Sunday, February 16, 2014

Creativity Killers: Checklists and Rubrics

Could checklists and rubrics be one of the most dangerous tools used in education today? I submit, yes. 

In a world growing more complex and more unpredictable by the day, imagination, innovation and creativity become more important by the minute. One of the most serious problems our students, teachers, schools and school systems face, though, is an out-of-date educational system inherently averse to imagination, innovation and creativity. If you think this is being overstated, don't take only my word for it. Consider the words of Sir Ken Robinson, who has written and spoken on creativity and imagination perhaps more than anyone else in the past several years. In a recent article in Entrepreneur magazine, Robinson said the global education system must change three things: "Its emphasis on conformity;" "Its emphasis on compliance;" "It's emphasis on a linear path."

When the federal government, state governments, school districts, schools, and even accrediting agencies rely solely on checklists and rubrics to assess and to make value judgments, Robinson's words suddenly ring eerily prophetic. By design, checklists and rubrics emphasize conformity, compliance and linear everything. Furthermore, checklists, by default, assign negative values to anything that fails to comply or fit the norm. The same is true, though to a slightly lesser degree, with rubrics. If this is the case, anything imaginative, innovative or creative can neither be measured nor affirmed by checklists and red-pen-wielding assessors with a checklist mentality. 

Until school systems, schools and teachers break free or become liberated from emphasis on conformity, compliance and linear thinking, education will continue down a dangerous path toward completely failing to equip the next generation of students for a future that simply cannot be predicted.


uncommonteacher said...

I am a preservice teacher with two children of my own. I have been thinking about rubrics, worried that they will cause children to be more concerned with their grade than with their learning. However, I have seen them keep my very creative daughter focused on learning targets as she works on assignments. For instance, she has had creative writing for science where she can write a story about visiting another planet. The rubric helps her make sure she includes key science facts in her writing in the midst of writing her fantastic story.

Nathan Barber said...

I can't disagree with you. However, when a rubric is the only way a student, a teacher, a school or a district is measured, there remains little room for subjectivity or qualitative assessment. Rubrics can be very helpful for assignments but they can become too restrictive. As I mentioned in my post, checklists are far worse than rubrics. You make a good point. Thanks for your feedback.