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What Teachers Need to Know about Critical Thinking Vs Creative Thinking

December 7, 2014

When it comes to differentiating critical thinking from creative thinking, things get a little bit blurry as there is no consensus as to what really defines these processes. This lack of consensus is particularly reflected in the various meanings creative thinking takes in different disciplines.For instance, in business and corporate world, creative thinking is synonymous with entrepreneurship, in mathematics it stands for problem solving, and in education it carries connotations of innovation.

While there is no agreed upon definition for these two types of thinking, a comprehensive body of literature confirms the fact that creative and critical thinking are not identical. They involve, more or less, different cognitive processes and have different strategies (see this page for references). Here is how Beyer (1987) compares the two processes:
"Creative thinking is divergent, critical thinking is convergent; whereas creative thinking tries to create something new, critical thinking seeks to assess worth or validity in something that exists; whereas creative thinking is carried on by violating accepted principles, critical thinking is carried on by applying accepted principles. Although creative and critical thinking may very well be different sides of the same coin they are not identical p.35)."
Also, check out this table to learn about some of the differences between creative and critical thinking. The table is created by Macquarie University (Australia) based on Fisher's (2002) paper 'creative Minds: Building Communities of Learning in The Creative Age age".



As for Umich.edu, both creative and critical thinkers use different thinking strategies:

Creative Thinkers
  • Consider rejecting standardized formats for problem solving.
  • Have an interest in a wide range of related and divergent fields.
  • Take multiple perspectives on a problem.
  • Use trial-and-error methods in their experimentation.
  • Have a future orientation.
  • Have self-confidence and trust in their own judgment.
Creative Thinkers:
  • Consider rejecting standardized formats for problem solving.
  • Have an interest in a wide range of related and divergent fields.
  • Take multiple perspectives on a problem.
  • Use trial-and-error methods in their experimentation.
  • Have a future orientation.
  • Have self-confidence and trust in their own judgment.

You can also check this page to learn more about the differences between critical thinking and creative thinking.

Here is a good illustrative visual on creative and critical thinking from Brain tree.