Be freely creative, but...
What, Why, and How
Can we teach creativity?
Research about Creativity

Critical Thinking
What is critical thinking?
Attributes of Critical Thinkers
Why teach critical thinking?
How can we teach it effectively?
The Logic of Critical Thinking
The Ethics of Critical Thinking

Problem-Solving Skills
Combining Creative and Critical
Multiple Intelligences / Styles
Thinking Skills in Education
Methods in Design & Science
Problem Solving in Education

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Creative Thinking Skills
for Life and Education

( teaching creativity )

The sections in this page, which
summarize basic principles of creativity
       and link to interesting web-pages and web sites, are:    

Be creative, but...

Creativity in EDUCATION

RESEARCH about Creativity


Combining Creativity with Critical Thinking

      Creativity is Fun and Useful, but...
      During productive PROBLEM SOLVING you creatively GENERATE ideas and critically EVALUATE ideas.  Usually, creative generation is the most exciting part of creative-and-critical Productive Thinking.  But critical evaluation is more important, because if creative ideas are immediately converted into action (without being wisely evaluated) the result can be unwise action.  By itself, creativity is not sufficient.  But it is fun and useful.  Hopefully, this page — with its interesting “ideas about getting ideas” — will inspire some exciting mental adventures and creatively productive ideas.


      WHAT is Creativity?
     "Creative or innovative thinking is the kind of thinking that leads to new insights, novel approaches, fresh perspectives, whole new ways of understanding and conceiving of things.  The products of creative thought include some obvious things like music, poetry, dance, dramatic literature, inventions, and technical innovations.  But there are some not so obvious examples as well, such as ways of putting a question that expand the horizons of possible solutions, or ways of conceiving of relationships that challenge presuppositions and lead one to see the world in imaginative and different ways."  {Peter Facione, Santa Clara University}

      WHY should you want to be creative?  What are the benefits?  12 Reasons to Study Creativity

      HOW can you be more creative, and help your students be more creative?  The International Center for Studies in Creativity says, "Creativity is an effective resource that resides in all people and within all organizations.  Our more than thirty years of research has conclusively demonstrated that creativity can be nurtured and enhanced through the use of deliberate tools, techniques and strategies." {source}
    • You can begin exploring with Three Basic Principles (and more);  creative strategies are explained, and illustrated with historical examples, in Creativity, Innovation and Problem Solving.   If you want to read only one page, I suggest the Introduction to Creative Thinking by Robert Harris, which is an excellent summary of strategies for understanding and improving creativity.
    • Although a blending of creativity and critical thinking is necessary for productive thinking, being critical in a harsh way — by implying “your idea was dumb, and so are you for suggesting it” — can stifle creativity.  Therefore, "one strategy for creativity is to ‘play games’ with the modes by shifting the balance in favor of creativity for awhile, by experimenting with different balances between the modes during different stages in the overall process of productive thinking," as described in my introduction to a strategy of Brainstorm-and-Edit and in a more thorough overview of pros-and-cons by Wikipedia and a “how to do it” page by MindTools, who share other strategies (scroll down the page!) in their Creativity Tools plus tips for a wider range of thinking skills in their Full Toolkit.
    • The Stanford Design School shares a wide variety of attitudes-and-techniques for stimulating creativity (with brainstorming and much more), along with principles for productive design thinking, in their Bootcamp Bootleg.
    • Another interesting approach uses visualization techniques, as in a Periodic Table and Stairsteps (to see things happening on these pages, Javascript must be enabled in your browser's security-Preferences) and in other ways, from
    • One useful principle is to aim for an effective balance of searching (to find old ideas) and imagining (to invent new ideas) so you can combine the best of old and new ideas.
    • The editor, Craig Rusbult, shares useful perspectives on Guided Generation (with a creative generation of ideas stimulated-and-guided by critical evaluation) and Free Invention; search for "invent" in the sitemap, to find Creative-and-Critical Invention of Ideas.
    • Models for the Creative Process by Paul Plsek, is a historical review, from 1908 to 1994, concluding with his DirectedCreativity Cycle that "is a synthesis model of creative thinking that combines the concepts behind the various models proposed over the last 80+ years."
    • Creativity can arise from a combination of conscious thinking and the unconscious thinking that occurs during a non-working period of incubation.
    • A wide variety of strategies — 31 tools for creativity — are described by Charles Cave in Creativity Techniques plus "What can I do to increase my creativity?" and a link to plenty of ideas and resources in his Creativity Web: Resources for Creativity and Innovation.  This is very thorough, is worth exploring, and is useful for getting a comprehensive overview of the field.
    • Another website is less comprehensive, but interesting:  Thoughts on Problem Solving was developed by faculty in the Engineering Dept at the Univ of Michigan.
    • Edward de Bono has been influential in the field of creativity, with his Thinking Tools — Lateral Thinking, Six Thinking Hats, Direct Attention Thinking Tools, and more.  On his own website, de Bono describes Lateral Thinking & Parallel Thinking and other ideas.

Creative Thinking in Education:

Teaching Creativity in Schools

      Plenty of "creativity training" is offered by independent organizations (who work with corporations,...) and there is some activity in mainstream education.  For example, The International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State University offers a thorough education in creativity — although I'm sure they would say "this is just a start, a launching pad for your own explorations" — and (check their "Education" links) several degrees.
      K-12 programs seem to focus on critical thinking more often than creative thinking, but some "thinking skills" programs (see the "learning, teaching, and education" parts of the link-pages for Critical Thinking and Problem Solving) combine creativity and critical thinking.   { Later, probably beginning in October 2009, after a more thorough search for TEACHING ACTIVITIES there will be more information about creativity-stimulating activities and programs, for K-12 and beyond. }
      ERIC Digests have excellent introductory summary/overviews about creative education that fosters creativity in children & adults or stimulates & supports curiosity.  {creativity occurs in a wide range of areas, including education, business, technology, science, and language arts}   And ERIC lets you search for ideas about thinking skills (creative thinking, critical thinking, decision making, ...) and much more.

      Educators should recognize, appreciate, and encourage different styles of creativity.  Gerard Puccio describes the advantages and disadvantages of two styles of creative people (functioning primarily as adaptors who focus on improving an existing situation, and innovators who develop and advocate new solutions): "Instead of valuing one style, an organization should respect and value the adaptive and innovative styles of creativity.  Individuals within an organization can work more effectively together by capitalizing on each others' strengths, rather than punishing each other because of individual differences.  If an atmosphere of openness and trust prevails in the organization, then the adaptors and innovators will be able to join their creative talents to propel the organization to success. ...  Individuals will manifest their creativity in different ways, and both styles of creativity are valuable."   { from Two Dimensions of Creativity: Level and Style which also describes four aspects of "the what-and-how of creativity" and of research about the creative person, process, product, and environment }

Scientific Research about Creative Thinking Skills

      For an introduction to the wide scope of research about creativity, check the topically arranged vocabulary terms for different facets of creativity (with a link to definitions for these terms) for Buffalo State's online database, Creativity-Based Information Resources.  As you would expect, since they know how their database is organized, their page offering Search Help will help you use their database more effectively.  And their Reading Room offers a wide variety of "papers about creativity" you can explore.

      You can explore a variety of ideas about creativity by using two links-pages (with different approaches and resources) that lead in many interesting directions:
      the Creativity Web of Charles Cave offers a Resource Center with lots of information in 11 categories, including software, magazines, books, organizations, conferences, and websites.
      from the International Center for Studies in Creativity, links to five organizations promoting creativity.
      and an APPENDIX, written by the editor, about a special topic:

        INCUBATION — using vacations to solve problems
        If you work on a problem for awhile but don't solve it, and then stop, when you return to the problem you may be able to solve it.  Why?
   • a new approach:  If you get stuck in an unproductive rut, breaking loose (and moving onto a better path) may be easier when time has weakened the rut's hold on the way you are thinking.
   • an alert mind:  If fatigue has temporarily decreased your mental productivity, a break can restore the fresh thinking and optimistic attitude you need for success.
   • new knowledge:  Between attempts, you may learn new information, or discover a key insight, that helps you solve the problem the next time you see it.
   • subconscious thought:  Even when you don't actively work on a problem, thinking that occurs “under the surface” (and during sleep) may help you find a solution later.

        Timing:  A non-working break, between active problem-solving attempts, can be short or long, lasting minutes, hours, days, weeks, or longer.
        Activities:  During a break, you can work on another problem, study another subject, lay down and rest, go for a run, do the dishes, listen to music, talk with a friend, or just relax in isolated silence;  or sleep, and then think about the problem when you awake, before getting involved in other activities.

        Using analogy between hatching eggs and ideas, the waiting period between solution attempts is called incubation.  Here are two useful tips:
        1) To hatch ideas, you must give your mind something to work with.  The closer you come to a solution on your first attempt, the more likely it is that you'll succeed on the second attempt or later attempts.  The incubation process is On-Off-On: active thought (with solution as the goal), a break, then more active thought.  Don't be lazy (or cowardly) by using incubation as an excuse to procrastinate, to avoid a challenge you should face.  But don't waste time.  If you're making progress, keep going!  If not, decide whether you should persevere, or if doing something else for awhile is a better use of your time.
        2) Expect a solution.  When you take a break, tell yourself “The next time I see this problem, I'll be able to solve it.”

MORE about Incubation — from Edward Glassman and Wikipedia


A DISCLAIMER:  The internet offers an abundance of resources, so our main challenge is selectivity, and we have tried to find high-quality pages for you to read.  But the pages above don't necessarily represent views of the American Scientific Affiliation.  As always, we encourage you to use your critical thinking skills to evaluate everything you read.
This website for Whole-Person Education has TWO KINDS OF LINKS:
an ITALICIZED LINK keeps you inside a page, moving you to another part of it, and
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The area of THINKING SKILLS has sub-areas for
Thinking Skills in Education and Life: Effective Problem-Solving Methods
Critical Thinking in Education and Life    Creative Thinking in Education and Life

This links-page for Creative Thinking in Education and Life, by Craig Rusbult,
copyright © 2001 by Craig Rusbult, all rights reserved

all links in this page were checked and fixed on December 5, 2008

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