Throughout CEP 811 we have been engaged in thinking about how teachers and students engage in education. Often times as teachers we are focused on standards, assessments, and making thinking visible in our classrooms. CEP 811 has encouraged my colleagues and I to rethink how our classrooms operate; the manner in which we present our lessons and what the content of our lessons actually are. In this final week we have been asked to think about how we might assess creativity.
As a World Language teacher reflecting upon how I might assess creativity happens all of the time. Unlike some of the STEM classes that my students are in, proficiency in a language is a little bit more abstract. We are a proficiency based language program, which means we want our students to be able to use the language (at least that is what proficiency means to me). In the traditional Spanish classrooms students are “learning” the language through traditional means: grammar presentations and “drill and kill” formative assessment. Most of the time they leave the language program being able to use very little Spanish. In my classroom, students are given a chance to explore and play with the language in ways that are relevant an meaningful for them. Because this approach is more abstract than the old copy and paste “fill-in-the-blank with the correct verb conjugation” exercises, this means that I have to rethink how I grade my students.
In my language class, I have not yet come up with a method that is better than standards-based grading. In the creative language class assessments need to be both highly formative and explorative. Students must be able to assess their own progress within the language in order to determine if they will be able to reach their end goal: communication on a given topic of interest. As students track their own progress and conference with me they are able to form a better understanding of what went wrong, and what they need to do to reach their educational goal. This is less cumbersome on the students because they are learning to communicate about topics that are of personal interest to them.
The means that I use to assess my students will vary. It can be done through group discussions, one-on-one conversation, verbal story narration, or a creative writing assessment. Something that stuck with me this week was Gee’s comparison of video games to assessments. In a video game you are usually required to learn a new skill to advance (Gee 2008). I think in a standard’s based curriculum the same logic applies. If you do not fully acquire the new skill, then you are not ready to advance. Because language is cumulative in nature, you cannot move on to a new set of skills until you have mastered the old set of skills.
Above is a copy of a rubric that I might use on a creative writing type of assignment. I have the standard columns that any language teacher would include: Comprehensibility, Vocabulary, Correctness of Language; however, I have also added an area to assess the creativity of a story that I will continue to tweak as I develop as an educator. I do not want my students writing just to use a certain number of vocabulary words, or a certain grammatical concept. I want them writing to engage and captivate their audience. While there are typical assessment requirements, the above rubric also rewards creativity. This type of rubric is supported by Grant Wiggins, who is an assessment expert.
If we truly wish for our students to be creative, then we must encourage creativity through purposeful rubrics, meaningful assessment, and constructive and meaningful feedback that is provided in a timely manner.
Gee, J. (2010, July 20). James Paul McGee on Grading with Games [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU3pwCD-ey0
Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved fromhttp://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/