Our experience of using this tool as part of evaluating a performing arts programme with children and young people.

June 19, 2020
Photo of the author - Fran Blythe

Fran Blythe

The Five Creative Habits of Mind is a formative assessment tool that was previously mentioned in the Learning Diaries Making and Measuring Social Impact blog post late last year. Here we’ll explore the framework a little more closely and see how we at The Audience Agency are using it in practice on one project: the evaluation of a three-year project focussing on co-creative performance activities and backstage theatre skills with children and young people with low engagement with arts and culture, with activities being carried out in schools and community settings.


The Five Creative Habits of Mind was developed by the Centre for Real World Learning at the University of Winchester alongside the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and reported on in 2013 in the report Progression in Student Creativity in Schools: First steps towards new forms of formative assessment. It was developed with the aim of tracking the development of creativity of pupils in schools.

This tool is now widely used, particularly in schools, and is propagated by leading creative learning organisations. Indeed, the OECD will be using this tool as part of their international PISA assessment to test educational outcomes in participating countries in their 2021 assessment. It is important to note that the 5CHM are behaviours that any child or young person can learn.


This framework has been designed to be useable for time pressed teachers, as well as easily understandable for both teachers and children/young people. This accessibility means that young people can use the tool to assess themselves, as well being assessed by a teacher of facilitator.

It can help children and young people to:

  • develop a shared language of creativity - reflect, self-assess and value their own creative skills/disposition
  • track their progress over time
  • be more self-aware of when they are using their creative skills
  • seek opportunities to be more creative, and to identify future learning goals
  • It can help creative professionals and teachers to:
  • have a shared language of creativity
  • to create a dialogue in educational settings about the value of developing creative skills
  • consider how to build opportunities for creative skill development
  • develop their practice
  • support reflection and goal setting with learners

Project focus

In the co-creation project TAA are evaluating, there is a broad range of stakeholders including the children and young people taking part in the workshops, theatre practitioners delivering the activities, teachers, community workers, parents and the community in general.

Key impacts of this project are the development of creativity and transferable skills among the young people to gain the confidence and the knowledge required to ultimately put them onto a progression pathway around performance, as well as the development of practice of teachers/community workers and theatre practitioners involved and cross learning between these two groups.

The children and young people taking part in this project are those who have the least opportunity to engage with culture, both within and outside of school. While longer term outcomes will be more difficult to evaluate in this project, as it is with many, there is a recognition among stakeholders that the core skills that being creative develops could be valuable for the progression of these participants in their academic learning and the subjects they may choose to take for GCSE (i.e. arts subjects) as well provide them with key tools they can apply when they join the workforce.

Data collection to assess the development of the 5CHM in this project is taking place through two main mechanisms, observation and self-assessment, and is embedded through much of the research.


Theatre practitioners

This observation has been designed to collect detailed formative data on 5CHM progression within each setting.

The Audience Agency and the client agreed that it would be important for much of the evaluation to be embedded into the process of the activities, and in this way avoiding disruption and make best use of the limited time in face to face contact with participants on what is a very ambitious project. It was important that a small amount of evaluation time was built into the contracts of the theatre practitioners leading the workshops. We also recognised that those working closely with the young people would understand significance of the changes in their behaviours and habits more so than external researchers, especially in those situations where the actions of one person may signify a huge achievement for them, when it might not for another.

Therefore, one of the main mechanisms of data collection around 5CHM in this project is a lesson planning tool. As theatre practitioners plan out a range of activities for their participants, they consider which of the ‘habits’ these might encourage. For example, participants may be asked to create a short scene in a small group. While this activity could include more than one of the ‘habits’ the main muscle exercised would be that relating to collaboration. Theatre practitioners are encouraged to consider the abilities of the group as a whole, as well as selecting a small number of individuals to track over time. Habits are assessed using a rating scale (below) and elaborated on with observational notes. Both the lesson planning and the observational evaluation are held together in a single Lesson Planning and Evaluation template. In this way we are able to build a sense of the efficacy of different activities as well as track progress over time.

  1. Awakening- very little
  2. Accelerating- a bit
  3. Advancer- a fair amount
  4. Adept- a lot

This observation has been designed to collect formative data on 5CHM progression between different settings, with researchers visiting each of the settings both towards the beginning and the end of the project. While the main (but not only) focus of the theatre practitioner observation is to uncover the efficacy of different activities within each session on change in creative behaviour, this data collection will unearth any differences as a result of broader variables e.g. school and community settings, and the effect of different theatre genres being used such as puppetry or comedy.


Baselines for each of the 5CHM were collected through questions embedded into a participant survey completed at the start of the project. Theatre practitioners have also been encouraged to make time for young people to assess themselves in groups, using the language of the 5CHM in discussion and rating themselves on each at significant points in the project.

So, what are they?

The key idea is that these creative habits or dispositions can be learned by all children and young people


  • Giving and receiving feedback- wanting to contribute to the ideas of others and hear how one’s own ideas can be improved
  • Sharing the ‘product’- creative outputs matter to have impact beyond the creator
  • Co-operating in a way appropriate to the situation- meaning working collaboratively when needed, not necessarily all the time


  • Wondering and questioning- beyond simply being curious, posing concrete questions to help them think through and develop new ideas
  • Exploring and investigating- acting on responses/outcomes to questioning to find out more
  • Challenging assumption- appropriate scepticism, not taking things at face value with examination


  • Developing techniques- whether skills acquired are new or established the creative individual will practice in order to improve.
  • Reflecting critically- after ideas are generated, evaluation is important, using decision-making skills to act on the evaluation
  • Crafting and improving- taking pride in work, attending to details and correcting errors


  • Tolerating uncertainty- important when actions or goals are not fully set out
  • Sticking with difficulty- tenacity, helping to get beyond familiar ideas and come up with new ones
  • Daring to be different- a level of self-confidence as a pre-requisite to sensible risk taking


  • Playing with possibilities- manipulating, trying out and improving ideas
  • Making connections- seeing patterns and bringing together ideas, reflections and observations from different places
  • Using intuition- making connections that may not happen through analytical thinking alone