Types of Creative Thinking


This article doesn’t focus on ePortfolios but rather this woman’s approach to creativity and how/why creative thinking is important for students to practice:

Convergence and divergence – two necessary types of thinking for being creative:

Partly because it is tied to the profitability  in business, a great deal of effort has been put forth in defining creative problem-solving and in training folks in how to do it. In this genre one of the more common definitions of creativity has to do with dissecting creative thought into a process of dual exchanges through the melding of two types of thinking — convergence and divergence. In this dance of paired thinking, as we look for solutions or innovations the object is to go through a series of steps first diverging (expanding ideas) and then converging (narrowing possibilities) until a solution is found; a course of action resolved; and end foreseen; or a product conceptualized.

Definitions of divergent thinking usually include the ability to elaborate, and think of diverse and original ideas with fluency and speed.  Ideating and brainstorming are premiere examples of exercises using this type of thinking. What if . . . ? How about . . .? Could we try this or that idea . . .? are types of questions that can lead to divergent thought patterns.  Metaphorically, whether we live in areas with snow, most of us have seen movies or cartoons where a small snowball rolls down a hill picking up more snow and getting larger and larger. This is like divergent thinking. The primary object of this form of cognition is to think of possibilities, to connect the dots, to find solutions, to generate new and different ideas.

Convergent thinking is defined as the ability to use logical and evaluative thinking to critique and narrow ideas to ones best suited for given situations, or set criteria.  We use this type of thinking when we make crucial and well-formed decisions after appraising an array of ideas, information, or alternatives. Metaphorically this like herding cattle toward a chute as we are looking for a narrow band of solutions, or one great idea.

In creative production both thought processes are necessary as one first diverges ideas in numerous quantity, and then narrows and refines the array through convergent thought processes. Specifically in creative problem solving, or in any complex problem solving activity for that matter, one needs to be able to weave in and out of divergent and convergent thought patterns in order to effectively arrive at an appropriate conclusion specific for a given situation.

Unfortunately, too often the processes involved in schooling concentrate on convergent thought, and ignore or undervalue divergent thinking. Children need exposure to both types of thinking in order to be adept at solving problems quickly and well. This is a premiere life skill!

Henrique Fogli shares a very nice explanation of the divergent process – this is an excellent resource!

Where I see this applying to our project is that it gives us yet another way of understand how/why the practice of reflection and connection has value. If you ask teachers why college is important they will give divergent reasons. It is the basis for life long learning, it prepares students for the real world and to meet challenges, etc. If you ask students why they are in college, they will say to get a degree. A degree is the convergent goal: it’s the “end” of learning in college, but the real value is the “beginning”–it’s the place you jump off from. The ePortfolio, when properly executed, represents the “divergent” counterpart to the “convergent” diploma.


One thought on “Types of Creative Thinking

  1. Indeed, divergent thinking, as defined by Dr. Wilson on this site, is key, in my opinion, to the first halves of both core composition classes, and it clearly serves our desire to focus on inquiry. And then, as both her and Fogli’s sites makes clear, we would return to convergent thinking in the latter half as the students apply the ideas they’ve been exploring and evaluating to their writing assignment(s). And regarding Dr. Wilson’s 4 types of learning ( http://thesecondprinciple.com/optimal-learning/types-of-learning/ ), acquisition and emergence are the two that our course redesign would serve best.


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