Integrating Creative Thinking Skills into the Higher Education Classroom

Integrating Creative Thinking Skills into the Higher Education Classroom

Cyndi Burnett (State University of New York Buffalo State, USA) and Susan Keller-Mathers (State University of New York Buffalo State, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0643-0.ch013


The Torrance Incubation Model (TIM) provides a simple and highly effective mechanism for integrating creativity into the teaching of any subject. The model provides guidelines for educators who wish to develop their students' creative skills, but struggle to find the space in the curriculum in which to teach creativity as a subject. The TIM allows creativity to be woven into lesson plans by deliberately incorporating one, or more, of the core creativity skills identified by Torrance. This chapter explains the TIM, and provides examples of how it was used to redesign lessons in a higher education class, in order to teach both the subject, and at the same time develop the students' creative capabilities.
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Creative thinking and problem solving are essential skills for the 21st Century workplace (Adobe, 2014; National Center on Education and the Economy, 2008; Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2008; Trilling & Fadel, 2009). However, an alarmingly low number of K-12 schools are teaching creative thinking skills to our future university students (Adobe, 2013). This, of course, means that the responsibility for developing the skills is passed on to higher education instructors.

If higher education accepts this challenge, individual faculty members will face two big questions: How do I do it? And, when do I find the time to do it with an already-packed syllabus? Fortunately, this chapter has a potential answer that covers both questions.

For over twenty-five years, the faculty at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State have been using a curriculum design method called the Torrance Incubation Model (TIM) (Murdock & Keller-Mathers, 2002; Torrance, 1979a & b; Torrance & Safter, 1990; 1999;) for the creation of their graduate courses. While this model was originally designed for K-12 educators (Plooster, 1972; Torrance, 1979a) it has been applied in numerous higher education classes with great success (Murdock & Keller-Mathers, 2008). TIM provides a three-stage framework, along with a list of creativity skills, that enables the instructor to marry content and creativity together in a single design, thereby neatly answering the ‘how’ and ‘when’ questions.

The purpose of this chapter is to introduce the Torrance Incubation Model, examine how it has been adapted for higher education classes, and give specific examples and case studies that highlight the benefits of applying the TIM to the problem of designing an engaging curriculum that serves the dual purpose of teaching the content and developing students’ creative thinking skills.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Teaching Creatively: Teaching in a way that provides a highly useful or relevant learning while including an element of novelty in delivery and outcomes. It encourages learners to consider and/or produce in ways they had not done before.

Creative Teaching: The act of teaching in a novel and useful way that promotes student growth related to the development of original thought and action. Creative teaching focuses both on the methods a teacher uses to deliver learning and the overall effect those methods have on students and the outcomes produced.

Creativity Skills: Learned abilities related to bringing forward more novel and useful outcomes and/or products, which can be developed deliberately and enhanced through practice, feedback, and diverse applications.

Creative Thinking: Mental activities that lead to original and useful ideas, involving complex cognition and problem solving.

Torrance Incubation Model (TIM): A model originally developed by E. Paul Torrance that provides a framework for the development of lessons consisting of three stages: Heightening Anticipation, Deepening Expectations and Extending the Learning. TIM is designed to provide powerful learning that both promotes the development of creativity by infusing a creativity skill or concept into each stage, and sets the stage for incubation to occur beyond the lesson.

Teaching Creativity: When an instructor is deliberately focusing on creativity as a content outcome in the form of a product, attitude, and/or skill development.

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