Is it Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking or Creativity?

I was reading Dr. Edward de Bono's book, Six Thinking Hats, a few weeks ago in preparation for two sessions today that I'm doing on creating assignments for our writing-intensive classes, and for a related session on using critical thinking for wrting.

This Six Thinking Hats method, takes the approach that traditional argument or adversarial thinking "completely lacks a constructive, creative or design element. It was intended only to discover the 'truth' not to build anything." This deBono compares to his "Parallel Thinking" methods which are designed to help two or more parties and is a more cooperative form of thinking that leads to creative solutions.

If you haven't read the book or heard about his approach, take a look at the video embedded below (or click here)

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I think this type of thinking is more creative thinking than critical thinking, and it's something I'm interested in seeing instructors try. To make the path even harder to decide upon, Dr. de Bono also has written about an approach he calls Lateral Thinking. Lateral thinking is about changing concepts and perception and reasoning about a problem and to get away from predictable, expected ways of thinking about problems. Lateral thinking is what is commonly called thinking "outside the box." The box is our perceptions and constraints. Here's a short video that talks about creativity and lateral thinking.

Some thoughts from de Bono's work:

  1. If our brain is a computer, then the software we're using was largely designed 2,400 years ago, and we haven't done any upgrades since the days of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
  2. In Six Thinking Hats de Bono says that approaches to thinking that are based on analysis, judgment, and logical argument are excellent in the same way that the left front wheel of a car is excellent. That is, there is nothing at all wrong with it, but it is not sufficient.
  3. He believes that creativity is a skill, not just a talent and it can be learned.
  4. Being different for the sake of being different is not creativity. Creative ideas must have or add value.
  5. People are reluctant to be creative out of fear of making mistake. We need a word for those creative ideas that just don't work that isn't "mistake" - for those "Fully justified ventures which for reasons beyond our control did not succeed." Creative and useful mistakes.

There are lots of online tools that can be used as creative thinking exercises and some of them also make excellent prewriting activities. Text2MindMap is an online application where you can create mind maps/graphic organizers simply by entering text in an outline. The outline is then converted to a mind map that you can customize and save as a .jpg file for a website, blog or presentation. A good way to brainstorm a topic in class and have students easily create mnd maps on their own with very minimal tech skills and no extra software.

Have students watch a short video and take notes online as they watch: Sir Ken Robinson did a good 2006 TED Talk called "Do Schools Today Kill Creativity?" Robinson is author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, and a leading expert on innovation in education and business. He feels that creativity is as important today in education as literacy.

His main point, told humorously, is that children are born artists, but the problem is to remain one despite education. We don't learn to be creative, we unlearn. Luckily, children are willing to take chances and make mistakes - for awhile anyway, until school teaches them otherwise.

Today we are discussing what we feel we can do in writing that is critical thinking, creative thinking or just good ol' creativity. We will talk about approaches and theories. We will do exercises and try our best to be creative in our design of writing-intensive assignments. But all of it will be for nothing if we don't do these things in classrooms that allow and foster those things. Maybe the box of constraints we are teaching in is too strong with rules, assessments, social pressures, accreditations and more.

Take a look at the Robinson talk

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