At The Findings Group, we are assessing a National Science Foundation Discovery Research K-12 project that gives students an opportunity to learn about computing in the context of music through EarSketch. As with other STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) approaches, EarSketch aims to motivate and engage students in computing through a creative, cross-disciplinary approach. Our challenge with this project was threefold: 1) defining creativity within the context of STEAM education, 2) measuring creativity, and 3) demonstrating how creativity gives rise to more engagement in computing.
The 4Ps of Creativity
To understand creativity, we turned to the literature first. According to previous research, creativity has been discussed from four perspectives, or the 4Ps of creativity: Process, Person, Press/Place, and Product For our study, we focused on creativity from the perspective of the Person and the Place. Person refers to the traits, tendencies, and characteristics of the individual who creates something or engages in a creative endeavor. Place refers to the environmental factors that encourage creativity.
Measuring Creativity – Person
Building on previous work by Carroll (2009) and colleagues, we developed a self-report Creativity – Person measure that taps into six aspects of personal expressiveness within computing. These aspects include:
- Expressiveness: Conveying one’s personal view through computing
- Exploration: Investigating ideas in computing
- Immersion/Flow: Feeling absorbed by the computing activity
- Originality: Generating unique and personally novel ideas in computing
Through a series of pilot tests with high school students, our final Creativity – Person scale consisted of 10-items and yielded excellent reliability (Cronbach’s alpha= .90 to .93); likewise, it is positively correlated with other psychosocial measures such as computing confidence, enjoyment, and identity and belongingness.
Assessing creativity at the environmental level proved to be more of a challenge! In building the Creativity – Place scale, we turned our attention to previous work by Shaffer and Resnick (1999) who assert that learning environments or materials that are “thickly authentic”—personally-relevant and situated in the real world—promote engagement in learning. Using this as our operational definition of a creative environment, we designed a self-report scale that taps into four identifiable components of a thickly authentic learning environment:
- Personal: Learning that is personally meaningful for the learner
- Real World: Learning that relates to the real-world outside of school
- Disciplinary: Learning that provides an opportunity to think in the modes of a particular discipline
- Assessment: Learning where the means of assessment reflect the learning process.
Our Creativity – Place scale consisted of 8 items and also yielded excellent reliability (Cronbach’s alpha=.91).
Once we had our two self-report questionnaires in hand—Creativity – Person and Creativity – Place scales—we collected data among high school students who utilized EarSketch as part of their computing course. Our main findings were:
- Students show significant increases from pre to post in personal expressiveness in computing (Creativity – Person), and
- A creative learning environment (Creativity – Place) predicted students’ engagement in computing and intent to persist. That is, through a series of multiple regression analyses, we found that a creative learning environment, fueled by a meaningful and personally relevant curriculum, drives improvements in students’ attitudes and intent to persist in computing.
Moving forward, we plan on expanding our work by examining other facets of creativity (e.g., Creativity – Product) through the development of creativity rubrics to assess algorithmic music compositions.
Carroll, E.A., Latulipe, C. Fung, R., & Terry, M. (2009). Creativity factor evaluation: Towards a standardized survey metric for creativity support. In C&C ’09: Proceedings of the Seventh ACM Conference on Creativity and Cognition (pp. 127-136). New York, NY: Association for Computing Machinery.
Engelman, S., Magerko, M., McKlin, T., Miller, M., Douglas, E., & Freeman, J. (in press). Creativity in authentic STEAM education with EarSketch. SIGCSE ’17: Proceedings of the 48th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education.Seattle, WA: Association for Computing Machinery.
Shaffer, D. W., & Resnick, M. (1999). “Thick” authenticity: New media and authentic learning. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 10(2), 195-215.