by Judy Willis M.D., M.Ed., radteach.com; edited by Terry Heick
Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Without imagination and investigation of ideas our collective fund of knowledge would languish. We do need assessments to determine what students learn and understand, but we can incorporate imagination in the creation of those assessments to insure that students’ creative thoughts and higher executive functions are incorporated into their assessment experiences.
Traditional and especially standardized tests assess only a few parameters such as rote memory, ability to follow instructions, organization, and time management. Testing that emphasizes those parameters gives students the message that those are the primary qualities of thinking inside the box that are valued most. As functional neuroimaging has delved more into learning research, evidence is mounting about which brain activities are most associated with information processing and memory retention.
Strategies to increase successful learning can be incorporated into the assessment process such that these go beyond passive reflections of student memory and recall and become active learning experiences that stimulate dendrite growth, neurotransmitter release, and efficiency of neuronal network communication. For dynamic educators creative problem solving and critical analysis can be given the value they merit by being part of student assessment.
The National Council of Teachers of English position paper “On Testing” that stated, “In light of continued and increasing efforts to undermine progress the profession has made toward authentic assessment of students’ real and vital engagement with language and literature, NCTE needs to reassert its repeated opposition to over-simplified and narrowly conceived tests of isolated skills and decontextualized knowledge. The crux of this concern has been the tension between the breadth of the English language arts curriculum and the restrictive influence of standardized means of assessing student learning.”
4 Strategies To Promote Creativity In Assessments
1. Reduce Anxiety
Although assessments ideally take place during each class period and lesson, planning the year’s major unit assessments while planning curriculum builds authenticity into those assessments. Starting the year with clear communication to students about the goals of their studies and expectations for their assessments sets a pattern that gives them the security that accompanies predictability, and allows room for the kind of creativity that allows genius to emerge.
When teachers help students feel safe and in control of their potentials for success, they reduce affective filters and reduce the test-anxiety that may have lowered test performance in previous years. Gauge the assumptions students have about what is expected of them and how they will be assessed. This can be an open-ended discussion including their opinions about the purpose of assessments, and can promote dialogue with students about more personalized and creative approaches to assessment.
2. Share Creative Models From Previous Student Work
To insure that all students are aware of teacher expectations provide samples of A, B, C, and D student work from past years in a binder or digital portfolio. The samples need to relate to assignments similar in character to theirs, but not be the same specific topics. They would also model student creativity, autonomy, and self-expression. In that way the students will have the opportunity to emulate quality and creativity, not content.
3. Use Choice Boards
Use choice boards, which can allow teachers to create lessons around a specific learning goal, but offer students voice and choice in how to get it done/demonstrate mastery, etc.
4. Use Creative Rubrics
Want creativity? Design a creative rubric. The rubric–if its read and internalized–is what students use to understand the goals, options, and indicators of quality in the product or performance. As such, they are powerful tools for promoting successful creative performance and predictable assessment.
Try to create rubrics that not only encourage creativity, but demand it in order to fulfill the requirements of the assignment.
Image attribution flickr user thomashawk; Planning For Creativity: 4 Simple Strategies You Can Master