When educators and parents talk about what makes children excited about learning, they always talk about these traits of creativity, ingenuity, and innovation. Even though schools are charged with developing and letting students explore their creativity, rarely do we discuss how we should assess these skills. Yet these are the skills that every educator and parent want their students to develop. As an educator charged with the assessment of student learning, I would assess creative problem solving during maker-inspired lessons by making slight changes to what I already do. Although creativity can be assessed, I do not think that the best way of assessing the work is through grades. Instead I would rather report and reflect accurately on what students know and are able to do. Right now the best system I have discovered for honest and accurate assessment/feedback is with standards-based grading and a standards based report card.
My school works collaboratively using the systematic framework of Pearson’s Assessment Literacy project. First, we broke down all of the standards for any course we offer into series of learning targets (always refining!). Each learning target was identified as to having a purpose (knowledge, reasoning, performance, or skill). This is similar to the “standards map” that was created by Green Street Academy (Isselhardt, 2013, p. 1). We then added target-specific rubrics to the map. In doing so, the work reflected Grant Wiggins who said, “we can do and measure anything” (Wiggins, 2012, p. 1). When assessment is aligned to the target rather than the assignment, it indicates to the student that creativity is valued in this environment. Students do not have to be fixated with some of the notorious elements of rubrics such as “Neatness” or “Participation” or “Follows directions”. In addition, all of the projects are framed as suggested paths. Students then have the freedom to do and create to meet these targets.They also have unlimited options to revise their work or change forms, or even come up with a project of their own that demonstrates the targets – as long as they have a supervising educator. That means students literally can do anything they want to prove they have met the targets. It is freeing as an educator to assess this kind of creative work through the lens of learning targets. It means I do not have to look at 40 carbon copies of the same assignment and it also allows students to access multiple intelligences.
This year as my school’s curriculum coordinator I have been leading the work with regards to rubrics and student feedback. As Wiggins stated without the “right criteria and multiple and varied exemplars” there is a danger that students will feel that rubrics will stifle criteria (Wiggins, 2012 p. 1) so I have been working with my fellow teachers on refining this process to make rubrics as clearly linked as possible to the learning targets.
Even with all the merits to our program’s process and the advantages of standards-based grading and assessment literacy, there are drawbacks to this system as well. As Isselhardt points out, how to best prepare your students when they have difficulty working cooperatively is always a challenge (Isselhardt, 2013 p. 1). The at-risk population I work with have a lifetime of distrust built up from negative interactions with students and peers. It can be tough to break down those barriers. However, I harken back to the thoughts of James Paul Gee in his book The Anti-Education Era where he asks if human minds potentially need “to integrate with tools and other people’s minds to make a mind of minds?” (Gee, 2013 p. 2473). How to better assess the skills of collaboration is the next phase in the assessment process I want to embark on.
The next phase that we are aiming to codify through assessment are students’ social-emotional skills We want to grow students’ competencies in areas such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving (Gee, 2013 Loc: 2730) and next year I am helping to lead the work on developing a learner profile, projects, and assessment framework. The end result is I hope to lead more groundbreaking work into how to assess the WHOLE student – I think it would make Grant Wiggins proud!
Carroll, Andrew. Information Diet. [Image file]. Retrieved from http://cpaandrew.com/2013/09/27/the-information-diet-a-review/
Gee, James. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. Palgrave Macmillan.
Isslehardt, E. (2013, February 11). Creating Schoolwide PBL Aligned to Common Core [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/PBL-aligned-to-common-core-eric-isslehardt
Johnson, Clay. Startup Information Diet. [Image file]. Retrieved from http://venturebeat.com/2012/02/21/startup-information-diet/
Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/