The Consensual Assessment Technique is a powerful tool used by creativity researchers in which panels of expert judges are asked to rate the creativity of creative products such as stories, collages, poems, and other artifacts. Experts in the domain in question serve as judges; thus, for a study of creativity using stories and poems, a panel of writers and/or teachers of creative writing might judge the creativity of the stories, and a separate panel of poets and/or poetry critics might judge the creativity of the poems. The Consensual Assessment Technique is based on the idea that the best measure of the creativity of a work of art, a theory, a research proposal, or any other artifact is the combined assessment of experts in that field. Unlike other measures of creativity, such as divergent-thinking tests, the Consensual Assessment Technique is not based on any particular theory of creativity, which means that its validity (which has been well established empirically) is not dependent upon the validity of any particular theory of creativity. This chapter explains the Consensual Assessment Technique, discusses how it has been used in research, and explores ways it might be employed in assessment in higher education.
Why do you believe that Van Gogh’s paintings of sunflowers are creative? On what basis do you judge the special theory of relativity to be highly creative? Why do you think Shakespeare was a more creative dramatist than Marlowe? And how would you judge the creativity of some recent ten- and eleven-dimensional string theories?
You may be comfortable answering some of these questions, but unless you are truly a Renaissance person, it’s unlikely that you feel qualified to make a defensible response to all four of them. And even though you might know enough about, say, the works of Shakespeare and Marlowe to give an informed opinion, does your opinion really “count” as much as the opinions of recognized experts in the field of English literature?
How is creativity judged at the highest levels? Why are some works of art treasured and others forgotten? Why do some theories, compositions, books, and inventions win prizes? These kinds of decisions aren’t based on a procedure or rubric that awards points for different attributes of a painting, composition, or theory. There is no test to determine which historian’s theories, which biochemist’s models, or which screenwriter’s movies are the most creative. Nobel Prize committees don’t apply rubrics, complete checklists, or score tests. What do they do? They ask experts. The most valid assessment of the creativity of an idea or creation in any field is the collective judgment of recognized experts in that field. And while it’s true that experts in different times and places may come to different conclusions (and pity the unfortunate artists and scientists whose genius is only recognized when it is too late for them to enjoy their posthumous fame), at any given time, the best judgment one can make of the creativity of anyone’s ideas, poems, theories, artworks, compositions, or other creations is the overall judgment of experts in their field1.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Validity: How well a test measures what it is supposed to measure (and that it is not instead measuring other, unrelated variables).
Domain Generality: A theory of creativity that assumes that the skills or traits that underlie creative performance are essentially the same in all domains.
Consensual Assessment Technique: A method for assessing creativity in which panels of expert judges are asked to rate the creativity of creative products such as stories, collages, poems, and other artifacts.
Creativity: Refers to anything someone does in a way that is original to the creator and that is appropriate to the purpose or goal of the creator.
Reliability: The degree to which scores on a test are consistent–that test scores do not vary from day to day or depend on who is scoring a test.
Domain Specificity: A theory of creativity that argues that the skills or traits that underlie creative performance vary from domain to domain.
Divergent Thinking: Is a kind of thinking that produces a variety of unusual and often original ideas to an open-ended question.