The Gold Standard for Assessing Creativity

The Gold Standard for Assessing Creativity

John Baer, Sharon S. McKool
DOI: 10.4018/ijqaete.2014010104
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The most widely used creativity assessments are divergent thinking tests, but these and other popular creativity measures have been shown to have little validity. 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. 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, 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. The Consensual Assessment Technique has been deemed the “gold standard” in creativity research and can be very useful in creativity assessment in higher education.
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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.

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