The Creative and the Critical: Effective Assessment of Creativity in Writing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Sch of Education and Lifelong Learning


The importance of creativity in education, for economic, social and personal benefit, has been repeatedly emphasised. For example, it has been argued that schools should develop students' unique capacities for creative thought and action; yet the current National Curriculum for English makes no reference to being 'creative' or to 'creativity' in its Programmes of Study. Language is intrinsically generative and creative: even very young children can form new sentences and new meanings, and successful writing demands creative engagement with ideas, imagination and audiences. However, although there is widespread professional approval of the idea of creative writing, we have never been confident in determining what 'good' creative writing is and thus how to provide effective formative feedback.

Research has shown that creative writing is simultaneously valued and marginalised by teachers, often stemming from a lack of confidence in how to evaluate it. Instead, teachers have a paradoxical relationship with creative writing, seeing it as both high value and hard to assess, and it is often linked to romantic notions of inspiration over which a teacher has little control; there is no tradition of providing constructive evaluative feedback to creative writing. Yet theoretical insights into creativity remind us that creativity is not simply a matter of 'letting go'; rather, creative endeavour also relies on knowledge, control of materials and command of ideas. In the context of creative writing, unless we are clear what knowledge, what control, and what command of ideas constitute success, it is hard to conceive of children's creativity in writing moving forward. In the light of this, this study seeks to fill this gap in the research by establishing understanding of what is valued in creative writing by different stakeholders and determining how innovative formative assessment practices might help share that understanding with children as writers. The study necessitates establishing attitudes toward creativity and creative writing; what is valued in creative writing by teachers, writers, and university lecturers; and how formative feedback for creative writing can be improved.

This study proposes to investigate different perspectives on what constitutes 'good' creative writing and to develop a framework to support teachers in providing effective formative feedback on creative writing. Arvon, a national creative writing charity, will work as a project partner. They have considerable interest in supporting both teachers and children as writers, and run writers' residentials. They are already working with the Centre for Research in Writing at Exeter. A recent shared project, Teachers as Writers, indicated teachers' lesser confidence in giving and receiving feedback on writing. The findings of this PhD research will inform how they develop their advice to professional writers working with teachers and students in school. Arvon will facilitate links to professional writers, allow access to writer residentials to observe feedback, and support dissemination and engagement beyond the school sector. The study's significance rests in its potential to transform professional thinking and practice in teaching and assessing creative writing, and through this to alter students' educational outcomes.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2096294 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2018 24/09/2023 Richard Stuart Cocks D'Souza