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A Conversation with Dr. Donna Ford

The following is a transcript of a conversation with Dr. Donna Ford regarding Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT).

Torrance Test of Creative Thinking Overview

The test was created by E. Paul Torrance, who is considered the "father of creativity." He has conducted and written more publications on creativity than anyone that I am aware of. The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking measures divergent thinking which is also called open-ended thinking, as well as problem-solving skills.

This test is norm referenced and it measures a number of different types of creativity. One is flexibility and the layperson's term would be “being able to think outside the box.” The test also looks at fluency which is coming up with a number of relevant ideas. The other one is originality, which is what many, perhaps most, people think about when it comes to creativity and that is being unusual and the ideas are rare - not many other people have come up with those.

The test also looks at elaboration, which is the amount of detail. So for example, if a student were to draw a picture of a person-did they draw eyelashes? Did they draw pupils? Did they make a smiling face? Did they add lipstick? Did they put hair?

It also measures just how abstract student’s ideas are. And last, the Torrance test measures resistance to premature closure and by that it means the ability to tolerate ambiguity and to stay open, to be open-minded.

That is a quick overview of the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, and again the most important takeaway is that it focuses on divergent thinking, as well as problem solving with a number of different subscales.

Why is the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking Northshore’s Selected Tool?

First and foremost, the Torrance is an objective measure of creative thinking and I want to repeat that - an objective measure of creative thinking.

Many other measures of creativity rely on a checklist. Checklists are subjective, so one person's view of creativity may not be another person's view of creativity. A teacher may see one student’s product and evaluate it as being very creative, very original, but then look at another student’s project or product and not see it as creative. One teacher can be looking at two different products and come away with two different views about what which one is creative or not, but also two people can look at the same product and come away with different views regarding whether one is creative or not.

I used to teach a class on creativity when I was at Ohio State University. I would collect magazines, in particular those magazines that the airlines would sell. I think they were called Air Mall magazines, and there you will see all these inventions and products. My students, 30-40 students, would each go through the magazine and individually select which one we thought was the most creative product. Then I put the students in small groups, and they would have to come to a group consensus, which was really very difficult. This is all subjective, but I remember one time I chose a product that I thought was the least creative. I mean I was laughing at it. I thought it was so ridiculous and useless, but a student in the class thought It was the most creative product. We were at different extremes looking at the same product.

The Torrance removes the subjectivity because it is objective. The Torrance is perhaps, from what I understand, the most widely researched measure of creativity that we have. It is used in many schools, and has been used in many studies, and is considered very valid and reliable. Equally important, the Torrance has not been found to be biased against students by income or race, therefore it is culturally fair. All the instruments that your district is looking at is with the goal of being culturally fair and not biased.

The other point that I want to make about the Torrance, in terms of why it is so important, is because of what it does not measure and what it does measure. It is not a measure of motivation. It is not a measure of opportunity. It is not a measure of income. It Is not a measure of privilege, but it does measure curiosity, hypothetical thinking, imagination, humor, breaking boundaries, thinking outside of the box, and divergent thinking. It is my number one recommendation professionally and personally for an objective measure of creativity.

The Value of Measuring Creativity

The federal government recognizes five areas of giftedness: one is intellectual, another is academic, another one is leadership, another one is visual and performing arts. I want to make clear that is not rank order. Our federal government also officially recognizes creativity as a valid and invaluable type of giftedness. The state of Washington also recognizes creativity. In your state definition for highly capable learners, you recognize cognitive ability. You recognize academic, and you also recognize creativity, so it is long overdue, way overdue, that the district look at what can be done to identify, recognize, support, and nurture this official federal, state, and district portion of giftedness. Otherwise, we are doing a disservice and educational disservice to creatively gifted students.

Correlation Between Creativity and Academic Achievement

I want you all to recognize that creativity goes beyond thinking. Creativity is about doing, creativity is about solving, creativity is about not just thinking about problems. It's about taking actions to solve and resolve problems, and that makes this world a better place. One can be creative, but not a high achiever. Yes, you could be creative, but not a high achiever. This is not about a competition that says you have to be both. You could be one or the other. You could also be a high achiever, but not creative. And personally that's where I put myself. I'm a very high achiever. I don't consider myself very creative. If I were in this school district, I would need to be served definitely as an achiever. Other students would need to be served as someone who's more creative. Now other people may consider me creative. I'm saying I don't consider myself as creative as some other people might think I do, but that goes back to subjectivity so you don't have to be both. And the district is trying to make sure that the three types of giftedness are nurtured.

I was doing an activity with my class today, and we did a simulation and one of the individuals in the simulation whose name they did not know was Einstein. I would encourage you to read Einstein's biography. He did not score well on intelligence tests. Einstein did not do well in school. But is one of the most creative, or was one of the most creative individuals in the world. So Einstein, if he were in your district should be allowed to have his creativity nurtured, despite low test scores and low grades. Keep Einstein in mind.

Two more points:

Adding a measure of creativity does not take away from valuing high-achieving students. Adding a measure does not do any damage to identifying high achieving students. This is not about one or the other being in competition. It is how can Northshore nurture the gifts and talents that are prevalent in the three areas and in all students.

And last is that I believe that the district is trying to recognize, and nurture all types of gifts and talents. I find what the district is doing and attempting to do to be very progressive, very visionary, and very responsive to all students, not some students, but all students.

 

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