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Critical Thinking: Step 4: Creativity

Creativity in Critical Thinking

Step 4: Creativity

Creative and critical thinking might seem to be opposite forms of thought, but in truth, they go hand-in-hand. To live and work productively, "we need to internalize and use intellectual standards to assess our thinking (criticality). We also need to generate - through creative acts fo the mind - the products to be assessed" (Paul & Elder, 2008). Imagination and reason are inseparable and function best when used in tandem.

Paul, D. and Elder, L. (2008). The thinker's guide to the nature and functions of critical and creative thinking [PDF file]. Retrieved from

Creative Thinking Resources

Creative Thinking Toolkit

The Creative Problem Solver's Basic Toolbox

Click the yellow highlighted text to link to different creativity and critical thinking activities! Published in the journal, Educational Leadership, this toolkit provides insights into preparing yourself or your students to be creative and critical thinkers. 

Tools for Generating Possibilities (Creative Thinking)

Tools for Focusing Possibilities (Critical Thinking)

Brainstorming. Generating many, varied, or unusual options for an open-ended task or question.

Hits and Hot Spots. Selecting promising or intriguing possibilities (identifying hits) and clustering, categorizing, organizing, or compressing them in meaningful ways (finding hot spots).

Force-Fitting. Using two objects or words that seem unrelated to the task or problem, or to each other, to create new possibilities or connections.

ALoU: Refining and Developing. Using a deliberate, constructive approach to strengthening or improving options, by considering advantages,limitations (and ways to overcome them), and unique features.

Attribute Listing. Using the core elements or attributes of a task or challenge as a springboard for generating novel directions or improvements.

PCA: Paired Comparison Analysis. Setting priorities or ranking options through a systematic analysis of all possible combinations.

SCAMPER. Applying a checklist of action words or phrases (idea-spurring questions) to evoke or trigger new or varied possibilities.

Sequencing: SML. Organizing and focusing options by considering short, medium, or long-term actions.

Morphological Matrix. Identifying the key parameters of a task, generating possibilities for each parameter, and investigating possible combinations (mixing and matching).

Evaluation Matrix. Using specific criteria to systematically evaluate each of several options or possibilities to guide judgment and selection of options.

Source: Copyright 2008 by the Center for Creative Learning. Used with permission.

Critical Thinking vs. Creative Thinking

Critical Thinking vs Creative Thinking

Analytic Generative
Convergent Divergent
Vertical Lateral
Probability Possibility
Judgment Suspended Judgment
Hypothesis Testing   Hypothesis Forming
Objective Subjective
Answer An Answer
Closed Open-Ended
Linear Associative
Reasoning Speculating
Logic Intuition
Yes but... Yes and...


freepik. (n.d.) Creative thinking conceptual vector. Retrieved from

Creative Anagrams

Game:  There are four words listed below.  Pick one of them as the target.  Now, using the letters from the other three (you don't have to use all the letters) come up with as many words as possible that relate to the target word.

  • poster
  • circus
  • satire
  • father

Challenge:  For extra challenge try and do it for each word above as the target word.

Strategy: This game is a challenge as we are pushing ourselves in two different directions.  We have to evaluate what letters are available to us while at the same time considering what words may relate to our target word.