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David Lockhart explains his last structures to boost student creativity: a process of creation, tools to assess, and building a culture of creativity.

6 Classroom Structures to Make Creation Happen: Part 2

Jul 13, 2018 2018-07-13

By David Lockhart

Editor's Note: Enjoy part two of our two-part series, “6 Classroom Structures to Make Creation Happen” by David Lockhart, educator, Ed Tech advocate, and blogger of the Big Guy in a Bow Tie Blog. This article was originally posted on his blog March 28, 2018.

In part one of this series, we discussed how implementing certain structures can help develop student creation as a learning method. The first three structures included precise scheduling, developing well-crafted scenarios, and offering students choice within their projects.

Let’s dive into the final three structures that help harness student creativity through project-based learning.

4. A Process of Creation
When I hear pushback to student creation, it often centers around the quality of the final product. In my mind, that is a bit misguided. Final product quality can tell us a bit about what a student learned in the process of creating something, but it often gives us an insufficient scope of what a student learns.

Things happen in a project that prevent the final product from having quality, but those things don’t always hinder learning. If you have a process for students to undertake as they go, it can ensure that the final product does not matter as much, and it could also take the final product up a notch.

What I mean by a process is having students use the same steps to create for every project. A good example of this would be asking students to use some version of the STEM design process for every project.

Generally, the STEM design process steps are Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve. The Ask step is defining the problem. It could include figuring out what problem you are going to solve or what topic your project is going to cover. Imagine is brainstorming ideas for a solution or the format of your project. The plan can be both the research and storyboard process. Create is the actual development process, and Improve might be peer evaluation. In reality, it’s possible to bend the process to fit any kind of format. You just have to be creative.

The key to it all is to make it easy for you as the teacher. Put the process in a hyperdoc that you can copy and send out with every project. Use a tool like Google Docs or Microsoft Word, where students can both collaborate and add all the content they need for each and every step of the process. This allows you to follow their progress the entire way.

5. Tools to Assess
Another common complaint about creative projects is that they are an absolute pain to grade. They are a bit more difficult than something like a multiple-choice assignment, but if you can find the structures necessary to automate grading as much as possible, it’s not as difficult as it may look.

The first thing to look at with assessment is how and if you are going to let other students view and possibly peer evaluate the project. Teachers often get bogged down in the need to present these projects in front of the class, but if we digitize the process, this can just be one step along the way in the unit.

For example, you could display projects on a public wall, like Padlet, or create web pages where students can post the assignment. Students view the projects on their own time through that digital space and evaluate them using a tool like Google Forms. Students get the benefit of seeing other projects without losing both time and engagement for class presentations.

After peer evaluations, educators also need a structure for their own assessments. For ease, have students submit creative assignments via a method that you can view on any device. Many times, they can turn it in through your district/school learning management system, but you could also simplify it by having a dedicated email address for collecting student assignments.

Once they have turned it in, you need a way to give a grade. That can be as easy as having one general form that you use for all creative assignments. You can create this form in Microsoft or Google, giving you easy access from any device. Set up a form that gives you the standards for each category on a rubric in a dropdown question. Then, for each project, simply pick which standards you want, add comments, and then a total score. Google even has add-ons, like Autocrat and Save as Doc, that can pull data from your spreadsheet individually and email students.

The right assessment structure all depends on your workflow and the types of creative projects you assign. If you are letting students create digitally, you should be able to digitize the entire process and cut your time in half. That means that lack of time to grade should never be an issue.

6. A Culture of Creativity
The last structure may be the most important one, but it is also the most abstract. To make creation standout in your class, you need to have a culture of creativity. It's vital to foster an atmosphere where everyone can express themselves and everyone is allowed to fail. It starts with what you do as the teacher, but it also trickles into both what the students are doing and how they treat each other. You have to make sure they have that space to be creative.

If you, as an educator, are trying things differently and experimenting creatively, students will learn very quickly that they can do the same. Be creative in your lessons and assignments, and don't get stuck in the traditional lecture/question format. If you want the right culture in your classroom, you have to buck that system, and you have to be creative in what you do every day.

From a student perspective, projects should have enough structure to meet learning objectives, but also have enough room to be creative. You also have to have a culture where students feel comfortable sharing their ideas. To develop that culture, write scenarios that ask students to include their research and specify a format for their audience.

The comfort level of both you and students also goes a long way to creating the culture of creativity. You have to make it very clear from the beginning that it is OK to fail. You have to make sure students know it’s OK to put yourself out there. In fact, it is so OK, that you, the teacher, are going to do the same. Teach students to value others’ opinions and critiques, and how to channel that into growth. If you do, your classroom will be a place of creative love, where everyone feels like they can do incredible things that also help them learn.

David Lockhart is an Ed Tech presenter, speaker, advocate, coach, and blogger at For more than 10 years, that meant stepping into a high school social studies classroom and delivering instruction in a way that was different. His students learned in a historical newsroom concept where they created everything from social media accounts to news broadcasts. In 2014, Lockhart left the classroom to become an Education Technology Specialist with the Iteach Center at Kennesaw State University. Lockhart works with a metro Atlanta school district to personalize learning for students with the aid of technology. He has also presented on numerous education technology topics at ISTE, FETC, GAETC, AETC, and more. Follow David Lockhart on Twitter @bigguyinabowtie.

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