What does ‘Creativity’ mean to you, and in your discipline?

“When inspiration comes, may it find me working…” Pablo Picasso

To me creativity is not a one off expression, or a flash of inspiration, nor a singular occurrence, but the product of an ongoing process of enquiry. Creativity is a discipline, a way of thinking, seeing and questioning the world, the foundations of which are based on research, experimentation, exploration, engagement and reflection; these approaches create a solid basis for discovery and creativity.

The foundation course introduces this creative approach to the students, which is specified and formalised, albeit wordy, in each Unit’s learning and assessment criteria. These criteria propose this structured process to the creative practise, closely mirroring Lindström (2006) product and process criteria.

My students are currently beginning Unit 7; a seven-week self-directed project, in which the students identify a theme they wish to explore and write their own detailed project proposal, time schedule, bibliography and methods of evaluation. The assessment criteria for Unit 7 are as follows:

  1. Have a critical and contextual understanding of different perspectives and approaches within art and design subjects of study or work
  2. Research, analyse and evaluate specific information and ideas in order to develop creative solutions
  3. Solve complex problems through the application of art and design practical, theoretical and technical understanding
  4. Adapt and use appropriate practical methods and skills for creative production
  5. Use evaluative and reflective skills in order to take responsibility for own learning, development and effective decision making
  6. Critically review the effectiveness and appropriateness of planning, methods, actions and results
  7. Effectively present themselves and their work to appropriate audiences

More often than not students are confused by these criteria, as the language and processes seem longwinded and obtuse. Assisting the student to understand what these actually means is key, as it is common for them to fixate on the ‘outcome’ and ignore the journey of getting there, but this is as important, if not more important than the outcome, rather like the oxymoron ‘the journey is the destination’.

I have conducted a session where I divide the class into small groups, each of which is given the assessment criteria and through a group discussion and brainstorm rewrite the criteria in their own language. Then through a feedback session the whole class discusses each criteria, hopefully, clarifying and defining what they mean. When they identify that the criteria echos the creative process of; research, ideas development, experimentation and exploration of material / methods and ongoing reflection and evaluation, they then understand what is expected from them and how / where they evidence this within sketchbook(s), information file and reflective journal.

Keeping a reflective journal is often the criteria which the students find difficult as ‘a capacity for self-assessment is not innate, it is something that students can develop and refine’ Lindström (2006). Equipping the students with the understanding of why reflective practise is beneficial to their creative process is therefore necessary; and is something that I need to focus on currently with my students. I intend to conduct a session where the students interrogate what constitutes constructive and ‘open’ reflective questions and why it is important to record these. Reflection enables the student to adopt a different perspective on their work, it can assist in objectifying them from their work, thus identifying areas to focus on, change, develop, resolve, enquire, and amend…

“Good descriptive rubics, supported by examples of both high quality and less satisfactory work, help students to assess their own work and to understand what qualities of performance the teaching aims to achieve” Lindström (2006) I found this particularly insightful, as to establish this within Unit 7 group crits and work in progress exhibitions will be helpful in communicating what constitutes best practise and why.

Demystifying the creative process is as Lindström (2006) stated; ‘Creativity is not as private and individual a process as we often imagine. It is always a part of a social and cultural context’. By encouraging exploration in the wider social, cultural and political space, students discover new ways of working; finding links between themselves and others. It is this ‘cultural influence’, which enriches, nourishes and inspires their creative process and ultimately their work.


  1. Hi Paul,
    You’ve done a close reading of the Lindstrom essay and I must say your idea to get the students to re-write the assessment criteria is great. I wish I’d thought of that! I agree the wording of the assessment criteria is often wordy and verbose, and especially for international students, confusing. So their collective re-writing of the criteria will give them the opportunity to internalise and understand what is being asked of them.

    Often students can seem to think that if they take an overtly creative subject as the focus for their work, or are working in an expressly creative medium – like painting or graphic design – all else will follow from that, whereas a robust and fluid creative process, I agree with Lindstrom, has to be cultivated.


  2. Hi Paul,

    I agree with Anne-marie, getting the students to re-write the assessment criteria in their own language is a positive way of empowering them to understand the brief. Also the work that you’re doing with them on keeping a reflective journal is key as I think students can find reflection very difficult. It is much more difficult to do it productively and is not just ‘navel gazing’ as a student once complained to me!
    Again in reference to Anne-marie’s last point I sometimes find that students think that creativity and reflection for that matter will just emanate forth from their bodies and minds without them having to do much but both require time, discipline and rigor!

  3. Hi Paul,
    I agree that learning outcomes/assessment criteria do appear to be overly complex and wordy, and I agree with Anne-Marie, very difficult for International students to understand, particularily when first starting their studies. When given a new unit to teach I often wish I could re-write the learning outcomes into a more accessible format for the students. I have read about getting students to discuss what the LO mean in groups, I haven’t actually tried it out yet as some of the LO for the Business subjects use technical or industry terms that the students would not initially be familiar with, but it is something I could introduce further into a unit in future. On the Access Diploma ‘reflection’ is a word that is barely mentioned which I also think is wrong, this is definitely a way to start to develop self-evaluation skills which are so important for the students as they progress through HE. Although some of your students may struggle with it, at least they are becoming familiar with the concept and getting the opportunity to start to develop these skills. I have started to get the students to complete self-evaluation exercises on each unit that I teach, however I would like to introduce a reflective journal as a part of an assessment submission on a future unit so they can start to understand the significance of this type of activity.

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