What is Creativity?

Source: ACSD website, Feb 2013

What Is Creativity?

Probably the foremost characteristic of creative students is that they put things together in new ways (Brookhart, 2010). For example, while writing a poem about a sunset, a student who observes that moment when the sunset looks very much like a sunrise and makes the connection to other endings that can also foreshadow beginnings is more creative than a student who describes that moment as “red and fiery.”

Students who are able to put things together in new ways can observe things others might miss, construct more novel products, give more novel performances, use more unusual or unconventional imagery to make points, observe ordinary things and find in them an area to wonder about or a problem to solve, and the like.

Stimulating Creative Thinking

Myriad opportunities for fostering creativity are right under our noses in school, because learning is a generative act. However, what’s missing in many classrooms is deliberately noticing and naming opportunities for creativity when they occur, giving feedback on the creative process, and teaching students that creativity is a valued quality.

Criteria for Creativity

Criteria for creativity should match what we expect in creative work: originality and high quality. Creative students

  • Recognize the importance of a deep knowledge base and continually work to learn new things.
  • Are open to new ideas and actively seek them out.
  • Find source material in a wide variety of media, people, and events.
  • Organize and reorganize ideas into different categories or combinations and then evaluate whether the results are interesting, new, or helpful.
  • Use trial and error when they are unsure how to proceed, viewing failure as an opportunity to learn. (Brookhart, 2010, pp. 128–129)

A Rubric for Creativity

If all of these first four characteristics are in play in an assignment, then a rubric like the one in Figure 1 (p. 31) may support teachers and students in assessing creativity (Brookhart, 2013). The rubric describes four levels of creativity—very creative, creative, ordinary/routine, and imitative—in four different areas—variety of ideas, variety of sources, novelty of idea combinations, and novelty of communication.

 

FIGURE 1. Rubric for Creativity

 

  Very Creative Creative Ordinary/Routine Imitative
Variety of ideas and contexts Ideas represent a startling variety of important concepts from different contexts or disciplines. Ideas represent important concepts from different contexts or disciplines. Ideas represent important concepts from the same or similar contexts or disciplines. Ideas do not represent important concepts.
Variety of sources Created product draws on a wide variety of sources, including different texts, media, resource persons, or personal experiences. Created product draws on a variety of sources, including different texts, media, resource persons, or personal experiences. Created product draws on a limited set of sources and media. Created product draws on only one source or on sources that are not trustworthy or appropriate.
Combining ideas Ideas are combined in original and surprising ways to solve a problem, address an issue, or make something new. Ideas are combined in original ways to solve a problem, address an issue, or make something new. Ideas are combined in ways that are derived from the thinking of others (for example, of the authors in sources consulted). Ideas are copied or restated from the sources consulted.
Communicating something new Created product is interesting, new, or helpful, making an original contribution that includes identifying a previously unknown problem, issue, or purpose. Created product is interesting, new, or helpful, making an original contribution for its intended purpose (for example, solving a problem or addressing an issue). Created product serves its intended purpose (for example, solving a problem or addressing an issue). Created product does not serve its intended purpose (for example, solving a problem or addressing an issue).
Source: From How to Create and Use Rubrics for Formative Assessment and Grading (p. 54), by Susan M. Brookhart, 2013, Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Copyright 2013 by ASCD. Adapted with permission.
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