Scientifically creative

I’ve been reading about the revised Bloom’s taxonomy, with “creating” now being at the top. The examples I saw for this level included things such as posters, puppet shows, songs and dances, or skits. These may be enjoyable for younger students, but I can’t really see my high school chemistry students spending time on these. How can older students be creative in science?
—Joseph, Des Moines, Iowa

First, a little background—Bloom’s Taxonomy was an attempt to describe and classify thinking behaviors into levels of complexity. The cognitive domain taxonomy became part of the common language of teaching: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. A lesson’s learning goals, objectives, and activities could be matched up with the levels, with the latter three being considered “higher-order” thinking
The taxonomy was revised a few years ago to reflect changes in what is known about learning and thinking. Comparing the two versions side-by-side, there are a few differences. The levels are verbs rather than nouns to signify the learner’s activity and synthesis in the original taxonomy has evolved into creating in the revised one. (See the list of references for more discussion).
In this taxonomy, creating goes beyond the traditional fine and performing arts.  Some of the actions associated with creating include assembling, constructing, composing, inventing, reorganizing, revising, designing, developing, formulating. The products could include presentations, experiments, inventions, projects, written documents, videos, or the performances that you mentioned in your question. With that interpretation, it’s easier to see how creativity and science can be connected.

Problem solving is a form of creativity, especially if a new solution requires innovative thinking. When you ask students to design an investigation, they are creating. If students come up with a novel solution to a task, they are demonstrating their creativity. If students ask “what if…” or make imaginative connections to other topics or subject areas, they are thinking creatively. But don’t write off things like skits, songs, or videos—your students may enjoy composing these, especially if they can share them with others. You can provide guidance so the science content is emphasized. I once observed a biology class in a high school for the arts. The students amazed me with how they connected their artistic interests to their learning in science.
Technology has added more ways for students to address Bloom’s levels of thinking—from remembering to applying to creating. In the article, “More Than Just the Technology,” in the July 2011 issue of Science Scope, Kimberly Lightle poses the question “How do we provide meaningful learning experiences for students using tools that are intrinsically motivating?” She looks at each level of the taxonomy and how digital tools can enhance thinking and learning.
Even if students are using these tools, are we encouraging creativity if students are required to produce an identical product or come up with the same answers? I’ve found students accustomed to being told exactly what to do or given a template for every assignment may have some initial concerns when the directions are minimal. They may be unsure of whether they’ll be “right” or if their ideas will be acceptable. You’ll need to model creative processes and encourage academic risk-taking. Some of the most creative students I had were not necessarily the “top” students in the class. Students focused on grades seemed to be more hesitant about trying something different or open-ended. I revised my project rubric, leaving the “A” level blank. To earn an A, students needed to explain what they did to personalize the project beyond the required components. It took a while for them to catch on, but it paid off when a student said, “I’d like to try a different way. What do you think?” I thought so much of his way, I integrated  it into my graduate thesis.
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4 Responses to Scientifically creative

  1. Juan Ramón González says:

    I would add one upper level to Bloom’s Taxonomy: «unifying». Creating and unifying knowledge is much more demanding than just creating it.
    For instance, creating a theory of irreversible thermodynamics or creating a theory for electron transfer in condensed phases require higher skills, but add that both theories would use the same formal structure and a set of underlying (common) principles and then whole novel skills are needed.
    That is why I have always considered a genius to Joel Keizer, who unified so disparate fields as chemical kinetics, heat flow, hydrodynamics… Check next Essay for a recent overview

  2. Martin says:

    *Here is a great example of some college kids who were asked to write a song and make a music video for a biochem company. In order to write a song about the product, the author had to understand some basic dynamics of the filters function, chemical makeup, and its applications. Check it out its pretty fun! I thought it was a good compliment to the article.

  3. Paul Briones says:

    My high school Biology and Chemistry students have always been very creative. I’ve been using Bloom’s Taxonomy in the classroom since the late 80’s. I’ve been writing Biology and Science songs since 1992. In Chemistry, I created a Hip-Hop Song on the Periodic Table and the the valences of each element. I challenged the students to do the same. In the beginning, they will be shy and will think you are a little crazy. Once they start creating and see the response they get from their fellow students, they will not want to stop. For more on lessons I’ve created using the arts and how I teach, visit my site at Virtual Science University:

  4. Paul Briones says:

    Leaving the door open for creativity is a must if you expect to get students to the highest level of learning. Many students especially those that are accustomed to making high grades want everything laid out in a way that is comfortable to them. By leaving the A category to be open ended, it allows the student to be creative and think outside the box. In my 30 year teaching experience, I’ve encouraged students to think outside the box and become creative. For more info on Creative Lectures, visit my website link:

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