Assessing Creativity

By |2018-08-16T07:00:58-07:00June 5th, 2015|

The Creative Process

Last week, we talked about the role of standards in teaching the creative process. Although standardizing the creative process seems a bit counterintuitive, (Creative standards? Isn’t that an oxymoron?) these standards actually promote their ability to engage in the creative process in a productive and organized manner. This will provide a framework for exploring and realizing their creative ideas to the full extent. In doing so, we’ll be able to begin assessing creativity in students.

Here comes the tricky part: if we value creativity and the creative process, we have to assess it. So how can we assess something as subjective as assessing creativity? Let’s unpack some ways we might go about setting the stage for assessment in the creative process.

Set the stage. 

Ensure the work you engage students in sets the stage for assessing creativity. In the arts, this happens quite naturally if we are teaching to the standards with fidelity. The National Core Arts Standards walk us through teaching the creative process to students. Providing a framework for students to explore their creative ideas while we examine the process in an objective manner sets the stage for promoting creative thinking. Similarly, engaging students in the inquiry or design process promotes creative thinking. Allowing students to explore ideas in a safe, structured context.

Define creativity. 

You also may need to redefine yours or your students’ criteria for success. There is no “one-size-fits-all” in assessing creativity. There is no one correct answer. Sometimes, this is daunting to students accustomed to this type of educational atmosphere. There is value in explicitly teaching students what creativity is, what it might look like in various contexts, and how to recognize creativity in the classroom.

Defining creativity can organically and seamlessly start with the teacher’s recognition and praise of assessing creativity when it happens in the classroom. Praise creative responses. Indulge students’ “what if” questions as a springboard to inquiry and new ideas. Build upon existing ideas with questioning. Brainstorm multiple solutions to problems. Encourage students to share their new ideas and trains of thought.

Creativity is not only the ability to generate original ideas, but also the ability to draw upon a variety of sources to synthesize ideas in new ways and to communicate existing ideas in original ways. Encourage students to gather multiple sources related to an idea or problem as a means to choose the best idea. Moreover, they could even generate a new way of communicating what has been learned through various mediums in an innovative way.

Provide examples. 

Creativity often draws upon works from many other sources and is the convergence of many ideas, putting things together in new ways, or choosing the best idea. Examine the creative process of others’ and how they have synthesized ideas into original work. In the arts, we can have students examine particular elements of the arts in the artistic compositions of others, and then apply the same process of examination to their own work. The same goes for writing, design, and problem- or project-based learning scenarios. 

Define assessment of creativity. 

In summary, the key to assessing creativity is recognizing that creativity is a process, and this process should be assessed formatively. We can encourage students to use prescribed formats and processes creatively, and give feedback on the originality of new and creative ideas, while honoring the creative process itself through formative assessments. Through these formative assessments, we give students the opportunity to build their creative thinking skills through inquiry, revision, generating new ideas, and preparing work for presentation.

Want to learn more about authentic assessment and have a ready-made toolkit of assessments for your classroom?  Check out our assessment for makers self-paced, online class and receive 10 PD hours.

Sample Creativity Rubrics

Sample Rubric for Assessing the Creative Process

Music Composition Rubric

Buck Institute for Education’s Creativity Rubrics

Grant Wiggins’ Creativity Rubric

Susan Brookhart’s Rubric for Creativity

What are your favorite ways to assess creativity in the classroom? Comment below and share your ideas!                      


  1. Brad June 7, 2015 at 6:03 am - Reply

    I’m interested in knowing if you disagree with Susan on creativity, because she made the point in a 2013 article posted on this site that creativity isn’t measurable:

    • Brianne DeFrang June 12, 2015 at 8:38 am - Reply

      Great question, Brad! I think, first of all, there is a great deal of gray area on this topic. So much depends on how creativity is defined, the type of assessments we are talking about, and what assessment itself means. In this article, I am referring to “assessable” creativity as the originality and quality of student work and the ability of a student to synthesize information from several different types of sources to generate a new work. Susan’s definition of creativity in the 2013 article is much more subjective. In fact, I think my definition of assessable creativity is much closer to her definition of originality- neither definition is right or wrong, but I believe that’s what our different viewpoints can be attributed to.

      It’s my personal belief that when we talk about teaching and assessing 21st century skills, we can’t ignore creativity. There is no one-size-fits-all definition or measure for something so abstract, so we have to do the best we can as facilitators of the creative process to encourage students to move past the “how do I get an A?” mindset to a creative mindset. I think there is a place for providing feedback in assessment, and when I talk about assessment, I don’t necessarily mean evaluating, but rather providing feedback (conferencing, self-assessment, rubrics, etc.). I believe that assessment and feedback on creativity should be much more formative in nature to help guide students through the creative process, rather than a summative measure of a student’s creativity. I also strongly believe that any assessment of creativity should be done in conjunction with an assessment of a particular concept or standard that can be assessed more objectively to measure the quality of student work.

      So to answer your question, I both agree and disagree, if that makes any sense! True creativity is totally intangible, but creativity as a process in the classroom can, in my opinion, be assessed.

  2. […] How many times have you asked students to describe something and hear, “it’s good” or “I liked it”?  Getting students to go into detail about anything is a challenge, but it is so important as a foundational skill of the creative process. […]

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