Creativity Discourses


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)
  • 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
  • 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)
  • 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) – 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)
Strategies to define and/or assess creativity have included the following:
  • Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (Ellis Paul Torrance, 1980s) – focused on divergent thinking and problem-solving skills, assessed according to fluency, originality, and elaboration
  • Creativity Quotient (Allan Snyder, 2000s) – analogous to intelligence quotient (IQ), generally focused on abilities to think divergently
  • 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
Some models designed to foster creativity include the following:
  • Creative Problem Solving Process (Alex Osborn, 1950s) – a process for generating original solutions to problems
  • 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


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
  • Convergent and Divergent Production
  • CoRT Thinking
  • Creative Problem Solving
  • Creativity Quotient
  • Direct Attention Thinking Tools (DATT)
  • 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
  • Lateral Thinking
  • Ordinary Creativity (Everyday Creativity)
  • Parallel Thinking
  • Six Thinking Hats
  • Social-Personality Approach to Creativity
  • Synectics
  • Theory of Inventive Problem Solving
  • Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking
  • Water Logic

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Creativity Discourses” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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