Combining separate elements to create something new.
In their historic revision of Benjamin Bloom's (1956) taxonomy of instructional objectives, Anderson and Krathwohl (2001) described creativity in the language of problem-solving. They identified three phases of that process: generating, planning and producing.
While Anderson and Krathwohl charted the structure of creativity in problem-solving contexts, other authors offer a slightly broader description. Plucker et al. (2004) defined creativity as "the interaction among aptitude, process, and environment by which an individual or group produces a perceptible product that is both novel and useful as defined in a social context" (p.90).
Rhodes (1961), offered an elegantly simple model for all the elements of the creative context--the "Four P" model. This model includes:
Of these four, classroom teachers have the most control over the creative environment (the "press").
Amabile and Griskiewikz (1989) have identified eight characteristics of an environment which can encourage creativity: (1) adequate freedom, (2) challenging work, (3) appropriate resources, (4) a supportive supervisor, (5) diverse and communicative co-workers, (6) recognition, (7) a sense of cooperation and (8) an organization that supports creativity. Encouraging "intellectual rebellion" in an inquiry-based classroom with frequent small-group learning seems a natural setting to encourage creativity in these ways, as does any structured exercise in which students are given certain resources and must combine them to create something new.
Halpern (2003) described many ways the teacher can organize class time to encourage : brainstorming, stretching and rejecting paradigms, allowing time for incubation and insight, stimulating analogical thinking, making the familiar strange, and using images as frequently as possible (pp.404-425). Being creative and proposing something new can be an intellectual risk, so care should be taken to ensure that one’s classroom atmosphere is conducive to synthesis.
In 1970, William Perry published the first edition of Forms of Ethical and Intellectual Development in the College Years: A Scheme. His framework of college student development has become classic, and was revised in 1998. In short, it describes a process of development in which students move from simple dualistic (right/wrong) thinking, through a growing awareness of subjectivity and then relativism, and finally arriving at an understanding of the need to make a commitment in the face of relativism. The divergent nature of creative generation suggests that supporting synthesis may be among the more important steps a teacher can take to help students grow out of a dualistic perspective. Ultimately, facilitating students' abilities in this area enables colleges and universities to fulfill their mission of equipping students to create new knowledge.
Amabile, T.M. & Gryskiewicz, N.D. (1989). The creative environment scales: Work environment inventory. Creativity Research Journal, 2, 231-253. Cited in Kaufman, J.C., Plucker, J.A., & Baer, J. (2008). Essentials of Creativity Assessment. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons.
Anderson, L. W. and David R. Krathwohl, D. R., et al (Eds..) (2001) A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. Allyn & Bacon. Boston, MA (Pearson Education Group)
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Rhodes, M. (1961). An Analysis of Creativity. Phi Delta Kappan,42. 305-311
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Waks, S., & Merdler, M. (2003, May). Creative Thinking of Practical Engineering Students During a Design Project. Research in Science & Technological Education, 21(1), 101-121.