Measuring Student Creativity

Source: OECD Working Paper, Jan 2013

Our prototype tool for assessing pupils’ creativity in schools

‘Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration’ Thomas Edison

Our prototype model of the creative individual resulted directly from what we learned from our interaction with practitioners and from our research literature (Spencer et al., 2012a). It was further informed by the criteria we evolved with our steering group to help us gain maximum value from our two field trials. 

The Five Creative Dispositions Model

The five dispositions on which we decided to focus were arrived at after careful weighing up of the pros and cons of existing lists of creative dispositions in the light of our criteria. Our model explored the following five core dispositions of the creative mind:

1. Inquisitive. Clearly creative individuals are good at uncovering and pursing interesting and worthwhile questions in their creative domain. 

  • Wondering and questioning – beyond simply being curious about things, the questioning individual poses concrete questions about things. This enables him, and others, to think things through and develop new ideas.
  • Exploring and investigating – questioning things alone does not lead to creativity. The creative individual acts out his curiosity through exploration, and the investigating individual follows up on her questions by actively going out, seeking, and finding out more.
  • Challenging assumptions – a degree of appropriate scepticism is an important trait of the creative individual. This means not taking things at face value without critical examination.

2. Persistent. In line with Thomas Edison’s remark above, this section has been repeatedly emphasized. 

  • Sticking with difficulty – persistence in the form of tenacity is an important habit of mind enabling an individual to get beyond familiar ideas and come up with new ones.
  • Daring to be different – creativity demands a certain level of self-confidence as a prerequisite for sensible risk-taking as well as toleration of uncertainty.
  • Tolerating uncertainty – being able to tolerate uncertainty is important if an individual is going to move ‘off of the  the starting blocks’ on a project or task where actions or even goals are not fully set out.

3. Imaginative. At the heart of a wide range of analyses of the creative personality is the ability to come up with imaginative solutions and possibilities. 

  • Playing with possibilities – developing an idea involves manipulating it, trying it out, improving it.
  • Making connections – this process of synthesising brings together a new amalgam of disparate things.
  • Using intuition – the use of intuition allows individuals to make new connections and arise at thoughts  and ideas that would not necessarily materialise given analytical thinking alone.

4. Collaborative. Many current approaches to creativity, such as that of John-Steiner (2006), stress the social and collaborative nature of the creative process. 

  • Sharing the product – this is about the creative output itself impacting beyond its creator. 
  • Giving and receiving feedback – this is the propensity to want to contribute to the ideas ofothers, and to hear how one’s own ideas might be improved.
  • Cooperating appropriately – the creative individual co-operates appropriately with others. This means working collaboratively as needed, not necessarily all the time. 

5. Disciplined. As a counterbalance to the ‘dreamy’, imaginative side of creativity, there is a need for knowledge and craft in shaping the creative product and in developing expertise.

  • Developing techniques – skills may be established or novel but the creative individual will practise in order to improve. This is about devoting time to a creative endeavour.
  • Reflecting critically – once ideas have been generated, evaluation is important. We could call this ‘converging’. It requires decision-making skills.
  • Crafting and improving – this relates to a sense of taking pride in one’s work. The individual pays attention to detail, corrects errors, and makes sure the finished article works perfectly, as it should.

Creativity Wheel


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