HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
A Creativity Rubric
When our students purchase new technological devices, often they quickly become capable of creating professional looking slide presentations, videos and musical compositions, bringing research and personal questions together, wowing us with their clever humor and with their technical proficiency. In many Jewish studies and Tanakh classes that I have taught and observed, students have produced work at high levels of creativity, using these and other media:
Apple Keynote, Microsoft PowerPoint and Prezi slide and image presentations about medical ethics
Videos produced with iMovie software to dramatize a passage in the Tanakh
Lecture-style whiteboard presentations made with Explain Everything and Educreations to share moral dilemmas in intellectual property law
Voice-over public service announcements made with Apple’s Garage Band or with a built-in microphone and recorder to encourage young people to guard against Lashon ha-Ra (inappropriate speech)
A guide to promote the ethical treatment of animals in a brochure format available through word processing software such as Microsoft Word or Apple Pages
Newspaper comic style representations of different schools of Zionist thought through Comic Life or GoAnimate
Newspaper broadsides using Microsoft Publisher to call people to come to Israel on one of the early waves of aliyah
Original non-technological artwork in pastel, pencil or pen and ink on paper that presented a menu in a restaurant inspired by the philosophy of Judah haLevi
Original songs about the biblical period of the Judges, played on live musical instruments
Board games created to challenge 7th grade students to reach ever-higher levels of tzedakah
As rewarding as it is to see creative work from our students, sometimes it is easy to feel lulled into confusing our students’ proficiency and creativity with mastery of the knowledge we aspire for them to acquire. Teachers encounter a number of questions when they consider how to evaluate such student work:
How can we be certain that a fun video, a clever comic strip, and a newspaper-style broadside add up to proficiency and mastery?
Do we all agree on what we mean by “creativity”? Is one student’s creativity the same as another student’s creativity?
Does creativity in one medium add up or correspond to creativity in another medium? In other words, can I judge and compare a public service announcement with a board game and with a video?
Some teachers may feel, as I have felt, that they don’t feel capable of grading for creativity, so they look at a student’s mastery of the content and they simply leave creativity as something praiseworthy to be mentioned but not assessed. Creativity, they reason, is one of those areas that is deeply personal, a matter of taste rather than objective measure.
I would argue, however, that we shortchange our students by withholding important feedback that could come from assessing their creative efforts. An article about creativity, published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (Sarah McKibben, “Creativity Isn’t a Free-for-All”), helped to change my thinking and gave me a valuable tool to evaluate creativity.
The rubric helps teachers to assess students by addressing several issues:
Does the work demonstrate mastery of the subject matter content by bringing together concepts from a variety of disciplines and sources?
Does the student do the synthetic work of bringing together ideas in unusual and novel ways?
Does the project communicate something new that makes an original contribution?
In order to succeed, a student also will have to answer the following questions:
Does the finished product demonstrate proficient use of the medium of the presentation? (In other words, is the student proficient with slide presentation software or with creating something with pen and paper?)
Does the project somehow communicate the student’s curiosity and stimulate the curiosity of the project audience?
I would agree with Tikvah Wiener (“Taking Creativity Seriously,” HaYidion, Summer 2015) that it is helpful to establish standards for creativity by requiring documentation of sources of information; both generation and selection of meaningful and significant ideas; and presentation of work to users or a target audience.
The creativity rubric allows a teacher to establish a framework for assessing any creative project, regardless of the medium and the assignment. We know that our students are capable of echoing and carrying forward the creative genius of their predecessors from the writers, prophets and rabbis of ancient times to the philosophers, state-builders, artists and poets of our time. We play a crucial developmental role by not being shy about assessing our students. It is for us to challenge and to inspire our students to reach excellence by helping them to shape their creative voices as they mature from children into young adults.
Rabbi Judd Kruger Levingston PhD is the director of Jewish studies at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, Bryn Mawr, PA
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