A Test to Assess Creativity? It’s in the Works

By Catherine Gewertz — September 19, 2018 2 min read
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When teenagers all over the world take the PISA exam in 2021, they could face a new kind of test: one that aims to measure their creativity. And the maker of a major U.S. college-admissions exam—ACT—will build it.

ACT announced the deal Wednesday. It said the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Paris-based agency that administers the PISA exam, chose ACT to design a “creative thinking assessment” for worldwide use in 2021.

Mario Piacentini, the OECD scientist leading the project, said it’s not a sure thing that the creativity test will be included in the 2021 exam. The plan is to present the exam’s framework, and ideas for possible test questions, to the OECD countries in November, and gauge their level of interest in participating, he said.

His team has been working on the creativity test for about a year, and it’s still very much a work in progress, Piacentini said. “It’s still very new, very experimental, and we still need many small-scale validations” before the test can be used worldwide, he said.

Fifteen-year-old students around the globe take the Program for International Student Assessment tests in math, science and reading every three years. In the last testing cycle, 2015, about 540,000 students from 72 countries took the computer-based test.

Periodically, PISA adds a fourth domain to its lineup. In 2015, for instance, it added collaborative problem-solving. If enough OECD countries are interested, the creative-thinking test would take that fourth-domain slot in 2021, Piacentini said.

What would the creativity test look like? Questions would fall into four areas, each designed to gauge different types of creativity: written expression, visual expression, social problems, and scientific problems, Piacentini said.

To explore students’ written creativity, one possible task on the test might ask them to provide captions for illustrations, Piacentini said. In the social-problems area, they could be asked to contribute solutions to large-scale issues like pollution or water scarcity, or local issues such as how a neighborhood uses space, he said. All problems would be grounded in real-world situations that young people might encounter in school or as they enter the workforce, he said.

Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director for education and skills, said in a statement that creative thinking “is a necessary competence for today’s young people to develop, as societies increasingly depend on innovation to address emerging challenges.”

Building the new test “will require true innovation” because there is no other test on the market right now that offers a “comprehensive measure” of creativity, ACT’s CEO, Marten Roorda, said in a statement.

ACT laid the groundwork for developing the creativity exam when it designed a “holistic framework,” which describes the skills and competencies it views as crucial for education and work.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.