking and we should do so because creative thinking is a process. Through this, I think that Wiggins’ rubric is very helpful and I thank you for sharing it. However, it’s my belief that creativity itself is not a process – it is part of who we are as people. I don’t think any rubric can measure that.