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Upon completion of this Topic, you should be able to:

• Differentiate between critical and creative thinking

• Discuss Socratic questioning
• List the critical thinking skills
• Define creative thinking
• Describe the creative process
• Explain ways to foster creativity
• Explain the obstacles to creative thinking
• Discuss how children can be encouraged to be more creative


While most people would agree that schools should aim for the development of
thinking among students, there is less agreement on what is thinking. Over the decades
many terms have been proposed to describe thinking and surely you have heard of some
of them. Among the common terms are: critical thinking, reflective thinking, lateral
thinking, analogical reasoning, inductive thinking, deductive thinking, logical thinking,
analytical thinking and so forth. Are they different ‘types’ of thinking? In what way are
they similar or different? The many terms used to describe has complicated the task of
educators trying to bring thinking to the classroom. A
doctor deciding on the right prescription; a housewife
balancing the family budget; a lawyer preparing for the
best possible defence of her client; the teacher planning a
lesson for the day or a person simply sitting and
deliberating what to do as portrayed in the famous sculptor
by Rodin (see Figure 6.1). Are these manifestations of
thinking? What kinds of thinking activities are involved?
Various theoreticians and researchers have attempted to
define thinking.
• Bartlett (1958) defined thinking as interpolation (i.e.
filling in gaps of information), extrapolation (i.e. going
beyond the information given) and re-interpretation
(i.e rearranging information).
Figure 6.1
• Warren (1934) defined thinking as a predetermined
“The Thinker” by the
course of ideas, symbolic in character initiated by a
sculptor Rodin
problem or task and leading to a conclusion.
• Dewey (1933) defined thinking as an attempt to
examine and evaluate information based on certain criteria.

• Fraenkel (1980) defined thinking as the formation of ideas, reorganisation of one’s
experience and the organisation of information in a particular form.
• Chaffee (1988) characterises thinking as an unusual process used in making
decisions and solving problems.
• Bourne, Ekstrand and Dominowski (1985) define thinking as a complex,
multifaceted process that is essentially internal involving symbolic representation
of events and objects initiated by some external events.
• Mayer (1983) viewed thinking from three perpectives:
o Cognitive (i.e. involving knowing, preceiving and conceiving) which occurs
internally in the mind or cognitive system and is inferred indrectly from
o Manipulation of a set of operations of knowledge in the cognitive system
o Results in behaviour directed towards the solution of a problem.
• Nickerson, Perkins and Smith (1985) looked upon thinking as a collection of
skills or mental operations used by inidividuals.

A synthesis of the various definitions of thinkings reveals the following 5

characteristics of thinking (see Figure 6.2). First, it is evident that thinking is a process
that requires knowledge because it is quite impossible to think in a vacuum. For
example, a boy who is dreaming about owning a 16-speed bike and thinking about ways
to get the bike. Knowledge about ways to get the bike might include the following:
doing odd jobs to save money, borrowing the money from a friend or buyingg a used
bike. Second, thinking involves the manipulation of mental or cognitive skills such as
comparing, classifying, analysis, synthesis and so forth. These skills can be performed
well or poorly. When performed poorly, it can be improved or enhanced. Third,
thinking is targeted at the solution of a problem. For example, thinking how to write an
essay, solving a mathematical problem or raising money for the poor. Fourth, thinking
is manifested in a behaviour or ability such as being able to compare, classify,
differentiate and so forth. Fifth, thinking is reflected in certain attitudes that are
indicative of good and poor thinking.

…. is a mental process requiring knowledge

…. involves the manipulation of mental skills

THINKING ….. aims at the solution of problems

….. manifests in a behaviour

….. is reflected in an attitude

Figure 6.2 A General Definition of Thinking


If there is no agreed upon definition of thinking, how does one go about

determining good and poor thinkers? Glatthorn and Baron (1985) and Nickerson (1987)
developed a list of attributes of good and poor thinkers (see Table 6.1).

Good Thinker Poor Thinker

Welcomes problematic situations Prefers situations which are more definite
Open to multiple possibilities Prefers limited possibilities
Uses evidence skilfully Ignore evidence
Make judgement only after considering Quick to make judgement
all angles
Listens to other people’s views Ignore other people’s views
Reflective Impulsive
Perseveres in searching for information Gives up easily and is lazy to think

Table 6.1 Attributes of Good and Poor Thinkers

According to them, a good thinker unlike a poor thinker welcomes problematic

situations and is tolerant of ambiguity. A good thinker is self-critical and looks for
alternative possibilities and goals, and seeks evidence on both sides, while the poor
thinker is satisfied with first attempts. The good thinker is reflective and deliberative
while the poor thinker is impulsive and gives up prematurely. While the good thinker
believes in the value of rationality, the poor thinker overvalues intuition and believes
that thinking would not help. The good thinker is open to multiple suggestions and
considers alternatives while the poor thinker prefers to deal with limited possibilities
and is reluctant to seek alternatives. The good thinker uses evidence that challenges
favoured possibilities while the poor thinker tends to ignore evidence that challenges
favoured possibilities.

a) Among the several definitions suggested by experts in the
which definition in your opinion is the most
comprehensive? Give your reasons
b) What are characteristics of a good thinker? Suggest other
attributes which you think are reflective of good thinkers.


The characteristic that differentiates humans from animals is the ability to think.
Humans are naturally endowed with the capacity to deduce, to classify, to apply, to

infer, to predict, to think numerically, to think temporally and spatially to name a few.
It is as natural as breathing! However, the ability to think is not equally distributed. As
pointed out by Nickerson;

All people classify, but not equally perceptively,

All people make estimates, but not equally accurately,
All people use analogies, but not equally appropriate,
All people draw conclusions, but not with equal care,
All people construct arguments, but not with equal cogency.
(1987, p.28)

It has been suggested that the distinction between an educated and uneducated
person will not only be in the amount of knowledge possessed but more importantly the
ability to think and use such knowledge. All too often schools overemphasise the
mastery of content to the exclusion of thinking about the content. Thinking has not been
given due consideration partly due to certain perceptions educators have about thinking
(see Figure 6.3). First, there is the perception among some educators that the
development of thinking skills should be confined to the academically superior learners
because they “can think”. Teaching thinking to academically weak learners would be
futile and even frustrating because they will have difficulty taking part in such activities.
This belief may arise from the belief that “thinking” is a mental activity too arduous for
the academically weak.

Only academically
superior learners can think
Perceptions about Learners need to master
Developing the content before they
Thinking Skills can think about it

Since examinations test

mastery of facts, teaching
thinking is a waste of time

Teaching thinking will

increase the workload of

Figure 6.3 Perceptions of Educators about Teaching Thinking

Second is the belief that children should have a complete understanding of a

subject area before they can deliberate and think about the facts, concepts and
principles. Educators who subscribe to this view tend to be preoccupied with coverage
of the syllabuses rather than ensuring understanding. It is often not known that
understanding is the consequence of thinking and if learners are taught to think about
the content they are learning, then understanding is greatly enhanced which would
result in better academic performance (see Figure 6.4).



Figure 6.4 Interaction between Thinking, Learning and Academic Performance

[source: John Arul Phillips. Perkembangan kemahiran berfikir pelajar melalui program
KBSM. Jurnal Pendidikan Guru. 8. 1992. p. 14]

Third, is related to examinations. Few would deny that schooling is extremely

examination oriented because the success of a learner is determined how he or she
performs in public examinations. Also, a school is judged by the number of passes and
the number of A’s obtained by learners. Unfortunately, examinations tend to test the
acquisition of facts or more precisely how well students are able to remember and recall
facts. Few questions demand higher order thinking. Given this situation, educators are
rather reluctant to venture into teaching for higher order outcomes because they are
tested minimally in examinations.
Finally, is the concern by some educators that teaching thinking will entail
preparation and production of materials which will further exasperate the already heavy
workload of teachers. However, to ally the fears of educators, it should be emphasised
that teaching thinking only minimally increases workload. What is required of
educators is a re-examination of current approaches in presenting content and how
thinking skills might be ‘infused’ during teaching [We will discuss the infusion
approach in more detail later].

a) “Students may be taught how to think but not what to
think”. Discuss
b) To what extent do you agree with the perceptions of
educators on teaching thinking as shown in Figure 6.3?


Generally, all thinking is directed to the solution of some problems and/or

making decisions. When one talks about the process of thinking, one is actually
referring to problem solving and decision making activities undertaken (see Figure 6.6).
Similarly, when one talks about improving the thinking of learners one is actually
referring to the problem solving and decision making abilities of the learner (process of
thinking). Learners are solving problems and making decisions everyday. Problems
come in all shapes and sizes and begins with a gap which has to be filled. Some of the
problems are well-defined such as mathematical problems whereby the steps leading to
its solution is definite, sequential and the goal is clearly stated. However, some
problems are ill-defined and the desired goal is not clear or obvious and the steps
leading to its solutions may vary such as writing a poem. In ill-defined problems, the
goal may be vague or incomplete, which makes the generation of solutions difficult and
their evaluation even more difficult.

DECISION MAKING Process of Thinking

CRITICAL CREATIVE Macro-Thinking Skills


Sample of Skills:
prediction generalising observing
inferencing application comparison Micro-Thinking Skills
evaluation analysis synthesis

[source: reprinted with permission: J.A.Phillips. Enhancing the thinking and learning skills of
students: The PADI programme. Proceedings of the International Conference on Excellence
in Thinking. Bangi, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. 1993. 166]

Figure 6.5 A Programme for Teaching Thinking

A decision involves two or more competing alternatives of action. Usually, each
alternative has several pros and cons associated with it. Unlike problem solving, in
decision making there is no single correct solution. The learner has to judge which
alternative is the best and oftentimes decisions have to be made with insufficient
information. Also, it is important to realise that a decision is judged to be good or bad
after the fact. For example, if it succeeds, it is a good decision but if it failed it is a bad
decision. Problem solving and decision making overlap and in many ways “one can
view decision making as a special case of problem solving and vice-versa” (Swartz and
Perkins, 1990, p.150).

For example, if a learner had to vote for a member of parliament, he or she

might consider the pros and cons of each candidate. This is a decision making task. But,
if the learner is having a weight problem, then he or she might fins out what is causing
the problem. Is it over-eating, the kinds of food eaten or lack of exercise? This is a
problem solving task. Both problem solving and decision making require the
employment of critical and creative thinking. There is hardly any task in a learner’s life
that does not involve critical and creative thinking (macro-thinking skills). For example,
deciding which car or motorcycle to buy requires comparison and evaluation which are
subskills of critical thinking. Attempting to come up with an unusual design for
multimedia presentation requires creative thinking.
Both critical and creative thinking are served by various subskills such as
detection of bias, prediction, evaluation, inferencing and so forth (micro-thinking
skills). Improving the acquisition and usage of these subskills in learners will help them
to be better critical and creative thinkers and in turn improve their problem solving and
decision making abilities.

a) Discuss the difference between the process of thinking,
macro-thinking skills and micro-thinking skills as proposed in
the model in Figure 7.5.
b) “Problem-solving require the employment of critical and
creative thinking”. Discuss.


The term of critical thinking is

sometimes misunderstood to mean an activity
aimed at criticising or pointing out the
weaknesses and finding fault with others.
However, this interpretation of the definition is
not accurate. The term “critical” is derived
from the Greek word kritikos which means to
question, to make sense of, to be able to
analyse. There has been a tendency for some
educators to interpret critical thinking more
broadly and to include all good thinking as
critical thinking. However, other educators
prefer the more narrow concept of critical
• For example, Dewey (1933) defined
critical thinking as reflective thinking
which is thinking deeply and giving
serious thought to a certain issue or
• According to Bloom’s taxonomy (1956), “evaluation” would be considered as
critical thinking wherein objects, ideas or events are assessed based on certain
• Ennis (1985) defined critical thinking as deciding whether a certain thing is to
be believed or not. According to him, critical thinking encourages the individual
to analyse statements carefully, find valid evidence before making a decision.
The ability to evaluate is the basis of critical thinking; which involves evaluating
ideas, evidence, suggestions, actions and solutions.
• Similarly, Swartz and Perkins (1990) viewed critical thinking as the “critical
examination and evaluation, of actual and potential beliefs and courses of
action” (p.37). For example, the statement that ‘Use of mobile phones can lead
to cancer’. How do we know that? What evidence is there to support this claim?
Is the evidence reliable and valid?
• Russell (1945) did not attempt to define critical thinking but instead suggested
that to be able to think critically, the following four main conditions are
1. A knowledge of the field or subject in which the thinking is being done.
2. A general attitude of questioning and suspended judgement; a habit of
examining before accepting
3. Some application of method of logical analysis or scientific inquiry
4. Taking action in light of this analysis or reasoning.

In short, learners who think critically evaluate whether to accept a particular reason as
appropriate or reasonable, use accepted criteria to evaluate the reason given, use
different reasoning strategies in the implementation of the said criteria or standards,
find information that is reliable as evidence supporting the decision made. As suggested
by Fisher (1990) learners:
• Learn to question
o Learn when to question
o Learn what types of questions to ask
• Learn to reason
o Learn when to use reasoning
o Learn to use the appropriate reasoning methods


Critical thinking is composed both of skills/abilities and certain related attitudes

or dispositions (see Figure 6.6). Skills or abilities relate to the cognitive aspect of critical
thinking while attitudes or dispositions relate to the affective aspect of critical thinking.

Abilities / Skills

Attitudes / Dispositions

Figure 7.6 The Components of Critical Thinking


Critical thinking consists of a collection of abilities/ skills which may be used
singly or in combination and in whatever order. To develop critical thinking skills of
students it is necessary that the characteristics of the various subskills be clearly
understood. The clearer these subskills are, the easier it would be for educators to
develop them in the classroom. Numerous suggestions have been put forward by
various experts in the field. Among them is the well known Robert Ennis (1968) who
broke down critical thinking into a number of subskills as shown in Table 6.2.


• The ability to recognise vague and ambiguous language

• The ability to recognise types of language that aim to influence
• The ability to form and apply concepts
• The ability to analyse arguments:
o Identify conclusions
o Identify stated / unstated reasons
o See similarities and differences
o Identify and handle irrelevance
o See the structure of an argument
o Summarise
• The ability to relates ideas, things and events such as chronological, process,
comparative, analogical and causal relationships
• The ability to go beyond factual information and draw inferences
• The ability to evaluate information based on certain criteria
• The ability to identify fallacies, circularity of argument, bandwagonism,
oversimplification and others

[source: Robert Ennis. 1962. A Concept of Critical Thinking. Harvard Educational

32. p. 84]

Table 6.2 List of Critical Thinking Abilities

Definition – Each of the skill or abilities listed has a definition, a set of generic
procedures and statement of conditions when it is to be used. For example, to ‘infer’
means to go beyond the explicit information given. i.e. to read between the lines (text
implicit) and to read beyond the lines (schema implicit).
When does one use this critical thinking skill? – This skill may be employed when one
wants to know the hidden or implied message of a statement.
How does one go about inferring? – First is to understand properly the literal message
of a statement. Second is to select certain words or phrases that have an implied
meaning. At times the inference can be drawn merely by ‘reading between the lines’,
but on other occasions, one has to use one’s prior knowledge and go ‘beyond the lines’
to make inferences.


A critical thinker is one who not only possesses the above thinking skills but is
disposed or inclined to exhibit or use them. According to Glaser (1941), “persons who
have acquired a disposition to want evidence for beliefs and who have acquired an
attitude for reasonableness have also acquired something of a way of life which makes

for more considerate and human relationships” (p.6). In other words, a learner who
thinks critically is not only skilful in evaluating information but also a person who:
• thinks rationally. Rational comes from the word ‘ration’ which means ‘balance’.
Students who reason critically are able to examine their experiences, evaluate
and weigh differing opinions and ideas before making a decision. The student
is also able to determine the validity of information.
• is curious and open-minded. A person may be considered a critical thinker if he
or she is prepared to listen and examine other people’s ideas and suspend
judgement when information is incomplete.
• gives importance to accuracy, objectivity and desires clear explanation.
• is sensitive to alternatives and other people’s feelings, level of knowledge and
degree of sophistication.

According to Russell (1956), many students do not learn to think critically

themselves; they need help in becoming critical thinkers. Students need adult guidance
to develop critical thought. The need for critical thinking was never more important
than today when students are increasingly bombarded with countless bits of
information. The onus is upon the learner to determine what to believe and what to
ignore. As candidly suggested by Russell, “although there is little scientific evidence
available, the whole effect of the mass media in a person’s life is probably to make him
uncritical of ideas presented to him or her” (1956, p.287).



Socratic questioning is named after the Greek

philosopher and teacher, Socrates who believed that to
discipline the mind, teachers should engage students in
thoughtful dialogue. Socrates was convinced that
disciplined practice of thoughtful questioning enables the
scholar/student to examine ideas logically and to be able to
determine the validity of those ideas. Although “Socratic
questioning” appears simple, it is in fact intensely rigorous.
This questioning approach can correct misconceptions and
lead to reliable knowledge construction. The teacher
pleads ignorance about a given subject in order to encourage
students to participate and draw out answers from them. He
assumed that incomplete or inaccurate ideas would be
corrected during the process of disciplined questioning, and Socrates
hence would lead to progressively greater truth and (470-399 B.C)
accuracy. Plato and Aristotle were students of Socrates and
Plato wrote much about what we know of him. The six types
of questions that Socrates asked is simple yet a strong method for exploring ideas or
statements in depth and breadth. By following up all answers with further questions,
and by selecting questions which advance the discussion, the Socratic questioner forces
students to think in a disciplined,

1. Questions seeking clarification or explanation:

• What do you mean by ______?

• What is your main point?
• How does ____ relate to ____?
• Could you put that another way?
• What do you think is the main issue here?
• Let me see if I understand you; do you mean _____ or _____?
• Jamal, would you summarize in your own words what Leela has said?
• Could you give me an example?
• Would this be an example: ____?
• Could you explain that further?
• Could you expand upon that?

2. Questions about the questions or issue:

• How can we find out?

• What does this question assume?
• Would ____ put the question differently?
• How could someone settle this question?
• Can we break this question down at all?
• Is the question clear? Do we understand it?
• Is this question easy or hard to answer? Why?
• Does this question ask us to evaluate something?
• Do we all agree that this is the question?
• To answer this question, what questions would we have to answer first?
• I'm not sure I understand how your are interpreting the main question at issue.
• Is this the same issue as ____?
• How would ____ put this issue?
• Why is this question important?
• Does this question lead to other questions or issues?

3. Questions that probe assumptions:

• What are you assuming?

• What is Zalina assuming?
• What could we assume instead?
• You seem to be assuming ____. Do I understand you correctly?
• All of your reasoning depends on the idea that ____. Why have you based your
reasoning on ____ rather than ____?
• You seem to be assuming ____. How would you justify taking this for granted?
• Is it always the case? Why do you think the assumption holds here?
• Why would someone make this assumption?

4. Questions that probe reasons and evidence:

• What would be an example?

• How do you know?
• Why do you think that is true?
• Do you have any evidence for that?

• What difference does that make?
• What are your reasons for saying that?
• What other information do we need?
• Could you explain your reasons to us?
• Are these reasons adequate?
• Can you explain how you logically got from ____ to ____?
• Do you see any difficulties with their reasoning here?
• Why did you say that?
• What led you to that belief?
• How does that apply to this case?
• What would change your mind?
• But is that good evidence to believe that?
• Is there reason to doubt that evidence?

5. Questions that probe implications and consequences:

• What are you implying by that?

• When you say ____, are you implying ____?
• But if that happened, what else would happen as a result? Why?
• What effect would that have?
• Would that necessarily happen or only probably happen?
• What is the probability of this result?
• What is an alternative?
• If this and this are the case, then what else must also be true?
• If we say that this is unethical, how about that?

6. Questions about viewpoints or perspectives

• You seem to be approaching this issue from ____ perspective. Why have you
chosen this rather than that perspective?
• How would other groups/types of people respond? Why? What would influence
• How could you answer the objection that ____ would make?
• What might someone who believed ____ think?
• Can/did anyone see this another way?
• What would someone who disagrees say?
• What is an alternative?


What percentage of Malaysians are creative? 5%,

10%, 30% or 50%. The response from most people is that
only a small number of people are creative. Actually,
everyone is creative, though some people are more creative
than others. As quite aptly stated by Hilgard (1960), “the
capacity to create useful or beautiful products and to find
ways of resolving perplexity is not limited to the highly
gifted, but is the birthright of every person of average
talent” (p.62). The distinguishing criterion is the extent to
which students have been able to realise their creative
potential. Students are by nature creative but many tend to suppress their creative
abilities which may remain as “hidden talents”.
Being creative is not about writing great poems (like Omar Khayam, Usman
Awang, Tagore or John Keats), or producing great paintings (like Leonardo da Vinci
or Latiff Mohidin), or musical compositions (like Mozart, Ravi Shankar or P. Ramlee).
Traditional notions of creativity tend to emphasise the production of something novel
in the fine arts. One only needs to watch children to realise how curious they are in
investigating the world around and adept at finding answers to problems that arise from
their curiosity. It is this natural ability in children to produce creative answers, creative
methods and creative uses of materials that needs to be nurtured. Unfortunately,
curiosity in children tends to be stifled when parents and teachers insist that children
conform to tradition and ‘straight-jacket’ them into behaving in ways that does not
foster creativity. Soon children realise that it is less and less meaningful to express
themselves or to investigate their world. Just think how many children who had the
potential to be creative had to so-called “tow the line” by well-meaning adults and the
process lost their creative spirit.
DeBono (1963) introduced the concept of vertical and lateral thinking. He
illustrates vertical thinking as digging the same well deeper in search of water while
lateral thinking as digging another well somewhere else. Vertical thinking is commonly
practiced by most individuals because it is sometimes regarded as the ‘more logical
thing to do’. However, lateral thinking is a way of thinking “around” a problem and is
not a natural mental activity for most individuals.

“Lateral thinking generates the idea and vertical

thinking develops it” (DeBono, 1968, 6).

It is the ability to perceive a problem from a different perspective which is not

immediately obvious and contributes to creative ideas or products. Guilford (1968)
made a distinction between convergent and divergent thinking (see Figure 6.7).
Convergent thinking occurs when a student brings material from various sources to
solve a problem so as to produce the ‘correct answer’. The emphasis is on logic and
accuracy and focuses on accumulating information, recognising the familiar, reapplying
set techniques and preserving the already known. It is most effective when in situations
where ready-made answers exist and needs to be recalled from stored information.
Convergent thinking leads to the single “best answer” and thus leaves no room for
ambiguity. Answers are either right or wrong. For example, “What are the causes of
traffic jams in Kuala Lumpur?

Convergent Thinking Divergent Thinking

Figure 6.7 Convergent and Divergent Thinking

In contrast, divergent thinking involves producing multiple or alternative

answers from available information. It requires the recognition of links between remote
possibilities. It requires the transformation of known information into something ‘new’
and ‘unusual’. The learner takes risk by venturing into uncertain areas and explores
various possibilities. He or she is willing to be different and deviate from the usual in
generating as many ideas possible when presented with a stimulus. For example, “How
can traffic jams in Kuala Lumpur be reduced?
There is a tendency to equate divergent thinking with creativity and convergent
thinking as conventional thinking. Also, divergent thinking is seen as good and
convergent thinking as bad or at best as a necessary evil that is greatly exaggerated in
schools and business. However, it is realised that both kinds of thinking as important in
creativity. Any creative production is the result of both the accumulation of facts
(convergent thinking) and divergent thinking (reorganisation or transformation of the
facts). One cannot generate some new or unusual unless one is equipped with a body of
knowledge or information about the area examined. For example, to generate solutions
to traffic jams in Kuala Lumpur one should know what are the causes of traffic jams.

Think of as many different uses for each of the following
- a brick - a paper clip
- a spoon - an empty plastic bottle
- a CD cover - an old newspaper


There is no definition of creativity that can be agreed upon because experts in

the field have different notions of the mental activity. The following are some
definitions of creativity:

• Torrance (1962) a well-know authority in the area of creativity defined
creativity as “a process of becoming sensitive to problems, deficiencies, gaps in
knowledge, missing elements, disharmonies and so on; identifying the difficult,
searching for solutions, making guesses or formulating hypotheses about the
deficiencies, testing and retesting these hypotheses and possibly modifying and
retesting them in; and finally communicating the results” (p. 8).
• Guilford (1991) suggests that to be creative one has to think divergently which
requires originality (generation of unusual ideas), flexibility (generation of
different ideas, sensitivity towards problems; and also to think convergently
(equipped with the facts, concepts and principles of the phenomena examined)
• Parnes (1967) view creativity as a function of imagination and facts, and the
ability to find ideas and problems.
• Perkins (1984) in a review of various definitions of creativity concluded that it
is a process of generating unique products by transformation of existing
products which could be something tangible or intangible and considered
unique and valuable to the person who produced it.
• VanGrundy (1991) describes creativity as the process for bringing something
new, unusual, or original into being which may be a product, a method, a
system, or an idea.
• Mayesky (1995) defines creativity as “a way of thinking and acting or making
something that is original for the individual and valued by that person or others.
What this means is that a new way to solve a problem or to produce a new
product, such as a song, a poem, or a new machine, is a creative act. A person
does not have to be the first one in the world to produce something in order for
it to be considered a creative act” (p. 4).
• Khatena (1978) describes creativity as fluency which is the ability to produce
many ideas for a given task; flexibility which is the ability to show a conceptual
shift in thinking relative to a given task; originality which is the ability to
produce unusual or clever ideas that not many other people think of; and
elaboration which is the ability to add details to the basic idea.

Many believe that to be creative one has to produce

something that has not been produced or done by others
and to be the first one to do so. However, this is not
altogether true. Creativity could be expressed by adapting
or modifying of what is already available. For example,
improving on an existing product by making it more
efficient, affordable, portable, durable, attractive or
whatever is a creative act; sometimes referred to jokingly
as being a “creative copycat”.
Regardless of how creativity is defined, most
people would agree that it is a crucial aspect of a child’s
development. All the great inventions, discoveries,
innovations and artistic expressions known to humankind
are the consequences of creative thinking. The “Thinking Out of
advancement of any civilisation or culture depends on the the Box”
creative abilities of its people or being able to “Think Out
of the Box”. The ability to think creatively is becoming even more important as nations
rapidly transform into technological societies where a strong creative potential will

provide the means of coping with the future. It is difficult to predict the nature of future
societies but the problem encountered will have to be addressed creatively.

a) What is your definition of a creative person?
b) Compare your definition of creativity with experts in
the field.
c) To what extent do schools develop the creative abilities of


How does the creative process operate? Are there specific steps in producing
something creative? One of the earliest descriptions of the creative process was
provided by Wallas in 1926 in which were identified 4 stages: preparation, incubation,
illumination and verification (see Figure 6.8).
• At the preparation stage, the individual who is confronted with a problem,
identifies what is to be dome and ways to solve the problem. It is here that
information is gathered, ideas manipulated and trying out of ideas to find one
that fits or one that feels right.





Figure 6.8 Stages in the Creative Process

• If the individual comes to what seems like a dead end or mental block and
cannot find the solution, he or she is advised to put the problem aside. This is
called the incubation stage. By temporarily leaving the problem, the mind
“unfreezes” itself of being glued to a particular pattern of thinking. It also give
the mind time to recall relevant information from memory which was earlier not
available for the solution of the problem.
• After this stage, the chances are that the solution will become apparent at the
illumination stage. This has been described as the “AHA” phenomenon; the
flash-like, unexpected or sudden insight as to the solution of the problem (or
Eureka! for some). Recognition of the insight usually followed by a positive

emotional reaction in the individual such joy, a sense of accomplishment and
the desire to share the ‘discovery’ with others such as parents and teachers.
• The verification stage is where the individual checks to determine if the solution
to the problem is viable and widely applicable. At times it might be necessary
to verify whether the solution is cost-effective, not time consuming and so forth.

Another variant of the creative process is provided by Parnes, Noller and Biondi in 1977
who viewed the process as involving “Three Ss”, i.e. sensitivity, synergy and
serendipity (see Figure 6.9).
• Sensitivity is when one uses all the senses (touch, smell, taste, sight and
hearing) to investigate the world. It has been suggested that “highly creative
people experience the physical world with greater intensity than the rest of us”
Halpern, 1984, p.319). Sensitivity also relates to the ability not only to solve
problems but also find problems.




Figure 6.9 Origin of a Creative Idea

• Synergy is the bringing together of seemingly disparate parts into a useful and
functioning whole. In other words. Diverse and different bits of information and
ideas a re synthesised or brought together to form and work as a new entity.
• Serendipity means making discoveries by accident or unexpected discovery
that comes about when bits of information are bought together (quite similar to
illumination). For example, a new idea is discovered as a result of an accident
or mishap. In fact, most inventions and discoveries result from a methodological
and systematic process requiring persistence, motivation and sheer hard work.
Remember the old saying; “Success is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration”.

a) What is the difference between the ‘incubation’ and
‘illumination’ stage in the creative process?
Give specific examples.
b) Discuss the ‘3s’ in the creative process proposed by Parnes,
Noller and Biondi.


There are many attributes of a creative person and as such there is no set of
criteria with which to describe a creative individual. However, teachers and parents
interested in developing creativity in students should begin with the premise that all
students are creative to some degree, though some individuals are more creative than
others, and some are more creative in one area than another. Researchers such as
Torrance (1962) and Williams (1968) have attempted to identify the characteristics,
traits and attributes that have something to do with being creative. But, as pointed by
MacKinnon, “there are many paths along which persons travel toward the full
development and expression of their creative potential, and there is no single mould
into which all who are creative will” (1974, p.186). Among the many attributes of a
creative person, the following traits may be more characteristic of the creative person
(see Figure 6.10)
It should also be realised that besides the listed traits, creative persons also
exhibit certain not so desirable behaviours such as stubbornness, discontentment, fault
finding and even rudeness. However, it depends on how these behaviours are
manifested. For example, stubbornness may be a positive trait when the person
perseveres in carrying out a new idea and does not give up easily.

• Restless and easily bored

• Willing to try and explore
• Humorous
• Has wide general knowledge
• Good memory
• Attracted to the unusual and unique
• Spontaneous
• Not shy or afraid of others remarks
• Intrinsically motivated
• High aesthetic value

Figure 6.10 Some Common Attributes of a Creative Person

Also, traits of fault finding and discontentment may be viewed positively as it

may result in the person questioning things even though it may be viewed undesirable.
It is for this reason that teachers and parents should understand creativity and how it
manifests itself because certain behaviours perceived to be undesirable if discouraged
may in the process destroy creative potential in students.
One of the main attributes of a creative mind is being open-minded to various
possibilities. However, the human mind is prevented from being more creative because
individuals build wall that hamper creative thinking. Society, especially educator and
parents have an important role to identify those barriers which originate within the
student and imposed on the child externally. Unfortunately, students are not aware of
these barriers to creative thinking but society can play a role in assisting students
develop the mental abilities to overcome these obstacles (see Figure 6.11).

Basically, there are two groups of barriers, classified as either internal or
external. Those barriers imposed by the individual himself or herself are grouped as
internal obstacles. For example, the fear of failure prevents some people from even
trying anything. Those barriers imposed by society, the home or school are grouped as
external obstacles. For example, parents or teachers who are autocratic may discourage
the questioning attitude in students. However, between the two groups of barriers,
overcoming internal barriers imposed by oneself is perhaps more important. Once a
person is able to liberate his or her mind set, creative thinking is possible because the
influence of external barriers may be greatly reduced.

Internal Barriers
Generally, humans are extremely logical and because of this they tend to impose
on themselves many constraints and barriers which may not even exist. One of the most
significant barriers to being creative is the fear of failure or making mistakes. If students
are led to believe that failure is bad then they will not even try because they are so
worried about failing. As the saying does, “nothing venture nothing gained”. Students
scolded for making mistakes may be reluctant from venturing into the unknown.

• Fear of failure or making mistakes
• Scared of criticisms
• Making judgements too hastily
• Low tolerance for ambiguity
• Too keen to solve problems quickly
• Negative towards new ideas
• Imagination considered a waste of time
• Questioning is considered rude
• Preference for tradition
• Overemphasis on cooperation or on competition

Figure 6.11 Some Common Barriers to Creativity

Similarly, the fear of negative criticism can cause learners to shy away from
coming up with anything new or radical; and in the process may have killed the creative
talent of many students and their valuable ideas. Generally, students brought up to take
the safe course and not to take risks. While it is agreed that caution is important in
helping students avoid life-threatening situation, in other situations innovative ideas
would not evolve if students are concerned with only ‘playing safe’. Creative thinking
requires some element of risk-taking. If not, many of the great innovation, discoveries
and inventions throughout history would not have taken place.
Another barrier to creativity is making judgements too quickly. It is rejecting
an idea or suggestion as soon as it is proposed before giving it a chance to bloom.

Students should be taught to give others a chance to present their ideas before evaluating
them. Students should be encouraged to listen to different viewpoints before deciding
whether the ideas proposed are valid, relevant or useful and not to rush into making
judgement. It is not unusual for good ideas to be lost because the group has not given
the person presenting the idea a chance to complete his or her presentation.
Some students have a low tolerance of ambiguity. In other words, they are not
ready to accept situations which are not clear-cut or ambiguous; i.e. neither her nor
there. For them, problems and issues are either right or wrong. But, in the real world,
situations are seldom black or white. In fact, they are more often ‘grey’ and fuzzy.
Students who are unable to tolerate ambiguity tend to rush in and solve problems as
either right or wrong without bothering to consider different viewpoints. The solution
seems to be more important than the problem. Students also become frustrated when
having tried repeatedly and the solution is not immediately apparent. This may be due
to a failure to incubate when insufficient time is given to the mind to relax. Incubation
relaxes the mind when the student puts aside the problem for a moment which may lead
to the discovery of a solution.

External Barriers
Among the serious external barriers to creativity is the actions of parents and
teachers who subscribe to the belief that fantasy, intuition and imagination are a waste
of time. This is based on the mistaken notion that these activities lead to idleness.
Society generally tends to emphasise facts and consider fantasy to be unproductive.
However, it has been said that ‘The day humans stop imagining, the very fabric of
civilisation is threatened’. People fail to realise that it is dreams, imagination and
intuition that has taken humankind from one level of achievement to another. For
example, it was the dream of flying that lead the many individuals to invent various
types of flying machines, even though many did not work.
Being bound by tradition can also restrict problem solving capabilities because
most creative solutions require some degree of ‘break from tradition’. Most people are
comfortable with tradition and change is threatening. Though tradition is important,
some traditional practices impede the production of creative ideas. How do we get
society to unshackle itself from tradition that is secure and certain to nurture creative
thinking among students? For example, the lack of a questioning attitude is caused by
the traditional belief that it is rude for children to ask too many questions. On the
contrary a questioning attitude is necessary for all aspects of creative problem solving.
The more questions that are asked, the clearer will be the path towards solution of the

a) Do you consider yourself a creative person?
b) Give examples of your creative efforts.
c) To what extent do you have the attributes of a creative
d) Are the barriers to creativity listed true of Malaysian
schools and Malaysian society?
e. How do parents obstruct creativity in children?


According to Edward de Bono we tend to think in restricted and

predictable ways. To become better thinkers we need to learn new
habits. His teaching strategy known as ‘thinking hats’ helps learners try
different approaches to thinking. Each ‘thinking ‘hat’ represents a
different way to think about a problem or issue. Children are
encouraged to try on the different ‘hats’ or approaches to a problem to
go beyond their usual thinking habits (de Bono 1999). The ‘hats’ or
thinking approaches, together with questions you might ask, are as

White hat = information What do we know?

Red hat = feelings What do we feel?
Purple hat = problems What are the drawbacks?
Yellow hat = positives What are the benefits?
Green hat = creativity What ideas have we got?
Blue hat = control What are our aims?

De Bono claims the technique is widely used in management but little

research has been published on its use in education. Some teachers have
found it a useful technique for encouraging children to look at a
problem or topic from a variety of perspectives. It encourages us, and
our children, to think creatively about any topic and to ask: ‘Is there
another way of thinking about this?’


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