Assessing the Creative Side

David Kelly (2002), CEO of IDEO, says that everyone is creative. In addition, Grant Wiggins (2012) says that we “recognize creative thinking immediately when we see it” and even “students easily understand the difference between ‘engaging’ and ‘not engaging’” (Wiggins, 2012).  If what Kelly and Wiggins say is true, why are we as educators so reluctant to assess creativity? Maybe a better question to start with is should teachers even assess creativity? Wiggins (2012) says “the point in any performance is to cause the appropriate effects in a performance… impact matters.” Even Bloom says that the learner “may view the product or performance as essentially a unique communication…ultimately he wishes to achieve a given effect in some audience” (Wiggins 2012).  So it does appears we should assess creativity in our lessons, but how can we go about it? I think a great way for a teacher to start is by providing support in the form of discussions (feedback) and rubrics (with exemplars).

James Paul Gee (2010) sees benefits in gaming in education. While different than Maker Education, many of his thoughts on gaming can apply to assessing creativity. Gee (2010) says “Games don’t separate learning and assessment. They give feedback all the time about the learning curve you are on.” This concept applies to creativity as well. As teachers, we can provide constant feedback while our students are busy producing. This year in AP Biology, I am using a learning cycling that I call SIMPLE to help my students work through the Essential Knowledge Standards.

A draft of the SIMPLE model
A draft of the SIMPLE model

The “P” stands for produce and the students are asked to synthesize their learning as they create something. (I agree with Eric Isslehardt (2013) when he said “We were concerned… that authentic learning (which we believe so critical to urban student success) was largely missing.” I am hoping that my SIMPLE model helps to provide a Maker Education environment in my classroom.) The “L” of SIMPLE stands for look back. While this is shown as a separate step, it will go hand in hand with producing. This provides a time and a place for me to have a one-on-one conversations with each student about their learning. By providing this real time and frequent feedback, I can help guide my students thinking, encourage them to take risks, and help set them back on track if needed.

Wiggins (2012) says that if rubrics are not working, then the teacher isn’t using them correctly. If rubrics are not encouraging creativity then it comes “from a failure on the part of teachers to use the right criteria and multiple & varied exemplars.” When requiring the student to produce a product, we need to provide expectations that are “crystal-clear” (Wiggins, 2012). Exemplars are also very important as they help the student to see and to understand the expectations while also helping to jump start their thought process. At first, a teacher may not have a lot of exemplars to show but a solution could include have students share their projects and creations along the way. In science, we call this RIP – results in progress. This will allow the students to build off of each other making the whole class stronger.

It might not be easy to start assigning creativity but as teachers and students become more familiar with this practice, it will become second nature. With time and practice, we can help every student believe that he or she is a creator.


Edutopia. (2010, July 20). James Paul Gee on Grading with Game [Video File]. Retrieved from

Isslehardt, E. (2013, February 11). Creating Schoolwide PBL Aligned to Common Core [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Kelly, D. (2002, February). Human-centered design [Video File]. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

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