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Academic Views

April 2009

Assessing tomorrow's creative thinkers

The world of the 21st century demands creative thinkers. In this, the Year of Creativity, Professor Joy Cumming from Griffith University's Faculty of Education, questions how we should assess students to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

Creative endeavour pervades all aspects of life and work.

Professor Joy Cumming

Professor Joy Cumming from Griffith University's Faculty of Education.

Repetitive work is being replaced by machines and increasingly workers are expected to find solutions to problems that are non-standard and non-replicated.

They are being asked to integrate and synthesise information from a range of contexts. Imagination, invention and adaptation are valued and rewarded.

In addition, their personal lives are placing more demands on individual capacity for self-development and lifelong learning.

These developments in society, work and personal life have great import for education. Importantly educators need to give students a solid discipline base as well as ensuring they have the creative thinking skills to solve problems.

A creative thinker must have the ability to seek out, sort out and integrate information from available sources and to be prepared to be flexible and adaptable to change.

Scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs identify creative thinking as a major element of their success. Areas such as mathematics, science, technology and design need thinkers with creative capacities to continue the advances that occurred during the last century – from first flight to space travel, wireless radio to wireless networks, landline telephone to mobile communication, penicillin to anti-cancer compounds and so on.

A critical question for educators is how educational assessment can not only facilitate but also assess the development of these ways of knowing and thinking.

The impact of assessment as a driver of teacher and student behaviours is well-known and increasingly documented. Assessment plays an integral role in shaping curriculum and learning through the emphasis it places on what learning will be encouraged and accountable.

In September this year the annual conference of the International Association for Educational Assessment will be held in Brisbane, co-hosted by the Queensland Studies Authority and Griffith University.

Queensland has been chosen as the site for this year's conference because of the internationally recognised capacity of our assessment and certification systems to facilitate the development of creative thinkers.

The conference theme of Assessment for a Creative World has four main sub-themes: Expectations and standards; Reconciling the needs of the individual, the state and the world; Challenges for school and assessment; and Uses and effects of assessment.

Educators need to be able to respond to diverse system, community, school and student needs as they teach and assess students. A further issue is how these can be reconciled.

University of Gloucestershire Vice-Chancellor Professor Patricia Broadfoot and Australian National Curriculum Board Chair Professor Barry McGaw will be keynote speakers at the conference.

Professor Broadfoot is an internationally known assessment expert who will challenge us to consider the changes we may need to make in assessment policy and practices to meet the needs of the 21st century learner.

Professor McGaw is well-known to Australian educators for his work on school systems and on the national curriculum. He is also involved in a project on technology and the assessment of creative skills.

Another session will be a presentation on the ICT world of students, a reminder to educators that the world students are experiencing today is different from the one most educators experienced when they were at school.

It is also one in which students may be the holders of knowledge, not teachers.

For more information visit the conference website external page (will open in a new window).