Developing creative and critical thinking is a major priority of educators and policy-makers. This is promoted because of popular views that students today require more creativity and critical thinking than past generations. It now common to find creativity and critical thinking featured in curriculum documents, teaching practice guides, and in student assessments.
This is rarely, if ever, accompanied by an understanding of how students learn or evidence to support teaching or assessment approaches.
This paper provides an overview of human cognitive architecture as relevant to how students learn and demonstrate creativity and critical thinking. In doing so, it highlights that general creativity and critical thinking is not something that can be taught. That’s because we have evolved to do this innately without instruction. What does require teaching is the relevant knowledge base to allow students to properly apply these skills.
Differences in students’ creativity and critical thinking is not due primarily to differences in thinking strategies, but on differences in students’ knowledge.
For educators to better impart students with creativity and critical thinking skills, they must provide students with an extensive knowledge base. From there, students’ creative and critical thinking will largely follow naturally and automatically.