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Scandinavian Journal of Educational


Research
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Creative Thinking in the Classroom


Robert J. Sternberg

PACE Center , Yale University , Box 208358, New Haven, CT,


06520-8358, USA
Published online: 25 Aug 2010.

To cite this article: Robert J. Sternberg (2003) Creative Thinking in the Classroom, Scandinavian
Journal of Educational Research, 47:3, 325-338, DOI: 10.1080/00313830308595
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Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research,


Vol. 47, No. 3, 2003

Creative Thinking in the Classroom


ROBERT J. STERNBERG

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PACE Center, Yale University, Box 208358, New Haven, CT 065208358, USA

ABSTRACT Schools generally undervalue creativity. Perhaps teachers think creativity is no


different from general intelligence or that schooling cannot or should not value creativity, or
perhaps they do not know how to teach for creativity. This essay first argues that creativity is
different from general intelligence; second, that teaching in a way that encourages and rewards
creativity can improve school performance; and third, that children can learn to make certain
kinds of decisions that will enhance their creativity. Creativity can be of different kinds and it
is important that teachers reward all kinds of creativity.

Key words: creativity; intelligence; investment theory of creativity; propulsion theory of


kinds of creative contributions

INTRODUCTION
Are children who are high in general intelligence the same ones who are high in
creativity? If not, can teaching in a way that is responsive to childrens creativity
improve the achievement of creative children who might otherwise be viewed as not
very smart or even as behaviour problems? And if teaching for creativity can be
successful, exactly what form does it take? These are the kinds of questions we
address in our research.
The general notion motivating our work is that children can be intelligent in a
variety of ways but that schools tend primarily to value only a single way of being
intelligent. According to the theory of successful intelligence, intelligence comprises
analytical, creative and practical abilities (Sternberg, 1985, 1997, 1999c). Schools,
however, tend primarily to value memory and analytical skills, but creative and
practical skills are at least as important to success in life as are memory and
analytical skills, and may even be more important, especially after formal schooling
ends. If so, then we ought to be nurturing and rewarding rather than ignoring or
even punishing students who are high in creative or practical skills.
So let us consider the three questions raised above. First, are creative skills
distinct from other kinds of intellectual skills? Second, if so, can teaching in a way
that nurtures and rewards creativity result in improved academic performance?
Third, exactly what form does such teaching take?
Creative thinking will be defined here as thinking that is novel and that
ISSN 0031-3831 print; ISSN 1430-1170 online/03/030325-14 2003 Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research
DOI: 10.1080/0031383032000079281

326 R. J. Sternberg
produces ideas that are of value (Sternberg & Lubart, 1995, 1996; see also essays in
Sternberg, 1999a).
THE RELATION OF CREATIVE INTELLIGENCE TO ANALYTICAL AND
PRACTICAL INTELLIGENCE
An important foundation of the theory of successful intelligence is the importance of
analytical, creative and practical abilities to intellectual functioning. A number of the
studies described below show both the internal validity and external validity of these
constructs.

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Measures of Successful Intelligence, in General


Many of our studies have examined creative thinking in the context of analytical
thinking (as measured by tests of intelligence and similar tests) and of practical
thinking as well. We have examined both the internal validity and external validity
of our measures.
Internal validity. Three separate factor-analytic studies support the internal validity
of the theory of successful intelligence.
In one study (Sternberg et al., 1999), we used the so-called Sternberg Triarchic
Abilities Test (STAT) (Sternberg, 1993) to investigate the internal validity of the
theory. Three hundred and twenty-six high school students, primarily from diverse
parts of the USA, took the test, which comprised 12 subtests in all. There were four
subtests each measuring analytical, creative and practical abilities. For each type of
ability, there were three multiple choice tests and one essay test. The multiple choice
tests, in turn, involved, respectively, verbal, quantitative and figural content. Consider the content of each test.
1. Analyticalverbal. Figuring out meanings of neologisms (artificial words)
from natural contexts. Students see a novel word embedded in a paragraph
and have to infer its meaning from the context.
2. Analyticalquantitative. Number series. Students have to say what number
should come next in a series of numbers.
3. Analyticalfigural. Matrices. Students see a figural matrix with the lower
right entry missing. They have to say which of the options fits into the
missing space.
4. Practicalverbal. Everyday reasoning. Students are presented with a set of
everyday problems in the life of an adolescent and have to select the option
that best solves each problem.
5. Practicalquantitative. Everyday mathematics. Students are presented with
scenarios requiring the use of mathematics in everyday life (e.g. buying
tickets for a ballgame) and have to solve mathematical problems based on
the scenarios.
6. Practicalfigural. Route planning. Students are presented with a map of an

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Creative Thinking in the Classroom

327

area (e.g. an entertainment park) and have to answer questions about


navigating effectively through the area depicted by the map.
7. Creativeverbal. Novel analogies. Students are presented with verbal analogies preceded by counterfactual premises (e.g. money falls off trees). They
have to solve the analogies as though the counterfactual premises were true.
8. Creativequantitative. Novel number operations. Students are presented
with rules for novel number operations, for example flix, which involves
numerical manipulations that differ as a function of whether the first of two
operands is greater than, equal to or less than the second. Participants have
to use the novel number operations to solve presented mathematical problems.
9. Creativefigural. In each item, participants are first presented with a figural
series that involves one or more transformations. They then have to apply
the rule of the series to a new figure with a different appearance and
complete the new series.
We found that a confirmatory factor analysis on the data was supportive of the
triarchic theory of human intelligence, yielding separate and uncorrelated analytical,
creative and practical factors. The lack of correlation was due to the inclusion of
essay as well as multiple choice subtests. Although multiple choice tests tended to
correlate substantially with multiple choice tests, their correlations with essay tests
were much weaker. We found the multiple choice analytical subtest to load most
highly on the analytical factor, but the essay creative and performance subtests to
load most highly on their respective factors. Thus, measurement of creative and
practical abilities should probably ideally be accomplished with other kinds of testing
instruments that complement multiple choice instruments.
We have now developed a revised version of this test, which, in a preliminary
study of 53 college students, shows outstanding internal and external validation
properties (Grigorenko et al., 2000). This test supplements the creative and practical
measures described above with performance-based measures. For example, creative
abilities are additionally measured by having people write and tell short stories, by
having them do captions for cartoons and by having them use computer software to
design a variety of products. Practical skills are measured additionally by an
everyday situational judgment inventory and a college student tacit knowledge
inventory. These tests require individuals to make decisions about everyday problems faced in life and in school. We found that the creative tests are moderately
correlated with each other and the practical tests are highly correlated with each
other. The two kinds of tests are distinct from one another, however. Interestingly,
the performance-based assessments tend to cluster separately from multiple choice
assessments measuring the same skills (similar to our earlier findings of essay
measures tending to be distinctive from multiple choice measures). These results
further suggest the need for measuring not only a variety of abilities, but also for
measuring these abilities through various modalities of testing.
In a second and separate study, conducted with 240 freshman year high school
students in the USA, Finland and Spain, we used the multiple choice section of

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328 R. J. Sternberg
the STAT to compare five alternative models of intelligence, again via confirmatory
factor analysis. A model featuring a general factor of intelligence fitted the data
relatively poorly. The triarchic model, allowing for intercorrelation among the
analytical, creative and practical factors, provided the best fit to the data (Sternberg
et al., 2001a).
In a third study, we tested 511 Russian school children (ranging in age from 8
to 17 years) as well as 490 mothers and 328 fathers of these children (Grigorenko
& Sternberg, 2001). We used entirely distinct measures of analytical, creative and
practical intelligence. Consider, for example, the tests we used for adults. Similar
tests were used for children.
Fluid analytical intelligence was measured by two subtests of a test of nonverbal intelligence. The Test of g: Culture Fair, Level II (Cattell & Cattell, 1973) is
a test of fluid intelligence designed to reduce, as much as possible, the influence of
verbal comprehension, culture and educational level, although no test eliminates
such influences. In the first subtest we used, Series, individuals were presented with
an incomplete, progressive series of figures. The participants task was to select,
from among the choices provided, the answer that best continued the series. In the
Matrices subtest, the task was to complete the matrix presented at the left of each
row.
The test of crystallised intelligence was adapted from existing traditional tests of
analogies and synonyms/antonyms used in Russia. We used adaptations of Russian
rather than American tests because the vocabulary used in Russia differs from that
used in the USA. The first part of the test included 20 verbal analogies
(KR20 0.83). An example is circleball square? (a) quadrangular, (b) figure, (c)
rectangular, (d) solid, (e) cube. The second part included 30 pairs of words and the
participants task was to specify whether the words in the pair were synonyms or
antonyms (KR20 0.74). Examples are latenthidden and systematicchaotic.
The measure of creative intelligence also comprised two parts. The first part
asked the participants to describe the world through the eyes of insects. The second
part asked participants to describe who might live and what might happen on a
planet called Priumliava. No additional information on the nature of the planet was
specified. Each part of the test was scored in three different ways to yield three
different scores. The first score was for originality (novelty); the second was for the
amount of development in the plot (quality); the third was for creative use of prior
knowledge in these relatively novel kinds of tasks (sophistication). The mean
inter-story reliabilities were 0.69, 0.75 and 0.75 for the three respective scores, all of
which were statistically significant at the P 0.001 level.
The measure of practical intelligence was self-report and also comprised two
parts. The first part was designed as a 20 item self-report instrument, assessing
practical skills in the social domain (e.g. effective and successful communication
with other people), in the family domain (e.g. how to fix household items, how to
run the family budget) and in the domain of effective resolution of sudden problems
(e.g. organising something that has become chaotic). For the subscales, internal
consistency estimates varied from 0.50 to 0.77. In this study, only the total practical
intelligence self-report scale was used (Cronbachs  0.71). The second part had

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Creative Thinking in the Classroom

329

four vignettes, based on themes that appeared in popular Russian magazines in the
context of discussion of adaptive skills in the current society. The four themes were,
respectively, how to maintain the value of ones savings, what to do when one makes
a purchase and discovers that the item one has purchased is broken, how to locate
medical assistance in a time of need and how to manage a salary bonus one has
received for outstanding work. Each vignette was accompanied by five choices and
participants had to select the best one. Obviously, there is no one right answer in
this type of situation. Hence we used the most frequently chosen response as the
keyed answer. To the extent that this response was suboptimal, this suboptimality
would work against us in subsequent analyses relating scores on this test to other
predictor and criterion measures.
In this study, exploratory principal component analysis for both children and
adults yielded very similar factor structures. Both varimax and oblimin rotations
yielded clear-cut analytical, creative and practical factors for the tests. Thus, a
sample of a different nationality (Russian) with a different set of tests and a different
method of analysis (exploratory rather than confirmatory analysis) again supported
the theory of successful intelligence. Creative ability, in particular, seems to be at
least somewhat distinct from analytical and practical abilities.
External validity. We have done three studies that look simultaneously at the
external validity of analytical, creative and practical abilities.
In the first set of studies, we explored the question of whether conventional
education in school systematically discriminates against children with creative and
practical strengths (Sternberg & Clinkenbeard, 1995; Sternberg et al., 1996, 1999).
Motivating this work was the belief that the systems in schools strongly tend to
favour children with strengths in memory and analytical abilities.
We used the STAT as described above. The test was administered to 326
children around the USA and in some other countries who were identified by their
schools as gifted by any standard whatsoever. Children were selected for a summer
programme in (college level) psychology if they fell into one of five ability groupings:
high analytical, high creative, high practical, high balanced (high in all three abilities)
or low balanced (low in all three abilities). Students who came to Yale were then
divided into four instructional groups. Students in all four instructional groups used
the same introductory psychology textbook (a preliminary version of Sternberg,
1995) and listened to the same psychology lectures. What differed among them was
the type of afternoon discussion section to which they were assigned. They were
assigned to an instructional condition that emphasised either memory, analytical,
creative or practical instruction. For example, in the memory condition they might
be asked to describe the main tenets of a major theory of depression. In the
analytical condition they might be asked to compare and contrast two theories of
depression. In the creative condition they might be asked to formulate their own
theory of depression. In the practical condition, they might be asked how they could
use what they had learned about depression to help a friend who was depressed.
Students in all four instructional conditions were evaluated in terms of their
performance on homework, a mid-term exam, a final exam and an independent

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330 R. J. Sternberg
project. Each type of work was evaluated for memory, analytical, creative and
practical quality. Thus, all students were evaluated in exactly the same way.
Our results suggested the utility of the theory of successful intelligence. First,
we observed when the students arrived at Yale that the students in the high creative
and high practical groups were much more diverse in terms of racial, ethnic,
socio-economic and educational backgrounds than were the students in the high
analytical group, suggesting that correlations of measured intelligence with status
variables such as these may be reduced by using a broader conception of intelligence. Thus, the kinds of students identified as strong differed in terms of populations from which they were drawn in comparison with students identified as strong
solely by analytical measures. More importantly, just by expanding the range of
abilities we measured, we discovered intellectual strengths that might not have been
apparent through a conventional test.
We found that all three ability tests (analytical, creative and practical)
significantly predicted course performance. When multiple regression analysis was
used, at least two of these ability measures contributed significantly to the prediction
of each of the measures of achievement. Perhaps as a reflection of the difficulty of
de-emphasising the analytical way of teaching, one of the significant predictors was
always the analytical score. (However, in a replication of our study with low income
African-American students from New York, Deborah Coates of the City University
of New York found a different pattern of results. Her data indicated that the
practical tests were better predictors of course performance than were the analytical
measures, suggesting that what ability test predicts what criterion depends on
population as well as mode of teaching.) Most importantly, there was an aptitude
treatment interaction whereby students who were placed in instructional conditions
that better matched their pattern of abilities out-performed students who were
mismatched. In other words, when students are taught in a way that fits how they
think, they do better in school. Children with creative and practical abilities, who are
almost never taught or assessed in a way that matches their pattern of abilities, may
be at a disadvantage in course after course, year after year.
In a follow-up study (Sternberg et al., 1998a,b), we looked at learning of social
studies and science by third graders and eighth graders. The 225 third graders were
students in a very low income neighbourhood in Raleigh, NC. The 142 eighth
graders were students who were largely middle to upper middle class studying in
Baltimore, MD, and Fresno, CA. In this study students were assigned to one of
three instructional conditions. In the first condition, they were taught the course that
basically they would have learned had we not intervened. The emphasis in the
course was on memory. In a second condition they were taught in a way that
emphasised critical (analytical) thinking. In the third condition they were taught in
a way that emphasised analytical, creative and practical thinking. All students
performance was assessed for memory learning (through multiple choice assessments) as well as for analytical, creative and practical learning (through performance
assessments).
As expected, we found that students in the successful intelligence (analytical,
creative, practical) condition outperformed the other students in terms of the

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331

performance assessments. One could argue that this result merely reflected the way
they were taught. Nevertheless, the result suggested that teaching for these kinds of
thinking succeeded. More important, however, was the result that children in the
successful intelligence condition out-performed the other children even on the
multiple choice memory tests. In other words, to the extent that ones goal is just to
maximise childrens memory for information, teaching for successful intelligence is
still superior. It enables children to capitalise on their strengths and to correct or to
compensate for their weaknesses and it allows children to encode material in a
variety of interesting ways.
We have now extended these results to reading curricula at the middle school
and the high school level. In a study of 871 middle school students and 432 high
school students we taught reading either triarchically or through the regular curriculum. At the middle school level reading was taught explicitly. At the high school
level reading was infused into instruction in mathematics, physical sciences, social
sciences, English, history, foreign languages and the arts. In all settings students who
were taught triarchially substantially out-performed students who were taught in
standard ways (Grigorenko et al., 2002).
In the third study, the Grigorenko & Sternberg (2001) study described above,
the analytical, creative and practical tests we employed were used to predict mental
and physical health among the Russian adults. Mental health was measured by
widely used paper and pencil tests of depression and anxiety and physical health was
measured by self-report. The best predictor of mental and physical health was the
practical intelligence measure. Analytical intelligence came second and creative
intelligence came third. All three contributed to prediction, however. Thus, we again
concluded that a theory of intelligence encompassing all three elements provides
better prediction of success in life than does a theory comprising just the analytical
element.
Thus the results of three sets of studies suggest that the theory of successful
intelligence is valid as a whole. Moreover, the results suggest that the theory can
make a difference not only in laboratory tests, but in school classrooms and even the
everyday life of adults as well. Consider further measures of creative intelligence, in
particular.
Measures of Creative Intelligence, in Particular
Intelligence tests contain a range of problems, some of them more novel than others.
In some of our work we have shown that when one goes beyond the range of
unconventionality of the tests, one starts to tap sources of individual differences
measured little or not at all by the tests. According to the theory of successful
intelligence, (creative) intelligence is particularly well measured by problems assessing how well an individual can cope with relative novelty. Thus it is important to
include in a battery of tests problems that are relatively novel in nature. These
problems can be either convergent or divergent in nature.
In work with convergent problems, we presented 80 individuals with novel
kinds of reasoning problems that had a single best answer. For example, they might

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332 R. J. Sternberg
be told that some objects are green and others blue, but still other objects might be
grue, meaning green until the year 2000 and blue thereafter, or bleen, meaning blue
until the year 2000 and green thereafter. Or they might be told of four kinds of
people on the planet Kyron: blens, who are born young and die young; kwefs, who
are born old and die old; balts, who are born young and die old; prosses, who are
born old and die young (Sternberg, 1982; Tetewsky & Sternberg, 1986). Their task
was to predict future states from past states, given incomplete information. In
another set of studies, 60 people were given more conventional kinds of inductive
reasoning problems, such as analogies, series completions and classifications, but
were told to solve them. However, the problems had premises preceding them that
were either conventional (dancers wear shoes) or novel (dancers eat shoes). The
participants had to solve the problems as though the counterfactuals were true
(Sternberg & Gastel, 1989a,b).
In these studies we found that correlations with conventional kinds of tests
depended on how novel or non-entrenched the conventional tests were. The more
novel the items, the higher the correlations of our tests with scores on successively
more novel conventional tests. Thus, the components isolated for relatively novel
items would tend to correlate more highly with more unusual tests of fluid abilities
(see, for example, Cattell & Cattell, 1973) than with tests of crystallised abilities. We
also found that when response times on the relatively novel problems were componentially analysed, some components better measured the creative aspect of intelligence than did others. For example, in the gruebleen task mentioned above, the
information processing component requiring people to switch from conventional
greenblue thinking to gruebleen thinking and then back to green-blue thinking
again was a particularly good measure of the ability to cope with novelty.
In work with divergent reasoning problems having no one best answer, we asked
63 people to create various kinds of products (Lubart & Sternberg, 1995; Sternberg
& Lubart, 1991, 1995, 1996) where an infinite variety of responses were possible.
Individuals were asked to create products in the realms of writing, art, advertising
and science. In writing, they would be asked to write very short stories for which we
would give them a choice of titles, such as Beyond the Edge or The Octopuss
Sneakers. In art, they were asked to produce art compositions with titles such as
The Beginning of Time or Earth from an Insects Point of View. In advertising,
they were asked to produce advertisements for products such as a brand of bow tie
or a brand of door knob. In science, they were asked to solve problems such as one
asking them how people might detect extraterrestrial aliens among us who are
seeking to escape detection. Participants created two products in each domain.
We found that creativity is relatively although not wholly domain specific.
Correlations of ratings of the creative quality of the products across domains were
lower than correlations of ratings and generally were at about the 0.4 level. Thus,
there was some degree of relation across domains, at the same time that there was
plenty of room for someone to be strong in one or more domains but not in others.
More importantly, perhaps, we found, as we had for the convergent problems, a
range of correlations with conventional tests of abilities. As was the case for the
correlations obtained with convergent problems, correlations were higher to the

Creative Thinking in the Classroom

333

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extent that problems on the conventional tests were non-entrenched. For example,
correlations were higher with fluid than with crystallised ability tests and correlations
were higher the more novel the fluid test was. These results show that tests of
creative intelligence have some overlap with conventional tests (e.g. in requiring
verbal skills or the ability to analyse ones own ideas) (Sternberg & Lubart, 1995)
but also tap skills beyond those measured even by relatively novel kinds of items on
the conventional tests of intelligence.
The work we did on creativity revealed a number of sources of individual and
developmental differences.
1. To what extent was the thinking of the individual novel or non-entrenched?
2. What was the quality of the individuals thinking?
3. To what extent did the thinking of the individual meet the demands of the
task?
We also found, though, that creativity, broadly defined, extends beyond the
intellectual domain. Sources of individual and developmental differences in creative
performance include not only process aspects, but aspects of knowledge, thinking
styles, personality, motivation and the environmental context in which the individual
operates (for details see Sternberg & Lubart, 1995).
Creative thinking skills can be taught and we have devised a programme for
teaching them (Sternberg & Williams, 1996). In some of our work we divided 86
gifted and non-gifted fourth grade children into experimental and control groups.
All children took pre-tests on insightful thinking. Then some of the children received
their regular school instruction whereas others received instruction on insight skills.
After the instruction of whichever kind, all children took a post-test on insight skills.
We found that children taught how to solve the insight problems using knowledge
acquisition components gained more from pre-test to post-test than did students
who were not so taught (Davidson & Sternberg, 1984).
WHAT FORM DOES TEACHING FOR CREATIVITY TAKE?
In teaching students to process information creatively, we encourage them to create,
invent, discover, explore, imagine and suppose. However, we believe that, to a large
extent, creativity is not just a matter of thinking in a certain way, but rather it is an
attitude toward life (Sternberg & Lubart, 1995, 1996). Creative people are creative,
in large part, because they have decided to be creative (Sternberg, 2000). What are
the decisions that underlie creative thinking? Perhaps there are at least 12 key ones.
1. Redefine problems. Redefining a problem means taking a problem that most
people see in one way and allowing and even prodding oneself to see it in
another way. It means not simply accepting things because other people
accept them.
2. Analyse your own ideas. No one has only good ideas. Even the most creative
psychologists sometimes make mistakes. Students need to learn to critique
their own ideas; to be the first to decide which of their ideas are really worth

334 R. J. Sternberg

3.

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4.

5.

6.

7.

pursuing and, later, to admit when they have made a mistake. Everyone
should retain a healthy degree of scepticism about any idea he or she has.
No one is right all the time, and people who lose their scepticism about
their own ideas may quickly reach dead ends because they may believe they
have all the answers.
Sell your ideas. When we are young we may believe that creative ideas sell
themselves. They dont. The creative process does not end with their
generation or even with their being critiqued. Because creative ideas
challenge existing ways of doing things, they must be sold to the public,
whether scientific or lay.
Knowledge is a double-edged sword. To be creative one has to be knowledgeable: one cannot go beyond what is known without knowing it. However,
knowledge can also impede creativity (Frensch & Sternberg, 1989).
Experts can become entrenched in ways of seeing things and lose sight of
other perspectives or points of view. It becomes important, therefore, for
teachers to impress upon students that students have as much to teach
teachers as teachers have to teach students. The teachers have the advantage of knowledge, the students of flexibility. Working together, they can
accomplish more than either can on their own. Teachers have to be
especially careful that they not dismiss students views simply because the
views happen not to fit into their own views of the world. On the one hand,
one cannot be creative without knowledge. Quite simply, one cannot go
beyond the existing state of knowledge if one does not know what that state
is. Many children have ideas that are creative with respect to themselves,
but not with respect to the field because others have had the same ideas
before. Those with a greater knowledge base can be creative in ways that
those who are still learning about the basics of the field cannot be. At the
same time, those who have an expert level of knowledge can experience
tunnel vision, narrow thinking and entrenchment. Experts can become so
stuck in a way of thinking that they become unable to extricate themselves
from it. Such narrowing does not just happen to others. It happens to
everyone. Learning must be a lifelong process, not one that terminates
when a person achieves some measure of recognition. When a person
believes that he or she knows everything there is to know, he or she is
unlikely to ever show truly meaningful creativity again.
Surmount obstacles. Because creative people defy the crowd, they inevitably
confront obstacles. The question is not whether they will confront obstacles, but whether they will have the guts to surmount them.
Take sensible risks. Our educational system often encourages students to
play it safe. On tests they give safe answers. When they write papers they
try to second-guess what their professors want to hear. But creative people
always are people who are willing to risk something and, in the process, fail
some of the time in order to succeed other times. Teachers need to
encourage such risk taking.
Willingness to grow. Many people have one creative idea early in their career

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8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

335

and then spend the rest of their life unfolding that idea. They become
unwilling or even afraid to go beyond that idea. Perhaps early on they
fought the scientific or other establishment to win acceptance of that idea.
Later, they become that establishment, fighting against the new ideas that
threaten their own self-perceived monopoly on truth.
Believe in yourself. Creative people often find that their ideas get a poor
reception. I suspect that all truly creative people come to believe, at some
time or another, that they have lost most or all their external sources of
intellectual and even emotional support. At these times, in particular, it is
particularly important that they maintain their belief in themselves, to
maintain a sense of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1996). If they lose this belief,
they will find themselves with nothing.
Tolerance of ambiguity. When we try creative things we often find that in
their early or even sometimes late stages they do not work out the way they
seemingly should. We go through prolonged, uncomfortable stages of
ambiguity where things just do not quite fall into place. Yet, in order to be
creative, we need to tolerate ambiguity long enough to get our ideas right.
Find what you love to do and do it. If research about creativity shows
anything, it is that people are at their most creative when they are doing
what they love to do (see, for example, Amabile, 1996). As teachers,
therefore, we need to encourage students to find their own niche, their own
love of psychology or anything else, and not to try to turn them into
disciples or intellectual clones who will do our thing rather than their
own.
Allowing time. Being creative takes time (Gruber & Wallace, 1999). The
view that most creative inspirations come in an isolated flash simply is not
correct. Students need to learn to allow time for incubation, reflection and
selection among alternative ideas. If they always rush, or are rushed, they
will have difficulty producing creative work.
Allowing mistakes. People learn from their mistakes. However if children
become afraid to make mistakes, they will have trouble being creative.
Creative people often have many failed ideas or products along the way to
their successful ones. Had they not had the opportunities to make these
mistakes, they perhaps never would have generated the idea or product for
which they became well known.

CONCLUSION
Our main conclusions are as follows. First, creative thinking is relatively distinct
from analytical and practical thinking. Knowing someones skills in analytical or
practical thinking will not say much about the persons skills in creative thinking.
Second, teaching for creative thinking in schools can improve childrens academic
performance. It helps the more creative children to capitalise on a strength at the
same time that it helps the less creative children to compensate for or correct a

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336 R. J. Sternberg
weakness. Third, creativity is in large part an attitude toward life. Specific decisions
can be made that enhance creativity.
Although, in this article, the discussion has been about creativity in general,
creativity can be of different kinds. Sternberg (1999b) has presented what he refers
to as a propulsion model of creative contributions (see also Sternberg et al., 2001b,
2002). The idea is that creative contributions propel a field forward in some way;
they are the result of creative leadership on the part of their creators. The propulsion
model is a descriptive taxonomy of eight types of creative contributions. Although
the eight types of contributions may differ in the extent of creative contribution they
make, there is no a priori way of evaluating amount of creativity on the basis of the
type of creative contribution. Certain types of creative contributions probably tend,
on average, to be greater in amounts of novelty than are others. For example,
replications tend, on average, not to be highly novel. But creativity also involves
quality of work, and the type of creative contribution a work makes does not
necessarily predict the quality of that work.
The eight types of creative contributions are as follows.
1. Replication. The creative contribution represents an effort to show that a
given field is where it should be. The propulsion is intended to keep the field
where it is rather than moving it.
2. Redefinition. The creative contribution represents an effort to redefine where
the field currently is. The current status of the field is thus seen from a new
point of view.
3. Forward incrementation. The creative contribution represents an attempt to
move the field forward in the direction in which it already is moving and the
contribution takes the field to a point to which others are ready to go.
4. Advance forward incrementation. The creative contribution represents an
attempt to move the field forward in the direction it is already going, but the
contribution moves beyond where others are ready for the field to go.
5. Redirection. The creative contribution represents an attempt to move the
field from where it is currently headed toward a new and different direction.
6. Reconstruction/redirection. The creative contribution represents an attempt to
move the field back to where it once was (a reconstruction of the past) so
that the field may move onward from that point, but in a direction different
from the one it took in the past.
7. Reinitiation. The creative contribution represents an attempt to move the
field to a different and as yet not reached starting point and then to move the
field in a new direction from that point.
8. Integration. The creative contribution represents an attempt to move the field
by putting together aspects of two or more past kinds of contributions that
formerly were viewed as distinct or even opposed. This type of contribution
shows the potentially dialectical nature of creative contributions particularly
well, in that it merges into a new Hegelian type of synthesis two ideas that
formerly may have been seen as opposed (Sternberg, 1999a).
The eight types of creative contributions described above are viewed as qualita-

Creative Thinking in the Classroom

337

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tively distinct. However, within each type there can be quantitative differences. For
example, a forward incrementation may represent a fairly small step forward for a
given field or it may represent a substantial leap. A reinitiation may restart an entire
field or just a small area of that field. Moreover, a given contribution may overlap
categories. For example, a forward incrementation may be the result of an integration of somewhat closely related concepts in the field.
Teachers may think they are rewarding creativity but only be rewarding one
kind of creativity. When we teach for creativity in schools, then, we need to
encourage all kinds of creativity, not just the more conventional kinds (such as
forward incrementation). Teachers who reward all kinds of creativity are those who
are likely to find among their students those who have made one of the most
important decisions a person can make in his or her life: the decision to be creative.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Preparation of this article was supported by grant REC-9979843 from the National
Science Foundation and grant no. R206R000001 from the US Office of Educational
Research and Improvement and a grant from the W.T. Grant Foundation. This
support does not imply acceptance or endorsement of the positions taken in the
article.
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