School House Wonk

"Genius without education is like silver in the mine." Benjamin Franklin

How Do You Measure Creativity?

In an education system seemingly fixated on test scores, how can educators ensure that schools continue to foster creativity and innovation in students? According to Erik Robelen of Education Week, some states are tackling this issue by developing an index for measuring creative opportunities afforded to students in school.

Robelen writes that the “creativity” movement has been gaining steam in business, political and education groups. The movement recognizes that fostering creativity helps students learn to take risks and to apply problem-solving skills successfully in novel situations. Robelen adds that the creativity push is gaining popularity in countries like South Korea, where the former minister of education states that “creating the type of education in which creativity is emphasized over rote learning” is a top priority for the government there.

In California, the Senate passed a bill requiring the development of a “Creative and Innovative Education Index” where schools would measure their creative education opportunities on a voluntary basis.

In Massachusetts, a new commission is formulating recommendations for a “Creative Challenge Index” for its public schools, in response to legislation. Examples cited in the legislation include arts education, debate clubs, science fairs, filmmaking, and independent research.

And in Oklahoma, Governor Mary Fallin has announced the formation of a public-private partnership to develop a creativity index. The governor views the index as a “very valuable tool to help Oklahoma be a national leader in innovation, critical thinking, and entrepreneurship.”

Proponents hope the index will promote more balance in school curriculum, and provide incentives to schools to spend more time developing creativity in their students.

My take – This is a much-needed movement with laudable aims. But the dust of education reform history is littered with well-meaning yet ultimately misguided checklists and rubrics designed to do one thing, but delivering quite another. Robelen is right to point out the concerns of some involved, such as Robert J. Sternberg, the provost and a professor of psychology and education at Oklahoma State University: “We don’t want an index that trivializes creativity, such as by counting numbers of activities that, on their surface, sound creative rather than exploring what is actually done in the activities to encourage creativity. We don’t want to encourage quantity over quality of activities.”

Beth T. Sigall

February 6, 2012

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