Mapping for the Creative Mind

In the revision to blooms taxonomy, creativity was elevated from second place to be the highest for of thought on the ladder. Evaluation, previously first, was dropped down to second place. This change was made in the recognition of the more complex mental processes that inform creativity, including evaluation which is effectively a sub-routine of the creative process. Recognizing this relationship can be a valuable tool of the educational adventurer, and I have one example to share following a brief explanation of the concepts at hand.

A while ago I posted this essay on the nature and assessment of creativity, and so rather than revisiting all of that again, I will simply defer to Ken Robinson’s definition that creativity is the ‘production of something new that has value’. The idea of something ‘having value’ is something entirely contextually dependent, and in the classroom the value of a captive process is usually determined by the object’s inclusion of specific knowledge and/or skills that were the focus of teaching and learning activities.

The evaluation process comes in the creator’s ability to assess the suitability of their choices, as well as making the best choices in the creation of their particular object. This means that, to be truly creative, a student must have an appropriate body of knowledge with which they are familiar enough with the details and nuance that they can make comparative judgements.

This is an often overlooked part of blooms taxonomy, that the elements are a hierarchy that are interdependent, not isolated from each other. So to truly teach creativity, you have to ensure a students ability to understand, analyze and evaluate a body of knowledge and/or a skill set before true creativity can be achieved. For the lazy adventurer, this also provides a quick and easy path to differentiation of curriculum, because students will quickly identify their level of comfort with a topic as you lead them through the layers of the taxonomy.

So as an example, in preparing a unit of work on poetry, I gathered the usual resources of glossaries of terms, samples of poetry, analysis exercises, etc. but from the outset identified to the students that their end goal was to write their own poetry. So at every turn the students were put the question “what is this good for?” or “which of these language techniques works best for…?” engaging students in evaluative judgements at every step of the way. The engagement with the content was significantly improved from our previous unit, and it was easy to identify those students whose capacity for working with poetic devices stopped short of remembering and identifying.

From a teaching point of view, the documented mapping of student abilities and progress was much clearer. I will post an example of the final assessment task in short order (having accidentally already hit publish on this post and desperately trying to get content out!) but by setting the goal of creative output for a topic that is often resolved to critical analysis, the frame for engaging with the content was more clearly defined and inviting of stronger engagement from some, though not all, of even the more recalcitrant students.

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