Student Creativity and the Common Core: Part II

Student Creativity and the Common Core: Part II
Building and Assessing Creativity

student creativity and the common coreThose who have trepidations about the ultimate impact of the Common Core Standards express worry over its impact on creativity. Common concerns include the increased focus on non-fiction texts, the absence of an explicit focus on creativity in the standards, and the fear of a national curriculum with little room for individual teacher creativity. In my previous blog on creativity, I discussed the ways in which I do believe developing creativity, although not directly mentioned in the standards, is in alignment with the Common Core. How then should teachers and schools be developing and assessing creativity in their students?

Click Here to Read Part One of This Blog!

There are specific ways to foster creativity in our classrooms that are absolutely in alignment with the purpose and direction of the Common Core Standards. In Eric Booth’s article, “A Recipe for Artful Schooling” in Educational Leadership, he presents several ways that the arts foster creativity that are easily adapted to academic classroom instruction.

  • We need to build students intrinsic motivation because it will allow students to create, make relevant connections, and learn from experiences in ways that extrinsic motivation typically falls short.
  • Students should be encouraged to generate and pursue multiple solutions to interesting challenges and intriguing questions.
  • Teachers should strive to develop divergent thinking among students so that unexpected and valuable approaches and solutions are encouraged.
  • Students should be challenged to think flexibly about parts and wholes simultaneously and consider multiple points of view.
  • Classrooms should be places of inquiry where students and teachers ask great questions, anticipate challenges, tolerate uncertainty, build resiliency, and enjoy the process.

When classrooms and instruction are built on these principles, even non-fiction reading material can be the basis for creative thinking. In his recent blog, Inspiring Creativity Through Nonfiction Texts, Nathan Sun-Kleinberger expresses his belief that nonfiction can awaken our students’ creativity by connecting texts to the real world. He shares real examples from his classroom teaching with non-fiction texts that allowed students to connect the non-fiction readings assigned to relevant real-world perspectives and come up with creative responses and products. Sun-Kleinberger believes that, “If we have the courage to embrace nonfiction writing as an art form, perhaps we will inspire our students to freely speak their minds like King, Lincoln, and Roosevelt.”

Providing an environment that appreciates creativity and assignments that allow for students to demonstrate understanding in truly creative ways is a great start. However, if we don’t also establish criteria and a process for providing meaningful feedback on creativity itself, our students may not become the innovators of the future. If we understand that creativity in our thinking and in our outcomes is important, then we must assess creativity separate from content so that creativity as a process will be valued and therefore nurtured. In her article in Educational Leadership, “Assessing Creativity”, Susan M. Brookhart presents a rubric with categories specific to the elements of creativity that can and should be assessed.  When giving assignments that are conducive to creativity by requiring originality, new combinations, novel or unusual products and performances teachers should consider using a tool to not only assess the content of the material but also the following elements presented by Brookhart.

Does the student product or performance:

  • Present a variety of ideas and context?
  • Draw from a variety of sources?
  • Combine ideas?
  • Communicate something new?

It is valuable to recognize students for the ways they are able to be creative according to these criteria as well as help them develop these creative capacities if they are not exhibiting them in their work. Using a rubric such as the one presented by Brookhart, gives teachers an opportunity to assess creativity separately and therefore build it as a distinct and valuable outcome of the educational process.

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