Assessment FOR Creativity #4: Using Choice in Assessment

girlswithposterThis is the fourth in a series of posts on assessment FOR creativity, that is, classroom assessment that is not aimed at assessing creativity itself, but at assessing content in ways that support students’ creativity. Assessment for creativity entails at least three factors:



Today we’ll address a portion of the third factor: the use of choice. Choice, in many forms, supports a classroom climate of intrinsic motivation. All of us are more likely to put energy into tasks we’ve chosen, rather than those that are required of us. Certainly I’m more motivated to work on this blog—where I’ve chosen the task and the topic—than on another publisher-driven task I must address later today.  And I’ve found that the quality of even my adult students’ products increases quite dramatically when they have choices–particularly choices that offer them the opportunity for creative explorations.

Of course it is not feasible or wise for students to always be able to choose the means by which they will be assessed, any more than I can ignore my publisher’s deadlines. It is important for all of us to flex responsibly into less preferred styles and tasks. But sometimes choice in assessments can provide both options that better represent students’ actual understanding, and motivation that will enhance the quality of the task. Choice in assessment often entails giving students a choice of products. Will they write a paper? Create a display online? Present orally? Build a model?

longhouseChoice in assessment brings both strengths and challenges. The strengths of choice are clear: students are more likely to find a mode of expression that will allow them to show what they know, and they are likely to be more motivated to create a product they’ve chosen. However, choice in assessment also has one major challenge: If students are to be given choices in assessment, it must be possible to demonstrate the learning goal or target equally well across options. Otherwise, what you are assessing? For example, if elementary students are to demonstrate their understanding of the ways early Native American Indian tribes used natural resources, they could reasonably do that through a traditional paper, imaginary journal entries from different tribes, or a skit comparing “a day in the life” using Iroquois versus Navaho traditions. However, building a model of a longhouse or pueblo does not offer the same opportunities to display complex understanding of content, unless accompanied by additional information. Looking at a replica, I have no way of knowing how much the student understands about the materials used or how they fit into a larger cultural pattern. However, if it is part of a “museum display” of simulated artifacts and explanatory display cards, or is supported by an oral presentation, the problem can be solved.

One key to making sure all available options are feasible is to score them all with the same content rubric. After all, the content is the thing you are trying to assess. Presenting the rubric in advance also cues students about the content that must be demonstrated, regardless of the product selected. If you also want to address attributes of the product chosen (for example, whether actors in the skit were loud enough to be heard or the model well constructed), keep that as a separate “product” assessment. Before giving students a choice of assessment options, envision how each option would look if it fully met the content criteria. If all the choices give students similar options for success, you are ready to go. Start small and see what happens. You may be surprised at the results! What has happened in your classroom when students had choices?


One thought on “Assessment FOR Creativity #4: Using Choice in Assessment

  1. Pingback: Atoms, Cookies, and Creative Choice | creativiteach

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