Creative Contribution

One of the great puzzles of modern education and accountability is choosing what is important and how to assess that importance.

Without reviewing all of educational assessment, it is useful to review Sternberg’s theory of creative contribution. In many ways his theory helps ground the way we think about creative contribution by helping us to see, is this artwork a replication of other artwork, is this drama an advancement of the field, or is this student’s musical composition a redefinition of the work in the field or is it really a starting over and re-initiation of the field’s work?

Of course it would be helpful to know what others had decided in this regard, and Sternberg gives us an idea of seven categories for assessing the creative contribution in the arts that someone has made. But I was also thinking about using this with other fields of work, literature reviews, and especially school reform. In the next article I will look at how this idea might apply to other fields to help us understand creative contribution, but also how to make this work for understanding paradigms, conservative and liberal efforts at changing schools and the assessment of this over time. For now, let’s get used to Sternberg’s ideas:

An article by R. J. Sternberg in the Creativity Research Journal reviewed the “investment” theory of creativity as well as the “propulsion” theory of creative contribution, suggesting that there are eight types of creative contribution;

  1. replication — confirming that the given field is in the correct place —
  2. redefinition — the attempt to redefine where the field is and how it is viewed —
  3. forward incrementation — a creative contribution that moves the field forward in the direction in which it is already moving —
  4. advance forward movement — which advances the field past the point where others are ready for it to go —
  5. redirection — which moves the field in a new, different direction —
  6. redirection from a point in the past — which moves the field back to a previous point to advance in a different direction —
  7. starting over/ re-initiation — moving the field to a different starting point — and integration — combining two or more diverse ways of thinking about the field into a single way of thinking.[104]


This article proposes a propulsion model characterizing 7 different types of creative contributions in any domain. Four of these types of creativity accept current paradigms of work; 3 of the types reject these current paradigms. The basic notion is that creative contributions differ not only in the amounts of creativity they display but also in the types of creativity they display. The article discusses (a) creative contributions and why there is a need for a taxonomy of them, (b) some existing models of creative contributions, (c) a propulsion model for understanding creative contributions and 7 types of contributions that follow from the propulsion model, (d) why such a model can be useful in evaluating creative work, and (e) some phenomena that have been observed in the field of creativity and how they can be explained in terms of the model. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).

So that is all for now…more later on how this might be applied to fields, paradigms and assessments.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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