Creativity: Facilitating and Assessing the 21st Century Skills in Education

Welcome to my first post of the New Year! In fact, the year starts out with two amazing conferences … FETC and then TCEA. I am on my way to one of my favorites, FETC which happens to be in Miami Beach, Florida this year. It will be back in Orlando in 2021.  Presently I am close to 30,000 feet in the air flying from Indiana to Florida. It is a perfect time to write a blog since the wifi is down, but my creativity is up. It provides a perfect time to address the idea of Creativity in education (one of those 4C’s). If you liked my last posts on Collaboration and Critical Thinking (click links), then you are sure to like this post. It is filled with thoughts on Creativity including “I can” statement(s), classroom attributes, and assessment rubrics. I hope you enjoy and find the time to pass this along via email or a tweet. Thanks for being one of my nearly 30,000 readers a month and growing (Spread the Word… it is encouraging). Remember you can follow me on Twitter at @mjgormans. I look forward to learning from you! Enjoy the read, and what I know will be a creative journey!

Note: I will be at FETC in Miami, Florida all week. I thought this would be a great post to start my coverage of an amazing conference. Creativity continues this week with a STEAM post (with lots of links) and thoughts from Keynote Dan Pink. If you are at the conference, feel free to look me up with a PM at Twitter (@mjgormans) or email ( I would love to talk with you about amazing PD I can provide at your school or conference this year! Check out my Booking Page and please share and subscribe to this Blog. Now… let’s get creative!

Creativity: Facilitating and Assessing the 21st Century Skills in Education

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

The idea of Creativity really is at the base of our culture. It seems it is one of those processes that machines still depend on humans to make happen. This idea of difficult machine reproduction with regards to Creativity, makes Creativity one of those growing skills for career opportunities. It seems that machines and automation have been able to replace so many services supplied by humans, but creativity is still one attribute that humans seem to have the upper hand on. It is for this reason that education must nurture and facilitate Creativity in students. A classroom that promotes Creativity puts students at the center of learning. Student inquiry is promoted and often used to engage and promote a passion for learning. Students are provided learning opportunities that promote problem solving that is often initiated by the students. In a Creative classroom culture, students are encouraged to think outside the box while connecting real world authenticity to important content standards. They are encouraged to use their creativity to deal with real world situations. Students’ thoughts and ideas are honored and perseverance through an iterative cycle is encouraged. In many ways, students become practitioners of real-world careers.

How does this happen? The teacher must be intentional and guide students. There still must be moments following student exploration where the teacher provides or facilitates explanation. Concurrently, teachers must make sure that their lessons go beyond Bloom’s remembering and understanding. This demands an elaboration that promotes connections and transfer of encouraging student Creativity!  Often, this practice can be seen in STEM and PBL classrooms. It is exciting to see students discuss, debate, question, and build as they conquer the standards.

Welcome to the resources! I think it is important to define and promote Creativity though its various attributes. It must be intentional with appropriate scaffolds in place. I hope you find the resources below helpful. Taking the journey toward student Creativity is a wonderful and rewarding journey for you and your students. Start out taking a few steps with a rubric, a student reflection, or a small lesson. Before you know it your students will take you the rest of the way.  Please enjoy the resources below and be sure to share with others!

Ten Reasons to Promote Creativity in the Classroom

  • Provides students the opportunity to own the process and internalize their learning.
  • Facilitates critical thinking by pushing students to look at and invent possibilities.
  • Allows students to take risks that can support thinking that is “out of the box”
  • Supports the design process that can be incorporated in all disciplines and supports STEM thinking.
  • Encourages students to visualize their thinking and important concepts in content and connections between multiple content and real-world concepts.
  • Allows for the progression from surface learning, to deeper learning, to a final transfer of learning that in return supports authentic and new understanding.
  • Provides opportunity for unique, thoughtful, and powerful communication
  • Supports possibility thinking and a growth mindset that comes up with hidden, original, and unique possibilities.
  • Provides important avenues of collaboration that allow for active listening, persuasion, healthy discourse, multiple viewpoints, and needed empathy.
  • Builds a balance between the logical and sequential thought processes, allowing for intellectual growth of the whole mind.

Ten Ways to Facilitate Student Creativity in the Classroom and School

  • Intentionally go beyond remembering and understanding with Blooms (The standards often force teachers to get students ready for the test… which means we miss analyzing, applying, synthesizing, and most of all Creating.)
  • Emphasize the verbs in the standards. (It is the verbs that allow students to do. When they are doing… Creativity can flow.)
  • Provide students with a Creativity Thinking rubric. (Have them look at the rubric before an activity that demands Creativity, and once again when they are finished)
  • Make assessment of Creativity an ongoing effort. (While the teacher can assess, have students assess themselves. Self assessment can be powerful)
  • Concentrate on specific indicators in a rubric. (There are various indicators such as; thinking outside the box, risk taking, originality, questioning, empathy toward others, growth mindset, innovation, and design thinking. Concentrate on just one indicator while doing a lesson. There can even be an exit ticket reflection)
  • Start a lesson out… with Creativity. ( You can turn Bloom’s upside down. Find out how having students Create can lead to analyzing, synthesizing, understanding, and remembering, while opening with some wonderful  engagement.)
  • Post a Creative Thinking Poster in the room. (This poster could be a copy of a rubric or even a list of “I Can Statements”. Point it out before a creative thinking activity.
  • Make Creativity part of your formative  and summative assessment.  (Move around the room, talk to groups and students, stop the whole group to make adjustments.)
  • Find ways to bring a Makers’ Culture to the classroom. (So many schools are building a Makers Space. Perhaps we need to build a Makers’ Culture that happens in any space leading to Creativity and innovation.)
  • Plan for a school wide emphasis. (A culture that builds Creativity is usually bigger then one classroom. Schools and classrooms that practice student owned/centered learning promote Creativity. Develop school-wide vocabulary, posters, and initiatives.)

Keep in mind that learning actually has three transitions. These include Surface Learning, Deeper Learning, and Transfer of Learning. They are all necessary if we are to engage students in authentic learning that provides real understanding. Surface Learning builds the foundation while the Deeper Learning provides rigor and important meta-cognition. When students begin to Transfer the Learning to experiences in the real world situations we begin to see Creativity become an important factor. This is a big reason for success that is found in PBL and STEM.

I have been mentioning rubrics and assessment tools through out this post. To me, these are essential in building that culture of Creativity in the classroom. I want to provide you with some great resources that will give your some powerful tools to assess the skill of Creativity.  Keep in mind that students can also self assess and journal using prompts from a Creativity Rubric.

Ten Resources to Help with Assessment and Facilitation of Creativity

Habits of Mind – I think this is an awesome place to help teachers facilitate and assess critical thinking and more. Check out the free resources page which even has some wonderful posters. One of my favorites is the rubrics found on this research page. Decide on spending some time because there are a lot of great resources.

PBLWorks – The number one place for PBL in the world is at PBLWorks. You may know it as the BUCK Institute or BIE. I am fortunate to be part of their National Faculty which is probably why I rank it as number one. I encourage you to visit their site for everything PBL.  This link brings you to the resource area where you will discover some amazing  rubrics. One provides for the idea of Creativity in a PBL Unit. You will find rubrics for grade bands K-2, 3-5, and 6-12. This really is a great place to start. You will need to sign up to be a member of PBLWorks. This is a wonderful idea, after-all it is free!

Microsoft Innovative Learning – This  website contains some powerful rubrics for assessing the 21st Century skills. The link will bring you to a PDF file with Critical Thinking rubrics you can use tomorrow for any grade level. Check out this two page document defining the 4 C’s and a movie giving you even more of an explanation.

New Tech School – This amazing PBL group of schools provide some wonderful Learning Rubrics in their free area.  Here you will find an interesting collection of rubrics that assesses student learning in multiple areas. These are sure to get you off and started.

AACU Creative Value Rubric – The VALUE rubrics were developed by teams of faculty experts representing colleges and universities across the United States through a process that examined many existing campus rubrics and related documents for each learning outcome and incorporated additional feedback from faculty.

Project Zero – The Creativity Module helps students develop their capacity to think creatively and to see the creativity embedded in things and ideas around them. Challenges of creativity are everywhere in daily life–wherever it is important to think of new ways of doing things, to look at things through new eyes, to go beyond conventional ways of thinking, to stretch beyond the obvious.

Destination Imagination – Destination Imagination (DI) is a volunteer-led nonprofit organization whose purpose is to inspire and equip students to become the next generation of innovators and leaders.

CRE8Iowa Instant Challenges – Great way to great Creative Energy flowing. Instant Challenges published by Students for a Creative Iowa are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Please provide appropriate credit if you share any of these Instant Challenges on your Web site or blog.

Imagination Foundation – This a wonderful site to find ideas and projects that students will enjoy as they turn on their Creativity.

Edutopia Creativity – Check out this section of Edutopia for some amazing articles to plant seeds of Creativity in you school or classroom. Enjoy the possibilities.

I Can Statements for Creativity

  • I can practice originality by creating and generating my own ideas for any given situation or task.
  • I can practice my own sense of curiosity while exploring, researching, and building.
  • I can explain my own ideas and concepts and interpret new concepts I learn.
  • I can analyze, extend, change, and assess my own ideas, and ideas from others for possibilities and accuracy.
  • I can invite opportunities to explore, reflect, create, and rigorously come up with solutions.
  • I can not only find answers, but also take my answers and create new questions.
  • I can take risks and accept failure as I search for solutions and answers.
  • I can practice empathy, understanding, and resolve in my working with others.
  • I can use my visualization and imagination to think outside the box while integrating multiple possibilities and answers.
  • I can use a design process to answer problems both simple and complex.

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Michael Gorman oversees one-to-one laptop programs and digital professional development for Southwest Allen County Schools near Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is a consultant for Discovery Education, ISTE, My Big Campus, and November Learning and is on the National Faculty for The Buck Institute for Education. His awards include district Teacher of the Year, Indiana STEM Educator of the Year and Microsoft’s 365 Global Education Hero. Read more at