Assessing Creative Problem Solving

Color, Color Table by G. Altmann on Pixabay

Can creative problem solving be assessed? While majoring in Fine Arts/Advertising Design in undergraduate school at Wayne State University, I was continuously assessed not only on the technique of the medium used to create the work of art but also the creative process behind it and my ability to problem solve. I often wondered how my professors graded “creative process and problem solving”, how did they really know the entire process that I went through and the creative thinking that I engaged in while completing my work? I always felt that grading on one’s creative ability to solve problems was more subjective than objective, that is until I read the blog post “On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should” by Grant Wiggins.

As Wiggins (2012) points out within Bloom’s Taxonomy, “Synthesis was the level of thinking for such creativity”. The first half of Bloom’s definition of synthesis is as follows:

Synthesis is here defined as the putting together of elements and parts so as to form a whole. This is a process of working with elements, parts, etc. and combining them in such a way as to constitute a pattern or structure not clearly there before. Generally this would involve a recombination of parts of previous experience with new material, reconstructed into a new and more or less well-integrated whole. This is the category in the cognitive domain which most clearly provides for creative behavior on the part of the learner…

After reading Bloom’s definition of synthesis and connecting it to creative thinking and problem solving, I now view assessing “creativity ” in a completely different light. In my art class at Wayne State University, I used paint brushes, watercolors, and a blank canvas to create a living piece of art; I was engaging in a form of synthesis and didn’t even known it. Synthesis is essentially “how two processes or concepts are brought together to create a new one.” (Halls, 2013) I combined the concept of art with the use of brushes, paint, and a canvas with creative thinking and problem solving to produce a work of art. I get it now!

This brings us to assessing creativity within a maker-inspired lesson. “Making is about empowering students to see that they can bring their ideas to life, and create new things” (Thomas, 2012). A maker-inspired lesson invites collaborative group work, communication, creativity, innovation, problem solving, engagement, and learning in its process. Assessing the creativity of problem solving that occurs during a maker-inspired lesson, can be accomplished by observing the synergy, communication, and collaboration within the group that took place during the lesson and the impact of the lesson’s outcome both on the group and the individual learner after its completion. Assessing creative problem solving can be determined through discussion both during and after a lesson as well as self and group assessments. Are rubrics part of the equation? “…students are coming to believe that rubrics hamper their creativity rather than encouraging it” states Wiggins (2012). Rubrics can be used for assessment, but the criteria for assessing the lesson must not restrict the learner’s creativity so it’s very important according to Wiggins, that the “right criteria and multiple & varied exemplars” are used.

Makers are essentially synthesizers. Through a series of processes and problem solving, they take various elements and parts and put them together to “make” something complete and whole that didn’t exist before. A maker-inspired lesson needs to be designed in a way that provokes creative problem solving in an engaging and collaborative way that maximizes innovation, communication, creativity, and learning. By building on a solid foundation of 21st Century Skills, which includes problem solving, communication, creativity, and collaboration and then adding “making” to the mix, is a successful recipe for an engaging learning (and teaching) environment. “Next will be schooling that stresses the ability to solve problems, but not just solve problems, but to be able to do it collaboratively so you can work in a group where the group is smarter than the smartest person in the group” (Gee, 2010).

So, can creative problem solving be assessed in a maker-inspired lesson? Absolutely!


Altmann, G. (2014, August 25). [Color Color Table] [Photograph]. Retrieved from

Edutopia. (2010, July 20). James Paul Gee on Grading with Games [Video file]. Retrieved from

Halls, J. (2013). How Creativity Occurs: Synthesis. Retrieved from

Thomas, A. (2012, September 7). Engaging Students in the STEM Classroom Through “Making”. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s