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)