Want to inspire creativity in your students?
Start by honing your own critical-thinking skills
using this four-part process.
T echnology is revolutionizing the way the world works, and there seems to be no end in
sight. Information is everywhere
and easy to find, so today’s students
will need to know what to do with
it to be prepared for the overly
problem-riddled world they will soon
face. That’s why critical- and creative-thinking skills are vital.
Critical- and creative-thinking
skills include idea generation,
reflective judgment, self-regulation,
and attitudes and dispositions. While
many view these skills as intuitive,
we present them as teachable.
By combining technology integration
with thinking skills, educators can better
prepare students for the world of industry and innovation. The question becomes how we can seamlessly integrate
technology while teaching critical- and
creative-thinking skills. One piece of
the answer is to start at the top by developing teachers’ critical- and creative-thinking skills. Second, educators must
use technology products in surprising
and creative ways to engage students.
your own first. So we involved teachers in a process that helped them build
their skills—and we got plenty of our
own practice in the meantime.
The Virginia Tech–funded faculty
projects, called Educational Enhancement Collaboration grants (see “
Educational Enhancement Collaboration
Projects” on page 18), were based on
• They had instructional potential.
• They made creative use of technology.
• They included products of the arts.
First, teachers worked with faculty
teams to define the direction of the
projects and to design and develop instructional materials to support the
products. We held two teachers’ workshops—one focused on developing
instructional materials and another
on evaluation. Activities in each workshop emphasized the four components
of critical and creative thinking:
Reflective judgment. This is the
process of analyzing, synthesizing,
and evaluating the ideas resulting
from the idea-generation phase. We
encouraged teachers to rearrange the
notes to sort ideas. Another strategy
we used was based on Ed DeBono’s
book Six Thinking Hats. In this approach, you examine ideas from six
• Examine ideas and gather facts
This exercise stretched participants’
critical-thinking skills beyond their
comfort zones and generated many
Idea generation. This involves generating lots of ideas, expanding ideas,
exploring new directions, and looking
at ideas from various perspectives.
We started by selecting a theme and
posting it where everyone could see it,
such as on a whiteboard or flipchart.
Teachers then wrote ideas on sticky
notes and attached them under the
theme. Participants put up as many
sticky notes as they had ideas, and
they were encouraged to build on
other ideas to spark new ones.
Self-regulation. This involves managing
time and resources. In our workshops,
teachers first developed a plan for how
to proceed with their challenge and
presented it to the group. They monitored their progress and then reflected
on the process and product after the
project was complete.
Develop Teachers’ Skills First
We are part of the Integrated Design +
Education + Arts Studio (IDEAStudio)
in the Institute for Creativity, Arts,
and Technology at Virginia Tech, and
we believe the best way to teach critical- and creative-thinking skills to
students is to develop and exercise
Attitudes and dispositions. This is
probably the most important element. One strategy we used in the
teacher workshops was the “yes,
and…” strategy, borrowed from improvisational theater. When someone
presents an idea, others not only listen