What is “something” for the Critical and Creative Thinking graduate Program?

A 22-minute video on what it is that students have become by the time they graduate from the Critical and Creative Thinking program, how that happens, and ways it contrasts with alternative models. This exposition builds on recent posts about teaching critical thinking and previous posts about studios and a slow mode.

Critical thinking, Creative thinking: An ongoing journey (first project for believing and doubting workshop)

The autobiographical introduction I shared with the participants coming to the Believing and Doubting workshop was “Intersecting Processes: complexity and change in environment, biomedicine and society” Ludus Vitalis XXI (39):319-324, 2013, http://www.ludusvitalis.org/foros/pracprof1.html (pdf).
The written work I shared in April was as described in the following cover note. Read more of this post

Critical thinking, Creative thinking & Gender

A. Consider this schema that I used to discuss the idea of creativity in context:
It is clearly complex: Many strands, many cross-connections, many things going on in addition to the focal outcome. Read more of this post

A manifesto of creative thinking

A google hangout recording of my presentation on a creative thinking manifesto with an attempt to apply Ben Schwendener’s theme of vertical unity as a basis for improvisation or horizontal changes: audio, visual aids

On the Creative Thinking manifesto project: http://cct.wikispaces.com/CEDec13
On the 4Rs: http://wp.me/p1gwfa-og
On Probe-Connect-etc.: http://wp.me/p1gwfa-og
On vertical unity and horizontal changes: http://wp.me/p1gwfa-mz
On the “mandala”: http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/MakingSpace.html

Fruitful, generative, cultivating…Alternatives to the terms creative and creativity

Why am I looking for alternatives to the terms creative and creativity?

  1. Because the history of creative begins with a divine power is what creates, which leads to a divinely given power (e.g., “genius” or “spark”) is involved in being creative (see Keywords by Raymond Williams).  Even if the term is extended to a talent that can be developed, the emphasis is on it being something that a person has, not on the conditions or relationships that support the expression of that talent.
  2. I am exploring with others the idea that “Everyone can think creatively,” which moves the emphasis to how one helps people (oneself included) open up or see alternative paths and how one dispells beliefs that creativity is something that special individuals have.  Even if I used the term creativity to refer to a path-opening conjunction of people (and their component strands), context, tools and processes, and focus on a product, the audience would still hear the other connotations referred to in #1.

One alternative is fruitful.  Another is generative — see http://thesaurus.com/browse/generative and click on the tab “as in productive” to see a rich range of associations that include:

  • advantageous, beneficial, constructive, dynamic, effective, energetic, fertile, gratifying, profitable, prolific, rewarding, useful, valuable, vigorous, worthwhile, generative, fecund, gainful, inventive, plentiful, producing, rich…

Another thought is something derived from “cultivating.”  Both the person helping someone to see that “Everyone can think creatively” and the person who opens up or sees alternative paths is cultivating.  The thesaurus website above gives a range of associations I am happy to work with:

  • breed, fertilize, harvest, manage, plant, prepare, propagate, raise, tend, crop, dress, farm, garden, labor, mature, plow, ripen, seed, till, work

Is there a quality we could associate with gardening?  Gardenizer?  Gardinative?

Having been asked for a guest blog post about creativity

I direct an unusual graduate program called Critical and Creative Thinking (http://www.cct.umb.edu).  I think we do quite well in achieving our goal, which is to provide our mid-career or career-changing students with “knowledge, tools, experience, and support so they can become constructive, reflective agents of change in education, work, social movements, science, and creative arts.”   Before explaining my sense of creativity, let me explain why critical thinking is combined with creative thinking and also, ‘though it is not in the name, with reflective practice.

Critical thinking, creative thinking, and reflective practice are valued, of course, in all fields. In critical thinking we seek to scrutinize the assumptions, reasoning, and evidence brought to bear on an issue-by others and by oneself; such scrutiny is enhanced by placing ideas and practices in tension with alternatives. Key functions of creative thinking include generating alternative ideas, practices, and solutions that are unique and effective, and exploring ways to confront complex, messy, ambiguous problems, make new connections, and see how things could be otherwise. In reflective practice we take risks and experiment in putting ideas into practice, then take stock of the outcomes and revise our approaches accordingly.

Against this backdrop, my thinking is that creativity comes not out of individual inspiration, but from borrowing and connecting.  The more items in your tool box—the more themes, heuristics (rules of thumb), and open questions you are working with—the more likely you are to make a new connection and see how things could be otherwise, that is, to be creative.  Yet, in order to build up a set of tools that works for you, it is necessary to experiment, take risks, and reflect on the outcomes.  Such reflective practice is like a journey into unfamiliar or unknown areas—it involves risk, opens up questions, provides more experiences than can be integrated at first sight, requires support, and yields personal change.  We might then say that creativity is part of what happens to “journeying inquirers.”

As an educator, I like to play with the 3Rs (only one of which actually starts with an R).  Here (from page 257 of Taking Yourself Seriously) are the many Rs that journeying inquirers might pursue—sometimes focusing in, sometimes opening out—in their personal and professional development as critical, creative, and reflective practitioners.



Reasoning w/ respect to evidence & alternatives

Relationship w/ oneself (moving towards autonomy)

Reflection & metacognition


Relationships w/ peers & allies (dialogue & collaboration)

Risk & experiment


Rearrange, adapt & create

Reception: being Read, heard, & Reviewed

Relationships w/ authority (negotiate power & standards)

Revision (incl. dialogue around written work)


Research & evaluation (learning from the work of others & your own)

Respect (explore difference)

Responsibility (concern w/ aims, means & consequences)


Recursion & practice (address same concern from many angles & in variety of settings)

Reevaluation (of emotions at root of responses) so as to better take initiative

Reconstruction (personal/organizational/social change)

Critical, Creative and Reflective Practice: Contents of a possible booklet

The previous post introduced a possible booklet on supporting the development of critical thinking, creative thinking and reflective practice.  Here is a possible Table of Contents (drawn from article as well as from the book Taking Yourself Seriously).

Part 1
Sense of Place Map (with diagram or example)
Daily writing
Phases of Research & Engagement
The many Rs of personal and professional development
Making Space for Taking Initiative in and through Relationships
Developing a Critical Thinking manifesto (with example)
Supportive Listening
Varieties of feedback (excerpts from Elbow with permission) & example of believing and doubting
Challenges of supporting critical thinking
Avid learning/Probe-Connect-Reflect-Create Change
Dialogue Process
5-phase format
Small group roles
“Office hours”
Conditions for a successful workshop

Part 2
Stories of people developing as reflective practitioners


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