Brianne Gidcumb | May 2015

Standardizing the Creative Process

A Recap of the First Three Core Arts Standards

Over the past three months, we have unpacked the first three National Core Arts Standards for general music. The standards comprise the “creating” process. In the new Core Arts standards, as well as in the Common Core standards, the STEAM initiative, the Maker Movement, and other 21st century learning initiatives, the push for creating is front and center. At first thought, the idea of standards for creativity seems counterintuitive. How can you standardize creativity? Let’s look at why and how we can foster creativity, and the creative process in a standards-based world.

The first three Core Arts Standards take us through the creative process. From how to generate artistic ideas, organize those ideas, and refine them for presentation or performance. While it seems that it is unnatural to standardize creativity, these standards give students parameters for exploring their creative ideas. As well as, revising and refining those ideas.

Creativity versus the creative process

When we talk about standardizing the creative process, we are not talking necessarily about standardizing creativity, although promoting the creative process can promote creativity itself. What we are referring to is the actual process of creating a piece of music, art, dance, or drama. The arts are powerful in 21st century learning in large part because of the focus on creating and making. This creative process aligns with the design process as well as the inquiry process, making the case for standards in creating music in the 21st century music classroom that much stronger.

Standardizing the creative process

Traditionally, school-based music has been based in the performing strand of music. Students learn how to play an instrument, how to sing, and are given ensemble-based performance experiences. While there is great value in this, we can also guide students through the process of how to foster and develop their own creative ideas. Composition has long been a part of the general music curriculum, but typically, at a basic level. We can and should be delving further into what it is to develop and refine creative musical ideas. How do musicians generate creative ideas? How do musicians make creative decisions? How do musicians improve the quality of their creative work? When is creative work ready to share? 

How to standardize the creative process

Composing new musical ideas is a daunting, abstract task to ask of our youngest musicians. The standards have broken down this task into more manageable elements. But, the power of this process will come into play when students are guided through an entire composition experience from beginning to end, from Standard 1 to Standard 3, with a focus on the essential questions.

If we value the creative process, we have to assess it. This is where particular elements of music can come into play. Musical composition is a wonderful tool for putting into practice particular elements of music having been explicitly taught. Throughout the composition process, students can focus on particular elements of music explored in the general music curriculum. Thus, we can design rubrics and tools for assessment that align with these elements. We can encourage students to use prescribed formats and processes creatively, and give feedback on the originality of new and creative ideas.

Next week, we’ll be digging in deeper as to how to promote and assess creativity itself once this creative process is in place. Until then, please share how you have taught and assessed the creating process in your classroom!

About the Author

Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: