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Creativity in Schools

Measuring and understanding educator and student perceptions and behaviors related to creativity


Currently, a disconnect exists between the demand for creativity in the workplace and how students are provided with opportunities to develop creativity skills. This disconnect is even more stark in schools that serve global majority students who live in low-income communities, leading not only to a digital divide but also an opportunity divide. While teachers have expressed the desire to learn how to foster creativity, they do not always know how to factor it into instructional design or have access to the tools and professional learning needed to make it a reality. At the same time, few openly available surveys exist to understand students' perceptions and behaviors about creativity.

TLA has partnered with BetterLesson to measure the effect of providing districts with access to digital creativity tools — for both teachers and students — as well as high-quality professional learning to develop educator skills, capacities, and mindsets to design learning experiences that foster student creativity skills. During the first two phases of this project, we designed and piloted surveys to understand teachers’ and students' perceptions and behaviors around creativity.

Understanding Teacher Creativity

After collecting over 700 responses, we analyzed data from a final sample of 455 participants. We found that:

  • 92.8% indicated that they were comfortable or very comfortable teaching with technology
  • Participants mostly agreed or strongly agreed that their leaders encouraged them to try new things, embraced students using technology, and provided professional learning.
  • When asked about their perceptions of creativity, participants responded extremely positively indicating that they largely agreed or strongly agreed with each survey item. However, when asked about whether they implemented different practices to nurture creativity, the data was more normally distributed.

The data sheets shared below provide full details from our analysis.

Measuring Teacher Creativity

To measure creativity, we designed a 40-question survey based on our analysis of the research literature. We started with the broad ideas of creative thinking, innovation, and computing creativity (creativity specific to technology) and then worked through an iterative process to align questions ultimately with the 4Ps: person, press, process, and product. This survey instrument is available below.

Understanding Student Creativity

To pilot the design of a Student Creativity Survey, a group of classroom teachers of students in grades 6-10 asked their students to complete the survey and then provide feedback about their students' experience. This data allowed us to assess the reliability (analysis of Cronbach's alpha) and validity (confirmatory factor analysis) of the instrument, and gain valuable insights into its usability. 

Since we used a purposive sample of teachers from a small number of schools, the results should be considered preliminary and the findings descriptive. Based on the data, we could make the following observations:

  • Students expressed confidence in their own creativity and indicated that they could improve their creativity knowledge and skills.
  • When asked about their behaviors, students tended to report that they sometimes or often engaged in creative activities.
  • The most frequently reported problem-solving behaviors were those where students worked independently. In contrast, one of the least frequently reported behaviors was related to finding connections to the real world.
  • A disconnect may exist between what teachers allow students to do and what they reward students for doing. 

The data sheets shared below provide full details from our analysis.

Measuring Student Creativity

To measure creativity, we broke the overarching theory into four separate dimensions based on the 4P’s of Creativity: person, press, process, and product. The process dimension was then divided into specific constructs - creative communication, creative problem-solving, and creative thinking. The different dimensions map onto two levels — Perceptions and Behaviors. Students then responded to questions that either ask about their level of agreement or their frequency of behavior. The survey questions are available below.

Designing & Assessing Learning Experiences to Foster Creativity

This resource presents a framework (The 4Ps of Creativity) and protocol to help educators iteratively design and assess new learning experiences that nurture student creativity. This tool also includes reflection and feedback protocols for students as well as leaders and coaches. The framework is included in the list of resources below.

Strategy Resources

Teacher Creativity Survey 2.0

This survey intends to help leaders understand teachers’ beliefs about creativity as well as their... Learn More

Data Sheets: Student Creativity Survey Pilot Observations

These data sheets illustrate the findings from the pilot study of the Student Creativity Survey. Learn More

Student Creativity Survey 2.0

This survey intends to help leaders and educators to better understand their students' perceptions and... Learn More

Creativity in the Technology-Rich Classroom Framework and Protocol

This resource presents a framework (The 4Ps of Creativity) and protocol to help educators iteratively... Learn More

Annotated Bibliography: Educator and Student Creativity

The studies included in this annotated bibliography informed the design of the Teacher/Staff and Student... Learn More

Webinar: What Does Creativity Look Like in Schools?

In this webinar, presented by TLA team members Dr. Beth Holland and Dr. Jilliam Joe... Learn More