creativity through testing
The test formats below are roughly
listed in order. They start with the
formats and types of items that
require the most divergent and creative thinking. The
last items require the most convergent thinking and least creative
thinking. I am writing as an art teacher, but every teacher in
every content area needs to consider the merits of helping their
students go beyond knowledge. Students in every discipline can be asked
to practice and be tested on their habits of creative thinking.
We cannot expect all students to
favor tests that ask them to think creatively about what they have
learned in our classes. It will be contrary to some of their
expectations. However, if we are fair, and if we explain the benefits
of learning to do creative thinking, they will have good reasons to
push themselves. These ideas may need refinement, but I believe we need
to think outside the box in testing if education is to foster creative
thinking and better life skills.
- Flexibility test items Give more
points for the least expected and most unusual correct answers to a
question. Tell the class how you are scoring these items. Give correct
answers credit in relation to their infrequency as well as a
Example question: How does an artist get the viewer's attention? Common
responses would get less credit than uncommon responses that seem
test Items. Ask questions that have more than one
acceptable answer, and give credit based on the number of correct and
tenable answers a student offers. Ask the student to rank the answers
according to which answers are best, which are average, and which are
less than average in quality.
Example question: What
are the reasons that an artist might be inspired to make a drawing of a
- Draw the opposite test. Ask students to create a one-inch
drawing next to each test word or concept that illustrates the opposite
of the meaning of the selected word. This provides creative thinking
practice because it requires both knowledge and imagination.
- Write the opposites test.
The students are asked to fill in the blank after each
word by writing the opposite meaning of the word. In
research, highly creative people have been found to intuitively come up
with opposites faster and more frequently than average creative people.
- Draw it test. Ask students to create
a one-inch drawing next to each word to illustrate the meaning of the
selected word. This requires both knowledge of the meaning as
well as imagination or memory to think of a visual example of the
- Essay test. Essay tests can assess
creative thinking or they can be directed at only memory and
knowledge. Good questions can be posed to require
imagination and problem solving that builds on knowledge acquired in
the course and on thinking skills practiced in the course. For
example, "List and describe the drawing and seeing
skills you practiced during our 'Negative Space' assignment. Then write
a different assignment that you could do at home to practice the same
skills. Make it as different as you can, but still
practice the same seeing and drawing skills." Also see grading below.
- Image/word matching.
Include a group of small images on the test and ask
students to match the word that best fits each image.
- Short Answer and Definition test. Ask students to write short definitions of the
terms. This is good for knowledge testing, but creativity is not
being tested unless you ask for opposite definitions. See #4.
- Multiple choice. This is time
consuming to write an assortment of responses that look correct, with
only one correct response per item. This can test knowledge well
if the items and choices are well written. To make it a bit more
creative, you can ask which is the wrong answer. It is easy to
- Matching test. Matching probably
encourages the least creative thinking of these test formats.
The teacher supplies a second matching list of definitions, names, etc.
that is based on how these things have been explained in the
course. This test form is both fast to write and easy to
grade. If the lists are not too long, it is fast for students to
complete it. Because of these advantages, I often combine this
form with one or more of the more creative test formats.
The test writing described on
this page does not test actual drawing skills. Drawing and
other art skills
are probably best assessed by assessing studio assignments
I provide a sample
rubric on another page to assess artwork itself. Tests can be used
to assess the knowledge and creative thinking
abilities that are also learned in the course.
This page includes a list of idea
words (below) to
use in an exam for a drawing
class. As a teacher you can form a similar
list for any subject. I was able to
generate this list of words in about one hour. If you teach
another subject, you can do the same for your subject. If
students are required to study a book or other materials, some words
would come directly from those materials. As you scan the list,
will eliminate many words, and new words will come to mind. Steal this list, but make it your own.
|Learning to draw involves skills,
knowledge, and creativity. See this link for
about the skills needed to draw well.
can combine several or
all of the above formats in a test with
several sections, or you could administer a series of short tests
during the term using a different test format each time to see which
of your students like each of the test formats.
you are comfortable
with the way several of your tests forms work, keep refining them until
you and your students agree that they achieve both valid and reliable
results. A valid test faithfully measures what your
teaches rather than general knowledge that many student would know
anyway. A reliable test consistently measures which
learned the most and you can be confident that luck was not a major
factor in the results.
Word list below
Not all of the words on
the list below are suited to
all of the test formats. As a teacher, you will want to assemble
appropriate lists and take the test yourself before
administering it to
students. Fellow teachers who agree to read each other's tests
can be very helpful in finding problems.
If your course consistently requires divergent thinking
and imagination, it is quite valid to require this on the tests as
well. If your course emphasis is on following directions
correctly and being very careful and neat, it would be unfair to
require creative thinking on the tests. I think many tests are
unfair to highly creative students because most tests do not require
creative and divergent thinking. Unfortunately, course content is
often taught without asking for enough critical and creative thinking.
Often I add a test section that allows students to add a limited number
of points by
listing additional things they learned. Their list of items must
things that were included in the course and not included elsewhere on
test. This allows creative students to use their imaginations and
"smart" students to list things they studied or memorized that were
omitted from the test.
List of Words
side of paper
Placement on Page
Grading the tests
Matching is one of easiest test forms to grade, so this part of a test
can be done by an aide, or a student volunteer from another
format tests so this page can be removed and graded by an assistant. We
grade by entering the correct answer next the error using another color
ink. We never grade with red ink, because
red has a negative reputation.
When grading essay or other more creative responses I try to sort out
some of the best papers to grade those first, giving me a better idea
about how to grade the rest. I make copies of
the best and most creative responses, drawing responses, opposites, and
so on. These strongest examples are shared with the whole class
(not giving student
names). I particularly want students with less imagination to
chance to see and attempt to imitate modes of thinking that
produce innovative and imaginative results. As a student, I
being most frustrated by receiving a low grade without being informed
about how a better grade might have been earned.
Teachers will need to decide whether or not sharing the best answers is
appropriate in their situations. Younger children will often not
have the maturity to accept and benefit from this form of
instruction. More individualized forms of encouragement and
instruction are more appropriate for younger children. However, it is important for me to analyze the kind of thinking that is lacking so that I can find better ways to help students learn creative thinking.
and how to start writing the final exam
a rough draft of the final exam is one of the best ways to begin
preparing to teach a course. Writing the tests develops
a good set of goals and objectives. Assignments will be built
skills and the body of knowledge that you expect to test at the
end. If you
test that requires creative and imaginative thinking, you will more
likely be teaching with similar methods in order to help your students
do well on the final. Your assignments will be
designed to foster innovative, and creative problem making
and problem solving.
Writing a test is a creative act in itself.
I try to start it when I am rested. I try to start it when I have
a block of
time without distractions. If this is not possible, I just make
some notes and come back when I have more time. This is like
making a preliminary sketch or two. The most important thing is
to get started. Never wait for inspiration because inspiration
often comes out of the work itself.
Of course I never actually use the pre-course version of the final exam
without editing it to reflect the course as it was taught. I also
design houses. I produce a design in collaboration with the
owners before the construction starts. This generally requires
from four to eight major revisions prior to the final plan.
Additionally, during the construction we make frequent changes and
improvements on the final plan. The house evolves with the best
owners, builders, and the designer.
Tests also get
better if we review them periodically as they incubate on the hard
drives of our computers.
When teaching a course, I may start with a syllabus or set of carefully
made final plans based on my previous experiences, but I never follow
everything the way it was planned. The students, unforeseen
events, and my own experiences always bring new ideas to the course to
change it. I always edit my tests before using them.
Because of the extensive time and effort needed to prepare good tests,
I have always collect all the copies after class review of the results
so that they are not given to students the following year.
However, I do give students access to study sheets that include words
and ideas for them to review in advance.
Your ideas related to this page
everything else about life, this web page is a creative work in
progress. Your responses are invited. If you try something
page and find that it works or does not work, please send me your ideas
about what happened. If you have any questions or suggestions,
send me a note. Contact.
What can you copy from this page?
page is © 2004 Marvin Bartel, all
rights reserved. However, you
are invited to link this page to your page. For permission to
or copy photos, text, or layout, or to place this page on another website or
to make printed copies, you must have permission. Contact me. If you want to print a single copy for your
personal use, feel free to do so, but you must keep this copyright with
it. If you are a teacher, you may use the list of drawing words
on this page without permission so long as it is for your own classes
only (you may not publish it for other teachers unless you have