How to cultivate critical and creative thinking

Year: 2017

Author: Stevens, Robert

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Australian Curriculum identifies seven general capabilities including critical and creative thinking. These general capabilities can be understood as the "new basics" - a foundation for success in learning and in life. A significant feature of critical thinking is that it is unauthoritarian. Martha Nussbaum suggests that Socratic critical inquiry is utterly unauthoritarian. The status of the speaker does not count; only the nature of the argument. For Nussbaum critical thinking involves the ability to think and argue for oneself, rather than defer uncritically to tradition or authority. If so, critical thinking is crucial to a flourishing democracy - and to meet the social challenges faced early in the 21st century. The health of democracy depends on citizens not being willing simply to accept what they are told, but to investigate the reasons behind it. Critical and creative thinking go hand in hand. Creative thinking relates to generating ideas. Critical thinking relates to evaluating these ideas.

While critical and creative thinking is enshrined in the Australian Curriculum, there is little agreement about the best ways to cultivate it.

In this paper I report on the findings of research in New South Wales schools involving a number of case studies on the range of ways that Critical and Creative Thinking is currently being taught in schools. The research questions for the case studies were:
1. What are the range of approaches used by schools to teach Critical and Creative Thinking?
2. What were the challenges faced in the development and implementation of these approaches and how were these overcome?
3. Is there any evidence for the success of these approaches?