What skills do Creative Thinkers Need to Develop?

There are 18 behaviors identified by Dr. Paul E. Torrance and Dr. Tammy Safter that are exhibited by children when they are creative. Dr. Cyndi Burnett and colleagues added 2 more to make a total of 20. It is useful to understand these behavior’s creatives exhibit so that you can encourage them in your student and model them yourself. Before we jump into the creative superpowers to be a creative thinker, it is important to differentiate between creative thinking skills and creative thinking behaviors in terms of the following twenty skills.

Behaviors are a result of a skill and in order to develop a skill we must identify and define it, practice it and reward it. Also it is important to keep in mind Bandura’s Social Learning Theory (1977) that basically states that we learn through observation so modeling the skills is important. Be sure to point out when a student is displaying good demonstration of the skill/behavior. Another important idea to remember is that skills are what we teach, behavior is a result. So we need to make sure to focus on creative thinking skill building.

Now, let’s jump into the skills, the above image divides the creativity skills into 5 different categories.

Creative Thinking Skills

Foundational Creative Thinking Skills (Purple)

Foundational creativity skills are the skills that set the stage for all creative thinking and growth mindset. They are critical components to deep dive, understand and implement today in your classroom.

They are keeping open, curiosity, looking at it another way, risk taking, embracing the challenge and highlighting the essence. If you read the descriptions in the poster of Dr. Cyndi Burnett’s website Creativity & Education, you will also notice that these foundational skills meld well with principles from the growth mindset model.

  • Keeping Open
  • Curiosity
  • Looking at it Another Way
  • Risk-Taking
  • Embrace the Challenge
  • Highlighting the Essence

The Essential Four (Blue)

The foundation are important affective skills and the essential four are important cognitive skills. We want our students to be produce and consider many alternatives (creative idea fluency), be flexible in their thinking, be original and be able to build on and elaborate. These skills are the most “easily” measurable when it comes to creativity testing.

  • Fluency
  • Flexibility
  • Originality
  • Elaboration

Creative Thinking Skills for Engagement (Green)

The next set of skills and behaviors is a great place to start when building your lessons. Think about how you will incorporate play and humor, movement and auditory stimulation, imagination, and visualization and imagery. Not only is it important to use these in our lessons and daily interactions in our classroom life, it is also important to teach our students the importance of adding these elements into the products that they create such as presentations and different student created products.

  • Playfulness and Humor
  • Enjoying and Using Fantasy
  • Making it Swing, Making it Ring
  • Visualizing it Richly & Colorfully

Emotional Awareness (Red)

Creativity is tied strongly into our emotional intelligence. It is not as simple to say emotional intelligence means more creative, no. But emotional intelligence allows us to understand the human condition better. Here is a really good study done to explain the link. Basically it is saying that we need to encourage a proactive personality and create environmental and organizational climate to feel safe and supportive. As for the Torrance Skillset we need to be mindful of emotions, become mindful and tolerate ambiguity.

  • Being Aware of Emotions
  • Embracing Ambiguity
  • Mindfulness

Future Thinking (yellow)

Finally the last category is being a future thinker. There are three ways to do this. The first one is breaking through and extending boundaries that means looking beyond what we know, it means making an effort to experience and learn beyond what we already know. The next is putting ideas into context which is a huge part of systems thinking and becoming a learning organization. Finally, it is about getting glimpses of the future, we need to be good at predicting and forecasting trends and anticipating potential situations in the future.

  • Breaking Through & Extending Boundaries
  • Putting Ideas into Context
  • Getting Glimpses of the Future

Creative Thinking Skill Posters

A simple way to remind students to practice these creative thinking skills and behaviors is by referring to them and consciously incorporating them into your day. A simple way is to create a permanent creative thinking superpowers display in your classroom. When planning your lesson, try to incorporate one of these skills into your lesson and when sharing with the children the objectives and purpose for your lesson, explicitly show which creative thinking skill you would like them to focus on.

Using Creative Thinking Affirmation Posters in Your Classroom

In my compilation of 20 poster affirmations, the phrases are purposefully broad reaching so that they fit in various creative thinking skill categories. Pointing out these phrases while teaching lessons is a simple and useful way to get students internalizing creative behaviors and skills daily.