Across the world, educational jurisdictions are increasingly including creativity and creative thinking in the curriculum of their schools. Some, like Alberta in Canada, have developed sophisticated curriculum planning materials to ensure that creative thinking is embedded in every subject, giving thought to which pedagogies are most effective. Others, like Victoria in Australia, have for a while been assessing young people’s critical and creative thinking, showing how this develops over the years of compulsory schooling.
The idea of evidencing the development of creativity in young people has not yet been formally adopted in England despite a number of suggestions in the Durham Commission on Creativity and Education's first report. Specifically, recommendation 4 suggested that:
The DfE should support English schools’ participation in the PISA 2022 evaluation of creative thinking in order to influence and shape future use of the framework.
Very shortly 66 countries across the world will be participating in the PISA 2022 Creative Thinking Test, the first-ever attempt to assess young people’s creative thinking by the renowned Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Creative thinking is defined by PISA as
…the competence to engage productively in the generation, evaluation, and improvement of ideas, that can result in original and effective solutions, advances in knowledge, and impactful expressions of imagination.
Creative thinking, PISA suggests, can be applied not only to contexts related to the expression of imagination, such as creative writing or the arts, but also to other areas where the generation of ideas is functional to the investigation of issues, problems, or society-wide concerns. The PISA assessment will examine students’ capacities to generate diverse and original ideas and to evaluate and improve ideas, across a range of contexts or ‘domains’. The assessment includes four domains: written expression, visual expression, social problem solving, and scientific problem-solving.
In each of these domains, students engage with open tasks that have no single correct response. They are either asked to provide multiple, distinct responses, or to generate a response that is not conventional. These responses can take the form of a solution to a problem, a creative text, or a visual artefact.
Why is it important for students to develop creative thinking?
PISA makes a powerful case for the value of creative thinking. It can have a positive influence on students’ academic progress, identity, and socio-emotional development by underpinning the interpretation of experiences, actions, and events in novel and personally meaningful ways.
Beyond the classroom, creative thinking can help students adapt to a constantly and rapidly changing world. Supporting students’ creative thinking can help them to contribute to the development of the society they live in, today and as future workers: organisations and societies around the world increasingly depend on innovation and knowledge creation to address emerging and complex challenges, giving urgency to innovation and creative thinking as collective enterprises.
An opportunity to learn from England’s new Creativity Collaboratives
The eight Creativity Collaboratives now underway, provide a rich set of opportunities to explore the interconnections between curriculum design, pedagogy, and assessment. A number of the Collaboratives are explicitly focusing on assessing creative thinking, taking the opportunity to explore whether, if teachers and pupils are clearer about what creativity is and what progression looks like over time, it may lead to more rigorous teaching and learning.
At the same time, a pilot research project coordinated by Rethinking Assessment is working with 20 schools from different phases of education across England to explore different ways of evidencing the growth of creativity in young people.
As young people take the first-ever test of creative thinking, we join PISA in hoping that a test such as this new one will raise the status of creative thinking in schools enabling teachers to teach more powerfully and students to better understand how they can develop one of this century’s most powerful dispositions - creativity.
Foster, N. and Schleicher, A. (2022). Assessing Creative Skills. Creative Education, 13, 1-29.
Lucas, B. (2022). A field guide to assessing creative thinking in schools. Perth: FORM.
OECD (2019). PISA 2021 Creative Thinking Framework Third Draft. Paris: OECD.