Putting flare into spark of creativity

15th February 2008 at 00:00

How do you measure creativity in children and young people? Should you measure it? In a country that produced the man who invented the internet and which oozes home-grown talent from its cinemas, its catwalks, its recording studios and its architecture - to mention some areas in which the British excel internationally - do we need to measure creativity?

The Government clearly thinks we do because The TES has learned this week that the Department for Children, Schools and Families is to investigate the research in this area. And this is not just a trawl of what we do in schools in subjects such as music and art. This is creativity widely drawn as it should be - a quality invested in everything a human being does well. A quality made up of many differing traits that would include imaginative thinking, risk taking, the ability to spot holes in arguments, the willingness to question and challenge ideas, emotional and intellectual resilience, the skill to communicate effectively with others and to work productively in teams. The list could go on but, in sum, these are the qualities that move the human race forward little by little, spark by spark.

On a more mundane plane they are also the skills - the so-called soft skills - that employers need if their companies are to succeed. They are also skills the nation needs to succeed, and which all individuals will benefit from.

So if measuring creativity in children and young people means we are beginning to realise that testing just academic understanding only tells us part of the story, then we should look at how we assess creativity. After all, two pupils might get the same grade in a maths test but one will have been more creative in reaching that grade. Shouldn't that be valued?

Research in this area is barely off the ground and is already proving to be difficult as academics find that outcomes end up being measured rather than the intrinsic nature of how people reach them. That doesn't mean we should give up on it. It suggests that trying to atomise creativity into tick box-style tests is probably not going to get us very far. A rigid, standardised approach could snuff out those little sparks which build the creative fire. Informed assessment from highly professional teachers is the best way forward. That's the creative approach.

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