Creativity: Can we assess it?

I had the rare opportunity to share with other educators what I know about assessing creativity at MICA.  The Maine Arts Commission supported this three day workshop and Maine’s Teacher Leaders provided workshops for the first day of the event. “Educators participating in phase three of the MAAI  are focusing on understanding and implementing standards-based arts education within dance, music, theatre, and visual art. Workshops will be tailored to explore high quality teaching practices, engaging learning tools and the successful assessment strategies in arts education.”

I was incredibly nervous sharing my insights with my peers but all who attended were engaged and asked good questions.  “Preaching to the Choir” about creativity assessments can be tricky.  So I showed a quick video of John Maeda (huge proponent of STEAM) and another of Sir Ken Robinson (creativity leader).  This lead to my points of divergent thinking using checklists (formative assessment) for the lesson.  I have found that the combination of fostering a caring environment, coupled with clear expectations can lead a student towards quality work that demonstrates personal growth.  I was disappointed that I did not show the journey of a student work this time.  I only showed my path as a teacher in this assessment process.  I did have student examples in their notebooks and student work examples of problem solving but there was no time.  I also thought as a teacher, I would like to see how another teacher delivers the process because the student work is what you would probably have seen before….it is expected to have a range.

Another question was how I transferred a “2, 3, 4” scale to a numerical grade.   Give points for each section of the rubric and add it up the way you want.  You can involve students in the process and ask them what they think and together, you can create an assessment tool that is collaborative and give student voice. This is something I would like to do more of.

Another question was asked about giving students a “4” in an assessment.  Administration tells teachers not to issue “4’s”.   My only reasoning for this is:

  • Teachers can focus more on formative assessments to reach proficiency than a point system.
  • It’s about learning.
  • The paradigm is shifting in education. It’s tough for me to wrap my head around at times!

The bottom line is care, clarity and communication with your students.  If they are discovering more about themselves in the world of art then, I have made progress as an arts teacher!


Angela Lee Duckworth: The key to success? Grit

Leaving a high-flying job in consulting, Angela Lee Duckworth took a job teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school. She quickly realized that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. Here, she explains her theory of “grit” as a predictor of success.

At the University of Pennsylvania, Angela Lee Duckworth studies intangible concepts such as self-control and grit to determine how they might predict both academic and professional success.


Preparing Art Assessments for Creativity

The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work. 
– Emile Zola

Creativity is a learning process.  It is not a linear process. Critical thinking takes many turns at times to reach understanding. Grit can be described as a person’s determination on how to solve a problem.  For example, How often we persevere or enjoy a drawing assignment might determine how likely we are to try again. What kind of  assessments are out there to encourage a culture of learning in the creative arts? I have a few I can share to prompt discussion.


Studio Habits of Mind  – Great resource.

For now, the workshop in the fall will involve the sharing a variety of the 5 – 12 grade level rubrics I have created over the years that are very specific to general.  Some will be on process and some based on product. Then we will examine student works of art that will have a grade level standard attached to it. Participants will use a rubric template of choice to fill in the spaces that may guide a student to the “proficiency” of that standard. Gathering evidence of student work that has rubrics aligned with the standards is a good habit.  Grade level groups will have a  “report out” with “What did you learn?” and “What could you do in your own classroom?”

Then finally, how do you rank on the grit scale?


TED Talks Education

Watch TED Talks Education on PBS. See more from TED Talks Education.

Short, inspiring talks from America’s leading educators. Like a breath of fresh air….


Zoe’s Art Celebrated with Maine’s First Lady!

IMG_2643 copy

Greetings All!  I’m excited to tell you that my daughter, Zoe (age 10) had her art work chosen for this book!  Today at the Discovery Museum at 4pm we attended a reception with First Lady LePage for all student work that was selected!  I’m so excited!

Zoe chose to draw a family sharing a meal together. 

The following is a clip from the blog post announcing the news!

In early November over 800 artworks representing students in grades K-8  were submitted from all regions of the state to be considered for the First Lady’s upcoming new family friendly Love.Read.Learn!™ Baby Journal. A rubric was used by the First Lady Ann LePage, Becky Dyer from the Barbara Bush Foundation, and art teachers Lynne Shulman and Kathy Smith, to select the student artwork.

Students were asked to create original artwork that represented what living in Maine means to them. It was evident that students were inspired by their favorite places and activities. You can view all the artwork that was selected by clicking here.


4 Lessons in Creativity

As I was listening to this talk getting ready this morning, I thought this was exactly what I try to explain to students.  That being creative is a process. Understand that change is inevitable.  Evolution embraces mistakes and gives you the opportunity to choose your path.  What may look like an accident/mistake can be made into something beautiful!  So go out and make something!!!!!!

21st Century Learning

I like this clip.  This shows exactly what we need.  To know how to think creatively. How to use technology. When to put it down. When to be involved with community.  How to involve family in our educational process.  How to LOVE BEING CURIOUS!  This is what drives 21st century learning.  Teachers are learning lots in technology.  Instead of being resistent to things that are unknown to us, we must embrace problem solving to relevant matters in our educational setting.  It can be awkward, time consuming and SLOW.  It’s safe to do things well and right all the time.  We feel successful and happy when we are right.

I know for myself that I am struggling with the balance of teaching students new things, keeping them motivated AND inspired.  We have Ipads in the school now. Students know there is a time and place for technology in the art room.  Usually it’s at the end of the period.  I have students take pictures of their work and send them to me.  Next step is how to teach students to write about their process.  Fortunately, art teachers are well versed in the critique process.  One example is commenting on what are their strengths, weaknesses are and what would they do different next time if they had to create this art assignment all over again.  If I can develop that small habit in the weekly routine of class and provide some kind of formative assessment, then, that is one of the few big changes I didn’t do last year…..progress!

On one of the tests I gave students last week, I asked them, “What did you learn about the critique process and how could you use this knowledge for outside of the school day or for in the future?”  The responses were amazing!  Helping students to think relevantly and creatively is very rewarding to see as a teacher.

When students see your efforts to improve the way of their learning, the motivation to improve themselves becomes a little more routine also.


An element of art so essential for the artist.  This video make me want to paint!

Previous Older Entries