Critical and Creative Thinking – Andreas & Barish

(Just in case anyone missed this post from Andreas Tize which was a subpost in “What does critical and creative thinking mean to you?“, thanks Andreas for this great summary!)

Critical Thinking

According to an article posted by Barish, critical thinking consists of

• Applying: “Challenging assumptions and asking provocative questions” about the status quo. Key abilities: choose between alternatives, identify similarities and admit differences, explain relevant context and background, and to easily paraphrase issues, etc.

• Analyzing: “Gathering all the details, reviewing them carefully and objectively while applying your own experience.” Key abilities: compare, contrast and test alternatives based on ambiguous, incomplete or partial information, to criticize in a balanced and civil manner, etc.

• Evaluating: “Frame the right questions” Key abilities: appraise a new challenge, support another division, defend a minority position, being fair-minded etc.

Creating: “Connecting the dots in new ways to better interpret signals around you.” Key abilities: develop new models from experience, create or design new processes to meet changing market needs, develop new unique programs, etc.

Somebody in this article stated that it is “forming your own opinion from a variety of different sources.

In order to critically think about a statement, according to the two videos (Video 1: 

)Doug posted, you need to check it for the following:

1.     Clarity – 3 questions to check for clarity:

a.     Could you elaborate on that?

b.     Could you illustrate that? Picture, metaphor, analogy

c.     Could you give me an example?

2.     Precision – You add precision by:

a.     Giving exact data, eg 47.5 km/h

b.     Being as detailed as possible

3.     Accuracy – There is no point in being precise if you’re not accurate. I’m 42.7 feet tall is precise, but not accurate. Questions to check for accuracy are:

a.     How could we check/test this

4.     Relevance – How relevant is the answer to the question? Different questions have different demands.

5.     Depth – The more complex the problem is, the deeper your answer needs to be.

“For every complex question there is a clear, simple answer, and it is wrong.” – H.L. Mencken


There were some good contributions on how to encourage critical thinking in the classroom. Here is the summary:


Samantha, Erika and Barish like to use case studies, and Samantha mentioned troubleshooting, journaling and classification


Joanna mentions these techniques:

1) Instructors model the process of critical thinking 

2.) Small groups are formed, new perspectives are examined in a social learning process

3.) Case studies, critical incidents, simulations and scenarios (IE: concrete experiences)

4.) When unexpected event or idea takes them out of comfort zone (called “disorienting dilemma”)

5.) Sequential development of critical thinking, starting with own experiences and moving to more complex topics. 


Donna and Julie mentioned tools like flow charts, decision trees or concept maps.

Donna also uses debates and at times the students have the chance to turn into teachers by doing inter-professional training.


Julie also mentioned a simple exercise of questioning the status quo and looking for improvements may yield results.


Barish also mentioned creating problems similar to a Sudoku puzzle, with only part of the solution revealed.


Fariba and Erika like to use role playing. Fariba also uses Games, which sounds like a lot of fun. She lets the students create the games to teach the concepts.


Denis likes to look at failures and asks his students to analyze what went wrong.


Andreas mentioned a few simple techniques that are helpful in most scenarios:

1. Use written answers including examples in exams rather than multiple choice. 

2. Hand out an assignment without specific parameters or the usual “recipe” for success and see what they come up with. (Of course that’s a challenge to grade then)

3. Try to embrace the awkward silence in the classroom after you pose a question that requires some thinking. 

4. Give students a minute to think about a problem and then get them to answer. 


Comparing critical and creative thinking


Fariba explained the difference between creative and critical thinking like this: in creative thinking you generate the possibilities while in critical thinking you analyze the possibilities and come up with solutions. As instructors we need to encourage the students to think, use the cognitive tools to systematically solve the problems.


Samantha describes it this way: creative thinking is thinking outside the box, using your imagination and creating original thoughts / ideas.  Critical thinking is the logical process of thinking, it includes reasoning, evaluating and making a decision based on the information. 


She also had this good comparison:

Critical thinking is the active, persistent, and careful consideration of a belief or form of knowledge, the grounds that support it, and the conclusions that follow. It involves analyzing and evaluating one’s own thinking and that of others. In the context of college teaching and learning, critical thinking deliberately and actively engages students in:

    Raising vital questions and problems and formulating these clearly and precisely;

   Gathering and assessing relevant information, and using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively;

   Reaching well-reasoned conclusions and solutions and testing them against relevant criteria and standards;

   Openly considering alternative systems of thought; and

   Effectively communicating to others the analysis of and proposed solutions to complex challenges.

Creative thinking is the generation of new ideas within or across domains of knowledge, drawing upon or intentionally breaking with established symbolic rules and procedures. It usually involves the behaviors of preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, elaboration, and communication. In the context of college teaching and learning, creative thinking deliberately and actively engages students in:

   Bringing together existing ideas into new configurations;

   Developing new properties or possibilities for something that already exists; and

Discovering or imagining something entirely new.


Bloom’s taxonomy shows the different layers of reasoning from rote memorization to creating your own ideas:





Analysis and Critical Thinking SETs summarized (Barkley 2009):  

1.     Classify – helps students how a specific subject’s information is organized, including inferring principles, and helps them identify component parts, how those parts relate to the whole.

2.     Frames – students given template of sentence stems but not content for a short essay. They must complete sentences, express ideas in own words within clear, organized framework.

3.     Believing and Doubting – helps students develop dialogical thinking, seek views different from their own, construct arguments for opposing points. Students encourage4d to consider alternative points of view, critical evaluate author’s thesis, reasons and evidence. “Believing” – students list reasons that support author’s viewpoint. “Doubting” – students reread text, then make a list of objections to views presented.

4.     Academic Controversy – partners select controversial topic with opposing sides, brainstorm to support their position, collaborate with others in classroom to support their side, or switch to opposing side to argue from that perspective. Goal is to work together to come to consensus.

5.     Split-Room Debate – students sit on opposite sides of room based on the position they take in a controversial topic/case study, then exchange views with opposite side of room. Students allowed to move to either side of the room when their position changes based on the discussion.

6.     Analytic teams – team members perform specific tasks when doing various activities (reading assignment, listening to lecture, watching a video). Roles include summarizer, connector, proponent, critic focus. Encourages students to actively engage in critical analysis.

7.      Book Club – Encourages students to be actively engaged in discussion on instructor-chosen book. Several books chosen by instructor along with discussion questions, then students select book of their choice and get into smaller groups to discuss.

8.     Small group Tutorials – Students write essays in preparation to meet with teacher in small groups. Students read essays, interrupted by instructor to make points or ask questions.


Synthesis and Creative Thinking SETs Summarized (Barkley 2009):

1.     Team Concept Maps – Students collaborate to design graphic organizer to convert complex information into visually meaningful displays. Students draw diagrams that display combined ideas of students ideas and understanding on any given topic.

2.     Variations – Students create altered version of an original story or anything that has been previously created (piece of music, art, etc.).

3.     Letters – Individual activity where students assume identity of historical figure or famous person and write a letter explaining their thoughts on an issue, theory, perspective, etc to another important person who shares the opposite view.

4.     Role Play – Students assume fictional identities or envision themselves in unfamiliar situations. Students “experience the emotional and intellectual responses of an assumed identity or imagined circumstance”

5.     Poster Sessions – Students create posters illustrating their understanding of key course concepts/topics/issues. Students take turns presenting and explaining their posters and walking around to view other students’ posters.

6.     Class Book – Students submit essay assignments that they believe is their best work. Submissions collected into a class book. Record of cumulative course experience.

7.     WebQuests – Students get into teams and research a topic drawing from the internet for information. Instructor specifies websites to go to. Team investigates open-ended questions.

Summary of Ways of Encouraging Creative Thinking 

·      Original Game – Each student comes up with original game to play with the whole class to help them learn a specific subject (e.g. Medical terms – student picks body system and comes up with game to explain functions and what can go wrong with that system).

·      Open assignment – students are given an assignment with a pretty open and flexible platform to put their own stamp on something. From designing a menu, coming up with the dinner special of the day etc. They get to creatively apply what they know and learned. It’s is both engaging and a great learning opportunity.

·      Open project – students pick a topic, study it and demonstrate their knowledge of it using creative mediums (e.g.  Students must study an era/style and create a makeup look that exemplifies that era/style, which will be accompanied by their rationale.  Examples could be Victorian, Renaissance, Elizabethan, Egyptian)

·      Safe Place –  setting up of a safe space so that students are not inhibited to brainstorm or throw up random ideas.  If they feel constrained by fear or judgement or rules and regulations and shoulds… all those things kill creativity

Articles / Resources on Creativity:

Think Outside your Caged Imagination by Michael Michalko.

  (contributed by Samantha Schroeder)

He explains how the brain develops pathways for thinking, making shortcuts and overtime these limit our regard to alternatives.

 “Habits, thinking patterns and routines with which we approach life gradually accumulate until they significantly reduce our awareness of other possibilities. It’s as if a cage is built up around our imagination over time and its effects slowly become obvious.”

Towards the end of this article he provides a workable technique he calls BLUEPRINT, which can be used to build new creative thinking pathways in our brain. A great read, I hope you like it too. Indigo – Dr. Edward de Bono, creator of Lateral Thinking™, explains that creativity is a skill that anyone can learn with the proper training.


Wikipedia Definition of Lateral Thinking:

Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. The term was coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono.

According to de Bono, lateral thinking deliberately distances itself from standard perceptions of creativity as either “vertical” logic (the classic method for problem solving: working out the solution step-by-step from the given data) or “horizontal” imagination (having many ideas but being unconcerned with the detailed implementation of them).

Critical thinking is primarily concerned with judging the true value of statements and seeking errors. Lateral thinking is more concerned with the “movement value” of statements and ideas. A person uses lateral thinking to move from one known idea to creating new ideas. Edward de Bono defines four types of thinking tools:

1.     idea-generating tools intended to break current thinking patterns—routine patterns, the status quo

2.     focus tools intended to broaden where to search for new ideas

3.     harvest tools intended to ensure more value is received from idea generating output

4.     treatment tools that promote consideration of real-world constraints, resources, and support[1][need quotation to verify]

·       Random Entry Idea Generating Tool: The thinker chooses an object at random, or a noun from a dictionary, and associates it with the area they are thinking about.

·       Provocation Idea Generating Tool: The use of any of the provocation techniques—wishful thinking, exaggeration, reversal, escape, distortion, or arising. The thinker creates a list of provocations and then uses the most outlandish ones to move their thinking forward to new ideas.

·       Movement Techniques: The thinker develops provocation operations[clarification needed] by the following methods: extract a principle, focus on the difference, moment to moment, positive aspects, special circumstances.

·       Challenge Idea Generating Tool: A tool which is designed to ask the question “Why?” in a non-threatening way: why something exists, why it is done the way it is. The result is a very clear understanding of “Why?” which naturally leads to fresh new ideas. The goal is to be able to challenge anything at all, not just items which are problems. For example, one could challenge the handles on coffee cups. The reason for the handle seems to be that the cup is often too hot to hold directly. Perhaps coffee cups could be made with insulated finger grips, or there could be separate coffee-cup holders similar to beerholders.

·       Concept Fan Idea Generating Tool: Ideas carry out concepts. This tool systematically expands the range and number of concepts in order to end up with a very broad range of ideas to consider.

·       Disproving: Based on the idea that the majority is always wrong (as suggested by Henrik Ibsen[2] and by John Kenneth Galbraith[citation needed]), take anything that is obvious and generally accepted as “goes without saying”, question it, take an opposite view, and try to convincingly disprove it. This technique is similar to de Bono’s “Black Hat” of Six Thinking Hats, which looks at the ways in which something will not work.

Lateral Thinking Skills Quiz:

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