Testing Creativity


Creativity is a difficult area to evaluate and test. Some of my students have argued with me over their grades on their graphic design projects. After I explain my rationale and walk through the project’s criteria, most of them understand why they earned their grade. However, I often ask myself, Who am I to evaluate what work is creative or not? And for that matter, is anyone qualified to evaluate what creativity is or isn’t?

Without getting too deep into the philosophy of aesthetics and creativity, I will say that I feel that I am just as qualified as the next person, just as long as I can clearly explain my reasons to my students. As a teacher, I feel that I am very open-minded when it comes to evaluating creativity. I know there are many, many different solutions to one problem. In art, and in other fields, I see a tremendous value in helping individuals tap into their own personal creative spirit and then showing them how to collaborate and share their ideas. This process creates a multiplier effect that creates endless possibilities for human creativity.

So... How can we tell if someone is creative or not? For my needs, I want a standard to use when I evaluated my students work. When I went looking for a way to test and evaluate my students’ creative output for my action research, I turned to the experts in the research I was reading. Robert Sternberg (2006) identifies the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT), developed by Paul Torrance in the 1970s, as still the most widely used tests of creative talent.

In outlining the purpose of the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, Kyung Hee Kim (2006) tells us that, “Torrance’s main focus was in understanding and nurturing qualities that help people express their creativity” (p. 4). Torrance’s dream was also “to nurture and enhance creativity among students” (p. 11). Kim goes on to explain that Torrance’s tests were not designed to just test creativity, they were also designed to serve as tools to enhance creativity in people. Before Torrance’s tests, the IQ test was the main evaluation method to gauge real intelligence. Torrance’s tests shattered this theory and opened the door and laid the groundwork for the idea “that creative levels can be scaled and then increased through practice—a premise that was previously only conceptual” (Kim, 2006, p. 11).

As for the future of creative testing, Paul Torrance (2003) sees this century as a time when the nature of creative tests will change. Tests so far have only measured verbal and figural creativity. Future tests might begin to test for identification. That is, helping educators identify certain types of giftedness. Torrance refers to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and Gardner’s resistance to develop tests to measure these intelligences in people.

Other researchers have approached the problem through observation, but Torrance feels there is a need to quantify these observations. Torrance points to evidence that these tests are already being developed and used. The “modified Charlotte/Discover” method is being used in the Saint Paul, Minnesota school system as well as several school systems nationwide. These tests use a “variety of puzzle exercises and trained observers” (Torrance, 2003, p. 9).

The TTCT uses four scales to evaluate the student’s responses (Kim, 2006):

  1. Fluency
    This refers to the number of relevant ideas. It shows that a student can produce a number of ideas, drawings, concepts, solutions, etc.
  2. Flexibility
    The number and variety of different categories of relevant responses.
  3. Originality
    The number of “statistically infrequent” ideas. Compared to all of the ideas given, how original are the responses. This shows a student’s ability to produce uncommon or unique responses.
  4. Elaboration
    This demonstrates the student’s ability to develop and elaborate on ideas. How detailed are the student’s responses?

In my classes, I have adapted the above criteria and use it as my standard when evaluating my students’ creative output. The field of creative research has a great amount of respect and trust in the TTCT. Because of this, I feel comfortable using it as well.

With all of this newly acquired information about creativity, we should be eager to begin sharing it with our students and applying it in our own artistic endeavors and our classrooms to encourage and develop creativity in ourselves and students. I am excited to see the results and learn how the students feel it effects their creativity.