Creativity Discourses


Imaginative Learning


Generating ideas and artefacts that are original and useful

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … established creations
  • Knowing is … fitting engagement
  • Learner is … an innovator (usually individual)
  • Learning is … creating
  • Teaching is … triggering creativity (through, e.g., problems)


Ancient (entrenched in the language)


Creativity Discourses are concerned with the processes associated with generating something new and valuable – both material and conceptual. Prominent constructs among Creativity Discourses include:
  • Associative Thinking – permitting the mind to move in an unstructured way from one notion to another based on immediate connections rather than overarching themes
  • Exceptional Creativity (Creative Genius) – the ability to make unique contributions that have impact at the societal level (contrast: Ordinary Creativity)
  • Ordinary Creativity (Everyday Creativity) – the ability to be agile, flexible, original, and divergent in one’s day-to-day life (contrast: Exceptional Creativity)
Some prominent theories of creativity and the creative process include the following (listed in chronological order, by decade):
  • Five-Stage Model of the Creative Process (Graham Wallas, 1920s) – a sequence of five stages (preparation, incubation, intimation, illumination, verification), based on the assumption that creativity is a legacy of evolution, enabling humans to adapt to changing environments
  • Convergent and Divergent Production (J.P. Guilford, 1950s) – a distinction between thinking aimed at single, correct solutions (convergent) and multiple solutions associated with creatively rethinking the problem and/or the grander context (divergent)
  • Osborne–Parnes Creative Problem-Solving Model (CPS Model) (Alex Osborne, Sid Parnes, 1950s) – structured, six-step approach to develop solutions to complicate situations: 1. Mess-Finding (clearly defining the parameters and the goals); 2. Fact-Finding (collecting relevant information and observations); 3. Problem-Finding (critically reviewing and perhaps reframing or refining the problem); 4. Idea-Finding (generating ideas and options – through, e.g., brainstorming); Solution-Finding (applying selection criteria to reduce and hone the list of ideas and options); Action-Finding (devise and commit to a plan of action).
  • Bisociation (Arthur Koestler, 1960s) – an assertion that creativity is the result of intersecting two distinct frames of reference (see Conceptual Blending Theory)
  • The Four Ps (Mel Rhodes, 1960s) – four factors (process, product, person, place) argued to be the dominant determinants in creativity
  • Dialectical Theory of Creativity (Daniel Dervin, 1990s) – the suggestion that creativity arises in the space between order and chaos – extrapolated from the observation that new neuronal networks arise in the interplay of patterned and seemingly random activity
  • Five-Stage Model of Creativity (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1990s) – a five-stage sequence (preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, elaboration) that embraces and foregrounds the role of nonconscious processes in creativity
  • Gleneplore Model (Ronald A. Finke, 1990s) – a two-phase model of the creative process, starting with a generative phase (assembling different mental representations) and an exploratory phase (using those structures to create something new)
  • Investment Theory of Creativity (Robert Sternberg, Todd Lubart, 1990s) – based on the metaphor that creativity is like investment, the suggestion that the most creative people are independent, forward-looking thinkers who are able to “buy low” and “sell high” – that is, risking a commitment to unproven ideas before their power is evident and then reaping the dividends when they become popular, before moving to the next not-yet-popular idea.
  • Propulsion Theory of Creativity (Robert Sternberg, 1990s) – a typology of creative acts, expressed in terms of their influence on a domain.  Eight types are suggested: (1) repetition with slight variation, (2) repurposing an idea, (3) an incremental next step in a long chain, (4) a large leap in a chain, (5) a redirection of a field, (6) the revival of an abandoned redirection, (7) a reinitiation of a field, and (8) a synthesis of several divergent lines of thought.
  • Four-C Model (James C. Kaufman, Ron Beghetto, 2000s) – a descriptive model that distinguishes among four levels of creativity (mini-c, little-c, Pro-C, Big-C), spanning subjective experiences, everyday problem solving, creativity in professional settings, and “great” creative feats in a field
  • Honing Theory (Leane Gabora. 2000s) – a suggestion that creativity is a process of honing and re-honing in order to maintain a coherent worldview (i.e., essentially the same dynamic that is posited by most Non-Trivial Constructivisms)
  • Computational Creativity (Artificial Creativity; Creative Computation; Creative Computing; Mechanical Creativity) (2010s) – a blending of Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Psychology, and Neuroscience, aiming to enhance creativity through two complementary foci: (1) to simulate and replicate human creativity using computers and (2) to better understand human creativity
Strategies to define and/or assess creativity have included the following (ordered chronologically):
  • Remote Associates Test (Sarnoff Mednick, Martha Mednick, 1950s) – a 30-item, 40-minute test in which subjects are provided with three words and asked to identify a fourth that is somehow related (e.g., Weed, Shake, Goat → Milk).
  • Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (Ellis Paul Torrance, 1980s) – focused on divergent thinking and problem-solving skills, assessed according to fluency, originality, and elaboration
  • Social-Personality Approach (Robert Sternberg, 1990s) – a range of tests and strategies focusing on such personality traits as judgment, confidence, tolerance of ambiguity, embrace of complexity, risk-taking, openness to novelty, and impulsivity
  • Creativity Quotient (Allan Snyder, 2000s) – analogous to intelligence quotient (IQ), generally focused on abilities to think divergently
Some models designed to foster creativity include the following:
  • Creative Dramatics (Winifred Ward, 1960s) – a type of drama performance in which participants create their own dialogue and in which the focus in on the creative process rather than the created product. In the context of grade school, it is asserted to support academic, emotional, and social competencies. In the context of child therapy, it is purported to foster well-being.
  • Synectics (George M. Prince, William J.J. Gordon, 1960s) – a method to solve problems through simulating and triggering thoughts for the subject
  • Lateral Thinking (Edward de Bono, 1970s) – a strategy focused on problem-solving, which requires participants to use different Modes of Reasoning
  • CoRT Thinking (Cognitive Research Trust) (Edward de Bono, 1970s) – a 60-lesson package aimed at nurturing creativity by bolstering problem-solving, confidence, and collaboration
  • Six Thinking Hats (Edward de Bono, 1980s) – six (actual) colored hats, each representing a distinct mode of thinking (White–Data/Facts, Red–Emotions/Intuition, Purple–Caution/Logic, Yellow–Optimism/Encouragement, Green–Synthesis/Creativity, Blue–Objectivity/Metacognition), donned/represented by team members in a meeting
  • Direct Attention Thinking Tools (DATT) (Edward de Bono, 1990s) – a list of 10 tactics that to “think smarter” – including, for example, planning ahead, parsing the problem, scouring alternatives, and gleaning maximum information
  • Parallel Thinking (Edward de Bono, 1990s) – contrasted with argumentative thinking, Parallel Thinking is about coordinated and collaborative thinking in a group, where as many ideas as possible are on the table
  • TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem-Solving) (Genrich Altshuller, 1990s) – a systematic approach for dealing with challenging problems
  • Water Logic (Edward de Bono, 1990s) – invoking the image of water finding its way to a goal by spreading over an irregular surface, some notes on strategies and attitudes to allow one’s thoughts to flow toward solutions
Regarding the intersection of creativity and intelligence, there is a popular belief that those with high intelligence are likely to be highly creative, but the research suggests a more complicated relationship. Multiple distinct perspectives have been expressed on the matter, including:
  • Certification Theory of Intelligence and Creativity – the conviction the intelligence and creativity are not inherently related. However, opportunities for creative expression are often regulated by formal educational requirements – which introduces a secondary sort of connection between intelligence and creativity. That is, intelligence may improve access to opportunities for creative expression.
  • Interference Theory of Intelligence and Creativity – the conviction that creativity and intelligence are correlated to some extent, but high intelligence may get in the way of creativity
  • Synesthesia (Synaesthesia) – a neurological blending of the senses – that is, a condition whereby stimulating one sense automatically and uncontrollably triggers another. For example, particular sounds might be simultaneously experienced as colors, or flavors might be experienced when certain words are spoken. More than 50 types have been observed, and it is estimated that 5% of people may have one or more forms. It is often suggested that Synesthesia may contribute significantly to Creativity, as the condition may enable provocative and innovative associations. There are competing theories on the origins and impacts of Synesthesia, including:
    • Cross-Activation Theory – the suggestion that Synesthesia arises because of less-than-normal pruning of synapses (and, so, more-than-normal interaction) between neighboring sensory cortical areas
    • Disinhibited Feedback Theory – the suggestion that Synesthesia arises because top-down feedback from higher cortical areas to lower sensory cortical areas is too weak to suppress the interactions between those areas
  • Threshold Hypothesis of Intelligence and Creativity (J.P. Guilford, 1960s) – the suggestion that intelligence is a necessary aspect of creativity, but that it alone is not sufficient


    The notion of “creativity” is highly contested – as might be illustrated by debates around its relationship to intelligence. Opinions span the following: creativity is distinct from intelligence, it overlaps with intelligence, it is equivalent to intelligence, it is an element of intelligence, and intelligence is an aspect of it. Moreover, there are indications that conceptions of creativity vary dramatically across cultures. In other words, while there is general consensus that creativity is important to learning, it is a construct that is not well understood. Perhaps the most substantial criticism of Creativity Discourses is that most Embodiment Discourses assume creativity as a necessary, fundamental dynamic of human learning – the norm of being human, rather than the exception.

    Authors and/or Prominent Influences


    Status as a Theory of Learning

    Creativity Discourses are most often positioned as theories of learning – or, at least, theories or a component of learning.

    Status as a Theory of Teaching

    As noted above, some Creativity Discourses are focused on strategies and emphases to foster creativity.

    Status as a Scientific Theory

    In general terms, Creativity Discourses lack the coherence and critical attitude necessary to be classified as scientific.


  • Associative Thinking
  • Bisociation
  • Certification Theory of Intelligence and Creativity
  • Computational Creativity (Artificial Creativity; Creative Computation; Creative Computing; Mechanical Creativity)
  • Convergent and Divergent Production
  • CoRT Thinking
  • Creative Dramatics
  • Creativity Quotient
  • Cross-Activation Theory
  • Dialectical Theory of Creativity
  • Direct Attention Thinking Tools (DATT)
  • Disinhibited Feedback Theory
  • Exceptional Creativity (Creative Genius)
  • Five-Stage Model of Creativity
  • Five-Stage Model of the Creative Process
  • Four-C Model of Creativity
  • Four Ps
  • Gleneplore Model of Creativity
  • Honing Theory of Creativity
  • Interference Theory of Intelligence and Creativity
  • Investment Theory of Creativity
  • Lateral Thinking
  • Osborne–Parnes Creative Problem-Solving Model (CPS Model)
  • Ordinary Creativity (Everyday Creativity)
  • Parallel Thinking
  • Propulsion Theory of Creativity
  • Remote Associates Test
  • Six Thinking Hats
  • Social-Personality Approach to Creativity
  • Synectics
  • Synesthesia (Synaesthesia)
  • Theory of Inventive Problem Solving
  • Threshold Hypothesis of Intelligence and Creativity
  • Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking
  • Water Logic

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2023). “Creativity Discourses” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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