I’m Not One Of Those Creative Types

We hear people say, “I’m just not the creative type” all the time. Probably all of us have said it at one time or another, unless you actually happen to be incredibly creative. But, this phrase creates a barrier to learning, especially at an early age. Being creative, or rather the act of creating, forces you to ask questions and think critically. In many ways, this has become a lost art in standard educational practices. This portion of Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon short book, Imagination First, resonated with me because while reading, I made the connection that imagination, creativity, and assessment are all interrelated concepts. Everyone has an innate sense of creativity, it just needs to be cultivated in different ways. Designing more creative ways of assessing students, as Alfie John suggests in The Case Against Grades, could give students the motivation to be curious learners and use their imagination more.

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I grew up with very rudimentary methods of assessment used between elementary school and college. The standard A-B or 100% scales. And, admittedly, I fell subject to being one of those students who simply worked for a high grade, either through rote memorization or easy assignments that were guaranteed to be easy-A’s. In my senior year of high school, I took a college-level writing course for college credit. Our teacher gave us a detailed rubric for every writing piece that year. Which, in turn, led to mediocre pieces of writing that fit the bill of the rubric, but lacked any substance. In fact, I can’t even recall a single paper I wrote in that class, just the rubrics. Looking back, I’m angry at myself for not taking more advantage of the opportunities I had in such classes.

But, however much I regret focusing too much on numerical or alphabetical grades, that is how you have to play the game when you are a student. You have to live up to certain expectations to receive x-grade that you want, and if you receive the proper x-grades, you’ll get into a prestigious college. If you receive exceptional x-grades in colleges, you’ll get a job after graduation or even get admitted into graduate school. It’s just the game that students now learn.

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But, as Kohn’s narrative suggests, there are many alternatives to standard assessment methods. This is an exciting concept for me, especially since I have had little exposure to such methods in my own schooling, and I have yet to teach myself. I really enjoyed reading the concept of collectively arriving at a grade between a teacher and student, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that most students pick the same grade the teacher would have given them otherwise. This creates a more democratic system within the classroom. It also leads us to the question of the quality of teachers– It would take a lot more time and effort for a teacher to sit down with every student to review a quarter/semester, especially when many teachers probably are overloaded as is. But, I hypothesize that if a teacher truly wanted to make a difference in the lives of his/her students, they would be more than willing to spend that extra time. At least in a perfect world.

These readings made me interested to learn more about grade-less education systems. However, after a quick Google search, I found a Wikipedia page (yes, I know, Wikipedia…) that listed the grading systems by country: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grading_systems_by_country

I didn’t see a single one that doesn’t use some type of numerical formatting (though I quickly skimmed through it so possibly missed something). Food for thought… what if an entire country became grade-less? Wouldn’t that be something…

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2 thoughts on “I’m Not One Of Those Creative Types

  1. I used the Sponge Bob “Imagination” gif in my blog! I agree with you about the use of imagination in the classroom and how it is connected to creativity and assessment. In high school, I was always infuriated with the writing assignments that were given by teachers that were a specific writing prompt and not one that allowed creativity. These were the assignments I typically did poorly on and cannot remember what I wrote. The only papers I remember writing in high school were ones where I had creative license. These were both written in my senior year.One was an original myth about the individual that worked for Charon the ferryman and collected the coins left on the dead for their passage across the Rivers Styx and Acheron. The other was my final research paper in English literature about the tracing of various cultural vampire myths to the attributes of a vampire created by Bram Stoker in Dracula. Looking back on it now, I am quite aggravated that I did not do any creative writing until my senior year of high school.

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  2. Thanks for sharing!

    I think that in order to create change, it is essential for students to understand that the learning environment is not the place where they get a reward (grades) but rather a place where they get the tools for (and take agency of_ experimenting and reflecting what they need to become professionals. If there is a shift in the culture we can come a long way.

    For me it’s extremely important that industry motivates and drives these changes. One good example is happening right now with Stanford and the Silicon Valley. Most of Stanford engineering programs are not ABET accredited. The decided to say to the world f-it we don’t care about accreditation, and the surprising effect is that enrollments instead of decreasing have been increasing over time. For me it also has to do with the silicon valley culture, people go to universities to learn something they need (and want) to learn. It will help them with their entrepreneurship venues and with what they want in life. Isn’t that the whole point? to be able to have the skills you require to do what you really want to do with your life? if that comes with a degree, great!

    I think change is slow but happening and is really important that all of us become agents of change.

    Cheers,

    Homero

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