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Measuring creativity is not a simple task

I definitely agree that, while we need to revise our testing methodologies, particularly around the so-called softer skills such as collaboration, creative thinking, and problem solving, it is an extreme challenge to measure these skills. Howard Gardner is right that, as Leon Neyfakh describes it, “the nuance required to measure softer skills [collides] with the demands of standardization.”

This is particularly true when it comes to creativity. I am not a testing expert or researcher, but I have studied the topic of creativity for more than 20 years, and know all too well the dangers inherent in so-called creativity tests. When creativity is defined as “fluency” or “generating big ideas,” for example, those of us who can’t readily come up with 100 different uses for a brick can be judged as “not very creative.”

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Just as Gardner debunked the myth that intelligence can be measured along a single dimension, more recent research shows that creativity, like intelligence, exists in a variety of forms, and there are many different ways to go about creative thinking.

If the purpose of tests is indeed to make a “guess about the future,” and not to label students or demotivate them, we need to be very careful that the underlying definitions for these topics recognize the nuances of individual differences.

Lynne C. Levesque


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