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According to one group of researchers, “Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning or communication, as a guide to belief and action.” Again, a curiously self-demonstrating definition, but not one ready-made for the classroom.
Here are a few educational contexts in which creativity is disciplined by critical thinking and critical thinking is expanded through recognition of its creative function: The skills today’s students will need for success are, at a most basic level, the skills that humans have always relied on for success — the very things that make us human, including our creativity and our capacity for thinking critically.
The fact that our defining qualities so often defy definition, that our distinctive traits are so frustratingly indistinct, is just another gloriously untidy part of us that robots will never understand.
In practice, however, the two are not so easy to separate.
As parents and teachers know well, creativity without critical judgment tends toward the fanciful, the impractical, the ridiculous.
comes into clearer focus when we recognize it as a creative act that enriches understanding by giving rise to something that wasn’t there before.
What does this symbiotic relationship look like in the classroom?This would appear to justify our strategy, viz., to examine critical thinking through the lens of argumentation, since argumentation can be used to provide a general rendering of the processes involved.Given this, we can convert a study of critical thinking, as characterized by our definition, into a study of argumentation.One of the leading researchers in the area, Robert Sternberg, characterizes creativity as “a decision to buy low and sell high in the world of ideas.” While this is itself a creative approach to the problem of defining creativity, it is not a solution easily translated into a rubric.Definitions of critical thinking don’t fare much better.Critical thinking is thinking that involves the principled application of standards and criteria in the evaluation of practical and theoretical options for the purpose of reaching conclusions about those options.When deliberating about options, you can cast the deliberation in terms of arguments as follows: deliberation involves the construction of arguments for each of the options, understood as a conclusion.Efforts to pin down these skills are so quickly muddled, one is tempted to fall back on the old Justice Stewart remark regarding obscenity: “I know it when I see it.” Unfortunately, that yardstick isn’t much help to teachers or students.Definitions of creativity tend toward the broad and vague.It is fundamentally creative in the sense that its aim is to produce something new: an insight, an argument, a new synthesis of ideas or information, a new level of understanding.Our grasp of creativity and critical thinking is improved when we see them in symbiotic relationship with one another.