p21logoThis post originally appeared on Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), the leading national organization advocating for 21st century readiness for every student. P21 brings together the business community, education leaders, and policymakers who believe our education system must equip students with rigorous academic coursework and the skills to be successful employees and citizens. View Original >


Driving Question: How Can We Assess Creativity in the Classroom?

Explicitly and effectively assessing creativity is one of my passions. I was lucky. My parents put me into many arts programs, music programs and the like to build my creativity. Later it would become an area of study as I practiced vocal jazz, and sung in my musicals and chorale groups. In fact, it was that work I can strongly attribute to my current creative abilities which I have been able to transfer into “non-arts” subject matter and ideas.

Indeed, we know creativity is not limited to the arts, but that also means we need to provide instructional opportunities for students to be creative in all subject areas, be assessed on creativity, and improve.

Let’s be clear, we are using the word “assess” here. Assessment does not “equal” grading. Those are two different things, although the can complement and build upon each other.

Some schools do put in a creativity grade, while others may feel uncomfortable doing so. Regardless, students need to know where they are at in terms of the creativity in order to set goals and improve. Assessment does this with or without grades.

Unpacking Creativity

The first step to assessing creativity it to know what it is. Despite popular belief, it is not a nebulous concept. Creativity, in fact, has quality indicators to it that help us to understand what it looks like and how we build our creative skills. Rubrics exist that articulate these quality indicators, such as the Buck Institute for Education’s Creativity rubrics for elementary and secondary grades.

In a rubric published in the Ed Leadership article “Assessing Creativity,” Sue Brookhart describes the category of very creative with the description “Ideas represent a startling variety of important concepts from different contexts or disciplines” as well as “Created product draws on a wide variety of sources, including different texts, media, resource persons, or personal experiences.” In BIE’s K-2 Creativity rubric, two quality indicators are “I can help pick the best idea” and “I can think of ideas for what to make or do in the project.” These are some samples of helping students understand what creativity looks like, and gives them quality indicators. We need to unpack creativity in this way because students may or may not know what it is, let alone how to get better. Simply saying, “Be creative,” will not give students the specific goals to work toward.

Creativity with Content

Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Students must have some “thing” with which to be creative. For example they can be creative with World Religions content knowledge or solve linear equations in a creative way. In addition, tying creative thinking to an important concept or idea provides a great opportunity to assess more content-based standards along with creativity; giving them both equal footing in the assessment plan.

When teachers design a unit or project, they begin with the end in mind, target specific content skills and objectives that they want students to learn. From there, they consider how students can be creative with that content. What context will they give students that demands they be creative with the content? What voice and choice will theygives students in products students will create?

Consider this example. A teacher might design a unit where she wants students to learn about world religions, as well as speaking and listening skills. From there, the teacher might come up with the context about discrimination that occurs with world religions and tasks student with uncovering and solving this issue of stereotypes and discrimination. Next, the teacher might provide voice and choice to students in the products they create as well as the audience they intend to target. While the learning of content and skills is focused, the space and demand for creativity is there as well.

Formative and Summative Assessment

Teachers can assess creativity in a final product or in summative assessments. If the unit or project calls for a creative product, a criteria for evaluation might be creativity in addition to the content skills and knowledge students have to demonstrate. However, if teachers intend to summatively assess creativity, but they must formatively assess in order to scaffold appropriately and to have students build their creative thinking skills.

Paired with a good rubric, they can formatively assess one or many quality indicators of creativity. Students can set goals and reflect upon these creative goals. As the final product calls for creativity, journals, reflections and even oral individuals can be used to check for creative indictors. These formative assessments can be used as self, peer and teacher assessments to improve creative skills. It further fosters that creativity is a process. For a quality final product that shows creativity, the creative process must be valued through formative assessment.

Assessing creativity must be intentional when teachers plan instruction. If we want our students to be creative, then we must assess it. It we want creativity to be valued as much as content, then it is must be assessed just like content. The good news is that it can be done, and we have the tools to do it!

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This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >


I am of course a huge project-based learning (PBL) nerd and advocate. I am also an advocate for the flipped classroom, yet at the same time I also have my concerns about flipping a classroom. This model still hinges upon great teachers, and engaging curriculum and instruction. So why not combine PBL and the flipped classroom? It can be an excellent match when you consider some of the following tips. Even Salman Khan believes that the flipped classroom can create the space for PBL.

1. Short Content Videos
The key piece here is short. Kids do not want to be watching hours of content. However, short five- to ten-minute videos could be used to replace lectures in the classroom and free up space for more PBL time. These videos might be introductions to learning the content, or possibly content review. Students who enjoy the flipped classroom often comment that their favorite part is being able to watch videos over and over again as needed. Find or create these videos, and make sure to align them to the significant content you intend to teach and assess in your PBL project.

2. Collaborative Virtual Work
I love it when students assign their own homework. Many times in a PBL project, the team might not quite finish all they want to do in class, and some of this work relies on collaboration. There are many digital tools out there that allow for collaboration, and this could be your chance to “flip the collaboration,” whether it’s joint research and documentation, or even reflection as a group. This virtual work can also be great documentation for assessing collaboration as one of the 4 C’s in the 21st century learning aspect of a PBL project.

3. Virtual Labs and Games
Flipping isn’t just videos, because — let’s be honest — videos can get boring after a while. As you go through the PBL process with students, use other types of virtual activities as both components to learn content and a means of formative assessment. For example, if students need to learn about parts of the body, use an interactive digital lab for them to do a dissection. Or, if students are learning about some math component, have them play a math game outside of the brick-and-mortar setting that still allows you, as the teacher, to check on how they’re doing.

4. Product Production
If you are concerned with students taking an excessive amount of time in actually constructing the PBL product, give a technology choice or choices as an element of the final product. These products can be produced and edited in the cloud, where individual students and teams can have access to them 24/7. You can ask students for these links and give them your feedback to help improve their work.

5. Consider Tech Equity
Not all of our students have access the technology. Some of us are lucky enough to have 1:1 classrooms, but not all. Because of that, you need to truly consider equity as a core issue if you intend to flip your PBL classroom. It’s difficult for students to collaborate digitally, for example, if some have access to the technology while others do not. In cases like this, consider your flipped components as optional for those students able to use them.

PBL and the flipped classroom model can play well together. In fact, PBL can make it better when students are engaged in authentic work and given voice and choice in how and what they want and need to learn. What are some of the ways you’ve used both the flipped classroom and PBL? How do you see them complementing each other?

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This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >


The word “grit” suggests toughness and determination. The question is how do we get students to value struggle, failure and perseverance in our classrooms? ASCD recently published Thomas Hoerr’s short but great book on this subject, Fostering Grit. The subtitle “How do I prepare my students for the real world?” reflects the fact that our students will encounter challenging work and problems to solve. If this is the case, our classrooms should mirror that process and prepare our students to be successful in meeting these challenges. You might consider this a critical 21st century skill, which means that we need to scaffold the related skills we’re teaching our students.

Model Grit
Modeling is a crucial component in teaching skills to students. Many teachers use modeling to teach reading skills, which will be crucial as students encounter more and more complex text. Try modeling grit by leading students through a think-aloud explicitly about grit. Reading and navigating a complex text is challenging, so make sure your that think-aloud talks not only about how to navigate, but also about mistakes made and the thought process of perseverance. This can build trust in the classroom that grit is valuable and natural.

Don’t Grade Formative Assessments
In a previous blog, I wrote:

Why don’t I grade formative assessment? For one, a grade is supposed to answer the question: “Did the student learn and achieve the learning targets or standards?” If this is the case, then the summative assessment primarily represents achievement. Formative assessment is practice. It is part of the journey.

If you punish students in the learning process, then they are less likely to engage with it. Grit requires that there are multiple stages in the learning process and that the journey of learning is valued. You can read the above-mentioned blog for strategies on how to use formative assessments more effectively if this is challenging for you. If you want grit, then you can’t punish students for making mistakes.

Authentic Products
In another blog, I wrote about the importance of bringing authenticity to the classroom. One piece of this is having students create authentic products. When they create real work that has value, they are more likely to create high quality work. And students are more likely to improve their work when they know there is an authentic audience for the authentic work.

Ongoing Revision and Reflection
Build in sacred time to revise work and reflect upon the learning. If we want students to value grit, they need to see learning as a journey, and we need to give them time to reflect about the challenges they’ve faced, and the mistakes and revisions they’ve made. To start, watch the “Austin’s Butterfly” video for advice on how good critique and feedback can scaffold and support grit in the classroom

Celebrate Success
When we persevere, we need to celebrate the success. We often don’t take time to celebrate the challenging work we’ve completed. Sometimes we feel that our schedule forces us to immediately move on with the next unit of instruction. If you want students to value grit, then you must celebrate in your classroom. This is part of the reflection process, but again is explicitly about celebration. Have students celebrate their own grit as well as the grit of others with a strategy like Your Shining Moment.

These are some practical steps to foster grit in your classroom. If we want our students to find joy in grit, then they need to find that joy in our classrooms. Seek a balance of challenge, reflection and authenticity to create a culture of grit.

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