Assessing Creative Problem Solving…

As CEP 811 is in its final week, it’s time to take a step back and look at the overall picture of the maker world and creativity. How, as an educator, can I push myself (and other educators) to assess problem solving during maker-inspired lessons.  Personally, I think I’d begin with finding ways to incorporate making and creating in my classroom more.  I teach Spanish (so definitely not a science/math class), however, I think that I could incorporate more project-based learning activities with my students and have them create their own review games. Making doesn’t even necessarily have to be electronics – it could be food, sewing, wood creations, art, etc.

Along with inspiring myself to be more creative with the type of projects that I have students create, I will make it a point to come up with a guideline or rubric as to what creativity looks like.  In the past I’ve had students create Spanish “picture-books” and I’ll tell them “Be creative!” I’ve had students in the past look at me and go “well, what does that mean?”  And then the finalized work that gets turned in looks like anything from a black and white stick-figure picture-book to an elaborate, colorful and detailed picture-book.

Grant Wiggins discusses his support for assessment on creativity in his blogpost “On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should,” and explains that it’s important to let students know the expectations and define what creativity should look like.

“So, it is vital when asking students to perform or produce a product that you are crystal-clear on the purpose of the task, and that you state the purpose (to make clear that the purpose is to cause an intrinsic effect, NOT please the teacher,” (Wiggins, 2012).

After a clear explanation, I would provide students with that guideline (or rubric) for creativity.  Wiggins brought up in his blogpost that some students feel that rubrics are stifling their creativity, “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).

So rather than creating a rubric, I could potentially just offer up to my students the question “is your project engaging?”  And allow students to present their projects to the class showing off their creation and potentially allow other students to answer that question for them.  Is that student’s project engaging? Why or why not?

The design of these assessments is justified not just based on Wiggins’ blogpost, but also from an Edutopia article written by Eric Isslehardt called “Creating Schoolwide PBL Aligned to Common Core,” where he examines the work done by himself and his colleagues at Green Street Academy to create curriculum for the entire school that’s completely Project-Based.  Isslehardt talks about the process and how they piloted the program first, a step that I, myself, as an educator would also consider as I create better assessments for my students on their maker projects for my class. He came up with 6 lessons learned throughout his pilot program, but two I think stick out the most:

  1. How we introduce the project to students is much more important than we thought (and we thought it was very important).
  2. As a teaching group, we must maintain a flexible, problem-solving attitude to productively work through the inevitable implementation challenges.

(Isslehardt, 2013).

Both of these lessons come as a reminder to all educators, that as we are creating and inspiring our students to create, make and do more, we, ourselves, need to connect with each other, be more flexible, more problem-solving oriented and ultimately, be able to be innovators just like our students. Because inevitably we are just as much the student as we are the educator within our own classrooms.


This week’s resources:

Gee, J. (2010, July 20). James Paul Gee on Grading with Games. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Isslehardt, E. (2013, February 11). Creating Schoolwide PBL Aligned to Common Core. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Thomas, A. (2012, September 7). Engaging Students in the STEM Classroom Through “Making”. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

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

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Mara Deutch

Simplifying the complex. Dedicated to captivating and engaging learners of all ages with the joy of technology’s transformative power. Accomplishing the impossible together. Learn with me how to extract maximum technology value. It’s life changing, try me.

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