Clarifying Creative Cognition

In support of cognitive development enhancing one’s creative ability is a 1968 study by George Land, which he also writes about with Beth Jarman in “Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today.” Land revealed that “ … we are naturally creative and as we grow up we learn to be uncreative,” further stating that “ … creativity is a skill that can be developed and a process that can be managed and begins with a foundation of knowledge, learning a discipline, and mastering a way of thinking. We learn to be creative by experimenting, exploring, questioning assumptions, using imagination and synthesizing information.”

By learning what one is thinking through addressing the comprehension of the thinking skills shown at the start of this article, a person is then empowered to be creative, innovative, imaginative, and certainly inspired; perhaps, as well, inspirational to others.

And yet, despite the ideas expressed in this article of cognition being closely linked to creativity and vice versa, it’s important to note the social and societal, as well as academic trends being experienced these days, past few years, perhaps decades. When one is able to connect creativity to cognitive function then it is apparently appreciated. However, with an emphasis on test scores and performance on standardized instruments to measure one’s achievement, ability or intelligence, then the opposite is observed. Low test scores equate with inability. High test scores equate with one’s being smart. Creativity is oftentimes not appreciated or recognized, although it will be those persons with it who will change the course of history with inventions and new ideas to further humankind.

If we are to reverse this trend of negativity with respect to one’s being creative, then, when talking to people or giving an assignment, I offer two simple guidelines for fostering creative cognition: Avoid rigidity and only analytic process to dominate; and allow for, encourage, honor, and respect elasticity and variables through engagement of one’s imagination.

Examples of Cognitive Functions

These examples of cognitive and metacognitive skills are excerpted from a book I co-authored with Drew Bogner and Jorun Buli-Holmber, “Teaching and Learning: A Model for Academic and Social Cognition.”

Phase One: Beginning Awareness and Acknowledging

  1. Recognizing: The person knew that the car was new.
  2. Realizing: The girl knew or understood there was danger when the fire alarm rang.
  3. Classifying: There were five green apples on the table with one next to the other.
  4. Comparing: The audience noted that each performer had red hair and all were women.
  5. Contrasting: The peach tasted sweet, but the lemon was sour.

Phase 2: Critical and Creative Thinking

  1. Prioritizing: Before going to see the movie, the tickets first had to be bought.
  2. Communicating: The driver yelled out the words on the sign, which read, “Do not park here.”
  3. Inferring: The bird prints in the sand caused the group to believe a bird was walking there earlier.
  4. Active listening: The student heard every word being spoken and demonstrated interest in the topic by being able to discuss it.
  5. Inventing: She originated the idea of having student-needed times for snacking during the school day.
  6. Predicting: The townspeople foretold the arrival of a storm.
  7. Generalizing: Everyone simplified the importance of the car on the lawn.
  8. Sequencing: The links of the chain were in a red, green, blue, and pink series.
  9. Initial deciding: Initially there were three possible choices provided for the best gymnast award.
  10. Initial problem solving: The dilemma of the dog chasing the cat seemed to have no immediate resolution.

Phase 3: The Metacognitive Processes

  1. Evaluating: The teacher estimated the grade for the student’s essay.
  2. Organizing: The students systematized the list by sorting out and classifying the nouns.
  3. Critiquing: After the diamond was examined, the appraisal was very high.
  4. Collaborating: The two boys teamed up for the basketball competition.
  5. Tolerating: She permitted the purchase of the new puppy, although she didn’t want a new dog in the house.
  6. Advanced deciding: The final resolution was to have the class elect a new leader.
  7. Risk taking: It was a gamble to go in the door without knocking.
  8. Analyzing: The investigation seemed to produce positive results.
  9. Synthesizing: She blended the important life events from ages five through twelve into a six-page essay.
  10. Advanced problem-solving: After reflecting for some time, the final solution was to try the roller-coaster ride, even though it was challenging and difficult to comprehend why one made that choice.
  11. Recalling: The girl reminded herself that she was due at the birthday party by noon.
  12. Reflecting: Tom contemplated the wonderful time at the gym, as he realized it was a positive experience.
  13. Self-actuating: She activated the plan by moving to a different house.

Rev. Dr. Marjorie Schiering is a professor in the Division of Education at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, New York. She’s a chaplain at Westchester Medical Center, an author, and international speaker on motivation, cognition, meta-cognition, and means for teaching character development to children and adults. She’s been teaching at the elementary, middle school, and college levels for a half a century.

This article is updated from its initial publication in Brain World Magazine.

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