The following "ideas about thinking" are described in
9. Productive Thinking
This page contains Section 9 from
there is a short summary (above) from
and a continuing exploration (below) from
CREATIVITY and CRITICAL THINKING. These two aspects of thinking are discussed in the same subsection because they complement each other, with a blending of both required for productive thinking. In defining creativity, Perkins (1984) emphasizes the criterion of productivity:
Creative thinking is thinking patterned in a way that leads to creative results. ... The ultimate criterion for creativity is output. We call a person creative when that person consistently gets creative results, meaning, roughly speaking, original and otherwise appropriate results by the criteria of the domain in question. (pp. 18-19)
Of course, getting "appropriate results
by the criteria of the domain" requires critical evaluation. This
close connection between creativity and criticality is similar to the connections
between generation and evaluation. In fact, it can be useful to consider
generation and evaluation as the result of creative thinking and critical thinking,
respectively. This perspective is adopted in the "red plus blue makes
purple" color coding used in the ISM diagram: generation
plus evaluation yields productive
thinking in design. But this interpretation, although interesting,
is not logically rigorous, because a process of generation that is truly productive
(to get a high-quality idea, not just an idea) is usually guided by critical
evaluation, even in the initial stages, so equating generation with pure creativity
is not justified. Instead, it's better to consider the entire combination
of "motivation and memory, creativity and critical thinking" that
results in productive thinking with the generation of a theory (or experiment,
product, strategy, action,...) that is evaluated as being useful, and actually
The basic principles of critical thinking in science are explained in Part 4 (Theory Evaluation) and Parts 1-3 (for three types of evaluation criteria: Empirical, Conceptual, and Cultural-Personal). A simple two-part strategy for skillful critical thinking is knowing how to do it (as explained in Parts 1-4) and deciding that you will do it, which requires motivation (wanting to do it) and discipline (so you'll do it consistently).
And what about creativity? The process of productively inventing useful ideas requires both modes of
thinking (creative and critical) but being overly critical, especially in the
early stages of invention, can stifle creativity. We shouldn't hinder
the motion of a car by driving with the brakes on, and we shouldn't hinder
the flow of creativity by thinking with restrictive criticism. But a
car needs brakes, and a creative person needs critical thinking. 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
Human "theories of the world" are essential to our learning and making sense of the world. However, there is a curious paradox about schemata. Just as they are the basis of human perception and understanding, so too are they "blinders" to interpretations that fall outside their scope. ... Creativity involves the ability to go beyond the schema normally used to approach a problem... and reframe the problem so it might appear in a different light. Characteristically, the creative person has the ability to look at a problem from one frame of reference or schema and then consciously shift to another frame of reference, giving a completely new perspective. This process continues until the person has viewed the problem from many different perspectives. (Marzano, et al, 1988, p. 26)
Productive thinking often involves a tension between tradition and innovation. Sometimes new ideas are needed, but often a skillful application of old ideas is the key to success. Seeing from a new perspective, or perhaps just seeing more clearly from a familiar perspective, can inspire the inventing of a new idea or the remembering of an old idea. For example, when a new organic compound is discovered (in nature) or synthesized (in the lab), instead of inventing new experiments it may be more productive to use an existing methodology consisting of a system of experiments that in the past have been useful for exploring the properties of new compounds.
There may be a similar tension between other contrasting virtues, such as persevering by tenacious hard work, or flexibly deciding to stop wasting time on an approach that isn't working and probably never will. A problem solver may need to dig deeper, so perseverance is needed; but sometimes the key is to dig in a new location, and flexibility (not perseverance) will pay off.
One of the most important actions in science
(or in life) is to recognize an opportunity and take advantage of it, whether
this involves observation or interpretation. In science the imaginative
use of available observation detectors — either mechanical or human,
experiments or planned field studies, for expected or unexpected results —
can be highly effective in converting available information into recorded
Following this, an insightful interpretation of observations can harvest more
meaning from the raw data. Sherlock Holmes, with his alert awareness,
careful observations, and clever interpretations, provides a fictional illustration
of the benefits arising from an effective gathering and processing of all available
information. Of course, being aware, careful, and clever are
also valuable assets for a real scientist.
Before and during problem formulation, scientists prepare by learning the current
now-state of knowledge about a selected area of nature, including theories,
observations, and experimental techniques. Early in the career of a scientist,
as a student, typically most preparation comes by reading books and listening
to teachers, with supplementation by first-hand experience in observation and
interpretation. Later, when a scientist is actively involved in research,
typically there is a shift toward an increased reliance on the learning that
occurs during research, but some learning still occurs by reading and listening.
When a scientist becomes more intellectually mature, less knowledge is accepted
solely due to a trust in authority, because there is an increase in the ability
and willingness to think critically.
The connections between generation (red) and evaluation (blue) are symbolized by purple — because red plus blue makes purple (with pigments) — in the "creativity and critical thinking" part of the diagram (which is described in Section 9) as a reminder of the continual productive interplay between creative thinking (the main mode of thinking in generation) and critical thinking (the main mode of thinking in evaluation).
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this page is http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/think/prod.htm
Copyright © 1997 by Craig Rusbult, all rights reserved