Assessing creative thinking

Teachers who develop a repertoire of methods for evidencing creativity can raise its status and improve the quality of learning

Today FORM in Australia and Rethinking Assessment in England are launching A field guide to assessing creative thinking in schools. The guide offers teachers a range of practical ways of evidencing the growth of their students creativity, underpinned by research. It is offered as a free resource to any teacher looking to develop their confidence in the use of assessment to improve their student’s creative thinking.

Across the world curricula are changing in recognition of the widespread view that, in addition to subject knowledge, young people need to develop certain key dispositions or capabilities in order to thrive today. Such dispositions broadly fall into two categories; those which might be described as concerned with the development of character (ethical understanding, for example) and those which focus on a wider set of skills (such as creativity, critical thinking or collaboration). 

Nearly a decade ago, the Centre for Real-World Learning at the University of Winchester and in partnership with Creativity, Culture and Education, developed a five-dimensional model of creativity for schools in the UK. At the time there were a small number of definitions of creativity, often inspired by the work of Sir Ken Robinson. But there were almost no attempts to move from definitions of creativity or creative thinking to a more detailed description of creativity in practice in schools. Our model does just that and is now used across the world in more than thirty countries. More recently the Durham Commission on Creativity and Education has offered useful, school-friendly definitions of creativity, creative thinking and teaching for creativity.

Later this year the global testing organisation the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) will run its first ever test of creative thinking. This is a landmark moment in the history of creativity in education; for, as we all know, what gets assessed tends to get done in schools. And PISA’s interest confers a styatus on creative thinking that matches the regard the world holds for subjects like mathematics, science, and reading which feature in other PISA tests.

Teaching and assessing ceativity in schools in Australia and in England.

In Australia creativity, called critical and creative thinking, is explictly part of the Australian Curriculum, one of a number of general capabilities or dispositions. In England, despite the Durham Commission’s advocacy, it has yet to be recognised formally. In both countries there is an appetite to better understand pedagogies and assessment practices which will help teachers and students better understand, develop and then track the growth of creativity in schools. Rethinking Assessment in the England and New Metrics for Success in Australia are actively working with pineering schools to consider ways of evidencing creativity along with other key dispositions and capabilities.

Over the last four years I have been privileged to work with FORM and a cluster of school leaders and teachers to develop practical assessment tools for tracking students’ creativity. At the same time I  am leading a research project for Rethinking Assessment in the UK working with schools similarly interested in evidencing creative thinking. It is all of our collective belief that the best way to ensure that creativity, along with other key capabilities, is well understood in schools is by building an evidence base to show how teaching for creativity can be done well and illustrate the benefits for young people. 

A field guide to assessing creative thinking in schools is a small contribution to the process of changing curriculum and assessment practices across the world to ensure young people’s full range of strengths are properly valued.

Bill Lucas is Professor of Learning at the University of Winchester, a co-founder of Rethinking Assessment, a longstanding adviser to FORM and curator of Creativity Exchange. @LucasLearn @formwa @rethinkassessmt

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