How to be creative in IB

In the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at school, creativity is held to a high standard.  For a student in the program, the ability to interact creatively is one of the greatest attributes he or she can have.  While writing essays, doing presentations or just during class in general, adding creative elements or having original ideas makes whatever the student is doing better.  Creative aspects and visual aids can really make a presentation pop.  But, is it really easy to add creativity into presentations?  Many IB assessments and assignments have strict rubrics that limit where and when a student can add creative elements into their presentations.  However, almost all emphasis on creative output is pushed to the students’ end, and the IB curriculum is almost never put under the microscope when it comes to the subject.  This begs the question: how creative, in all reality, can IB students be?

The easy answer is: as creative as they want to be.  As previously mentioned, there are plenty of opportunities for IB students to express their creative side and do whatever they want (within the guidelines, of course) for any given assignment.  For an English presentation, a student can choose to use a Powerpoint or Prezi presentation, a posterboard, a trifold, an original piece of art, the list goes on and on.  Somewhere in the endless possibilities of visual aids a student can find a way to be creative.  However, that’s not always true.

The International Baccalaureate program has, by definition, the same general mold all over the world.  For example, the general curriculum for the History of the Americas (HOTA) class taken in junior year is the same in Virginia as it is in Brazil.  This basic nuance of the IB program limits creativity from the beginning, as does the way the program grades its assessments.  In the same HOTA class, a student will take a Paper 3 (essay) assessment, which is then sent off to be graded by an approved IB grader from around the world.  So, a Paper 3 written in the US can be graded in Finland, or vice versa.  Perhaps more than any other facet of the program, this grading system greatly limits the creativity an IB student can put into his/her writing or assessments.  Because the assessments are not graded exclusively by the teacher giving them, much of the humor and class-specific preparations are thrown out the window and lost on the grader.

This isn’t necessarily the student’s fault.  Students tend to draw on what they know their teacher will like to get a better grade on assignments.  For years, this is what they have been taught to do.  And then, the way assignments are graded suddenly changes.  Students do not have enough time to change the way they do assignments before they are thrust into the fire, so to speak.  This is a severe hamper on how creative students can be, as it takes away the way they have been taught for years.

Overall, there are some severe limits on the creativity that a student can have as an IB Diploma candidate, but there are still ways for students to find their creative side within the limits of assessments and presentations that are part of the curriculum.  Find new ways to interpret assignments; use outside-the-box thinking for presentations; search for the possible creative outlets that still succeed in the IB curriculum.  Still, in the end, it’s up to the student to be able to express their creativity through what the diploma allows for.