I read “Creativity: What Is It? Can You Assess It?  Can It Be Taught?” by Lars Lindström and found it be very enlightening. Before reading this piece, I was definitely of the mindset that creativity was something that was innate and intangible and therefore difficult
to assess.

I teach across a wide number of different fashion courses, I believe there is the assumption that students on arts based degrees would all want to be exercise as much creativity as possible within the framework of the course, but this is not always the case. Matthew Richardson wrote on his threshold concepts blog post

“Perhaps though most students come onto the course to learn to be stylists?”

As I conceded in my last post, this was certainly true of myself in the early part of my time in higher education and I have certainly seen many other examples of it in my teaching practise. There are some students who are not interested in creative risk taking; instead they are more concerned in observing what is the current trend or the established orthodoxy and emulating it. Some do this as they only want to engage with there discipline at a surface level and maybe enjoy the status of being a designer more the act of designing, while there are others who focus on the use of materials and techniques over pursuing original ideas.

I had personally found it hard in terms of assessment to differentiate between the students who I perceived to have exercised more creativity and those who have not when their finished product may be to a similar level in terms of craftsmanship. If I use Lindström 7 criteria of assessment it could help me quantify it in future

Like in the example of the Swedish schools when trying to ascertain the level of creativity we often look to the students portfolios. One areas of focus is how they research and how they use their various references to construct new ideas.

Beneath I will take the 4 performance levels of the 6th criteria Ability to use Models and reword them so they could be applicable to assessing the research element of the portfolios on the BA Womenswear course on which I teach. My performance levels will show in bold.

Shows no interest in other people’s pictures and cannot benefit from them even when the teacher has helped find them.

Despite encouragement from the academic staff, there has been no research undertaken. Student has instead relied on their existing knowledge and preconceptions of the area.

The student shows an interest in other people’s pictures that she or the teacher has found, but she confines herself to copying them.

The students research is based on contemporary publications in which trends and ideas have already been established and can be easily extrapolated
and aped.

Makes active efforts to find pictures for her own work. Demonstrates an ability to select images that suit her intentions

Uses research from a variety of sources that begins to build a cohesive narrative that informs her collection.

Actively searches out models to emulate and can use them in her work in a multifaceted, independent and well integrated way.

The student has immersed herself in researching a rich variety of cultural and academic sources. Their findings inform the decision making at every stage of
the project.

I found Lindström observation that ‘assessment of processes of learning requires the students’ thoughts to be made accessible in a more explicit way than normally happens’, fascinating. When marking the third year students final major project the personal tutor of each student does the initial marking, then we benchmark, a process in which each tutor offers an example of one of there top, intermediate and bottom students for review by the other academic staff to insure consistency in marking, there are often big discrepancies. When Lindström faced a similar problem he addressed it by supplementing the logbooks with videotapes of interviews of the students, by doing this different assessors finally arrived at similar results.

When we had conflict over marking previously I had presumed that is was due to the personal tastes of the tutors or even tutors favouring their own students, but Lindström’s findings indicate that perhaps the issue lays with the system of assessment and the only possible way to truly understand the creativity of a student engage in a dialogue with them, as this gives the student an opportunity to show their own capacity for self-assessment of the creative thinking behind their work.

I think using the criteria Lindström defines will definitely give me a key to unlocking marking creativity, but it has also made me consider that introducing interviewing as part of final assessment maybe would be the only way to bring about total parity across marking.