Critical & Creative Thinking Definitions

The following definitions have been approved as working definitions by the Steering Committee. They are subject to revision as the project progresses.

Short version

Critical thinking is the active, persistent, and careful consideration of beliefs or knowledge in light of evidence, and creative thinking is the generation of new ideas. Critical and creative thinking are fundamental to human intellectual progress and artifacts thereof. Depending on context and purpose, critical and creative thinking skills can be interdependent or separately applied.

 

Full version

Critical thinking is the active, persistent, and careful consideration of a belief or form of knowledge, the grounds that support it, and the conclusions that follow. It involves analyzing and evaluating one’s own thinking and that of others. In the context of college teaching and learning, critical thinking deliberately and actively engages students in:

  •  Raising vital questions and problems and formulating these clearly and precisely;
  • Gathering and assessing relevant information, and using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively;
  • Reaching well-reasoned conclusions and solutions and testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • Openly considering alternative systems of thought; and
  • Effectively communicating to others the analysis of and proposed solutions to complex challenges.

 

Creative thinking is the generation of new ideas within or across domains of knowledge, drawing upon or intentionally breaking with established symbolic rules and procedures. It usually involves the behaviors of preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, elaboration, and communication. In the context of college teaching and learning, creative thinking deliberately and actively engages students in:

  • Bringing together existing ideas into new configurations;
  • Developing new properties or possibilities for something that already exists; and
  • Discovering or imagining something entirely new.


(Definitions adapted from John Dewey; Richard Paul and Lind Elder; Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and M.A. Rosenman and J. S. Gero.)