Assessing Creativity and Problem Solving

In a time where more and more schools are changing their focus of instruction from fact memorization to collaborative problem-solving and creativity, there also needs to be a change in the way assessments are used and how students interact with them. Grant Wiggins, who is known for being an assessment expert, has written a post about assessing creativity. In it he writes, “educators sometimes say that they shy from assessing creative thought for fear of inhibiting students” (Wiggins, 2012). If educators are not willing to assess creativity, then how will students learn how to deliver more engaging and thought provoking work?

In my school we teach using Project-based learning (PBL) with a focus on building 21st century skills, such as creative thinking, communication, and collaboration. When getting students immersed in a PBL, we model for students how to think creatively and what it looks and sounds like to collaborate and communicate effectively, but these areas have been hard to give a measurable value. Wiggins argues that students need to have a clear understanding of the purpose behind a task. “It is vital when asking students to perform or produce product that you are crystal-clear on the purpose of the task” (Wiggins, 2012). Wiggins also talks about how students need to learn about the concept of impact. Did my work create an emotional response? Were people able to reflect on what I contributed to the conversation? Can people interpret my meaning by looking at my work? The idea of impact can be measured, and students need to learn how to incorporate impact into their work.

As an educator charged with the assessment of student learning, I would assess creative problem-solving during maker-inspired lessons in two ways. In measuring students’ products or performance, I would use the Wiggins & McTighe GRASPS performance assessment that was adapted from the Understanding by Design Professional Development Workbook. The GRASPS acronym stands for goal, role, audience, situation, products or performance, and standards. To measure student creativity and problem-solving, I would use the creative rubric Susan Brookhart described in the February 2013 issue of the ASCD’s Educational Leadership. In the article Brookhart gave a criteria for 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)

The rubric that Brookhart developed shows a comprehensive continuum for teachers and students to understand. I appreciate how it shows what level of creativity a piece of work is displaying. I believe this rubric also allows students to set goals for their creativity, which connects well with the GRASPS performance assessment developed by Wiggins & McTighe. Wiggins also developed his own creativity assessment that can be found here. Wiggins’ creativity assessment does a good job of explaining the different levels of creativity however, I believe that Brookhart’s rubric is more student and teacher friendly.

The design of these assessments is justified by what Wiggins and James Paul Gee have said about schools. Wiggins wrote, “if rubrics are sending the message that a formulaic response on an uninteresting task is what performance assessment is all about, then we are subverting our mission as teachers” (Wiggins, 2012). Teachers need to incorporate assessments for creativity so that students can learn how to deliver and produce more interesting work. Incorporating assessments does not mean that teachers need to give creativity a grade, rather it means that students need a clear understanding of what creativity is so they can make gains in approaching it. In an Edutopia interview Gee describes how schools need to change for the 21st century. In the interview Gee says that schools need to change from an understanding that knowledge is the acquiring of facts to understanding that knowledge is something we can produce. By using creativity assessments teachers can help students understand how their knowledge can be produced in a creative and engaging way.



Brookhart, S. (2013, February). Assessing Creativity. Retrieved from

Miller, A. (2013, March 7). Yes, You can Teach and Assess Creativity! Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. McTighe, J. (2008) UbD Design Guide Worksheets – MOD M. Retrieved from

Edutopia. (2010, July 20). James Paul Gee on Grading with Games [Video file]. Retrieved from


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