Assessing Creativity

It can be a lot of fun to find a new technique or innovative lesson to your classroom. You can already imagine how the students will enjoy it, maybe  how it will challenge their thinking and push their understanding further. You may eagerly show it to your colleagues, your principal, then the reality of teaching comes crashing in.

“How are you going to grade that?”

The obvious answer for grading a new project would seem to be, “I’m going to use a rubric.” This is partly a dodge of the question though. What would you include in your rubric? What criteria are you using? In what category do you assess creative problem solving?

We should always consider the impression a rubric will give students. One of the things Experience Design tells us is that whether we plan it intentionally or not, the way we design a lesson plan/classroom/rubric says something to our students. If we do not include creativity as part of our rubric, our students will not think that it is valued. The less school or teachers value it, the less students will display and explore various aspects of creativity. They will instead produce cookie-cutter products that adhere strictly to items contained on the rubric. Yet teachers struggle with the idea of grading creativity.

How can you grade something which seems such a nebulous criteria? Grant Wiggins, of Understanding by Design, suggested we should assess for creativity. He even helpfully provides a rubric for doing so. Better yet, Wiggins provides a method for designing projects so that students will know better how to express their creativity, GRASPS. GRASPS stands for Goal, Role, Audience, Situation, Product/Performance and Purpose, and Standards & Criteria for Success. This will lay out the entirety of what students need to know and better yet, the standards and criteria for success. If your students can make a product or solve a problem with greater impact and results, then they probably were pretty creative along the way. You simply add to your criteria levels of impact or success, and embed that into your rubric, and you have counted for creativity. Students can intuitively understand when a presentation is more effective, making it an attainable goal while still encouraging creativity. Wiggins also makes an excellent point in that when students are asked to create something for a project, maker or not, we want that product to fulfill its intended purpose, not just be a representation of what the students think the teacher wants to see. Making a product with purpose will also help students understand more real-world connections, and why learning, thinking, and creating are important.

I like the GRASPS formula because it helps me as a teacher make sure that my project is meaningful. I like it because it makes it a more authentic experience for students. It also gives me guidance for how I can grade creativity as regards the project. I can add aspects from “how well does it speak to the audience” to a  rubric. I can use “how engaging was the performance” if it is a presentation, rather than a product. A project that is particularly appealing in some way must have a creative way of achieving its purpose, something that makes it stand out, and that is something that can be ‘graded’.


Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from