Fostering Creative and Critical Thinking



I maintain that everyone is creative, perhaps people are more comfortable using some media than others. There are many activities which can draw out and develop creativity. These are often incorporated in P4C sessions.

There is a major issue around creating safe and appropriate contexts for creative exploration. Once these conditions are met individuals are likely to become fully engaged. This in itself is part of the reason for doing this work. Csikszentmihalyi has coined the word ‘flow’ to describe the state in which people are fully engaged in a task. This idea is extended by Sawyer to describe groups in flow.

Descriptions and issues regarding groups in flow:

1) innovation emerges over time
2) deep listening is essential
3) participants need to build on other’s ideas
4) the importance of ideas not always immediately apparent
5) groups need to engage in continual search for new problems
6) innovation is inefficient (redundancy a part of process)
7) Improvisation is self-organizing, innovation emerges from the bottom up

The best/most productive working arrangements involve short bursts of planning separated by trying and doing activities.

Note that measuring interactions is as important as measuring outcomes so that participants continually reflect on their actions and don’t just consider the final product. (participants need to continuously reflect on and be value the process)
Group flow is probably where the most exciting and useful things happen hence the method of achieving flow is perhaps what should concern facilitators and educators the most.

A close relation to creativity is critical thinking. The two work in tandem and are not really separable since imagination and ideas need to be reflected upon in order to assess their value. Not that this value need always be immediate and practical. John Dewey, the philosopher most instrumental in the background of P4C, suggests that learning is essentially a process of enquiry and reflection, a combination of critical and creative activity in practice.

An excellent book with ideas and strategies for developing critical and creative thinking is Cam, P. 2006 Twenty Thinking Tools. Victoria, Australia: ACER Press
Discussion in communities of enquiry often centres on ethical and environmental issues and this is a particular emphasis that I promote.