2.1 Creative and Critical Thinking

[1]In this chapter, we will begin our discussion of the foundational elements of the critical and creative thinking processes and how they work together to help us shape our opinions and views of the world.

Responding to the challenges of the twenty-first century – with its complex environmental, social,  and economic pressures – requires people to be creative, innovative, enterprising, and adaptable, with the motivation, confidence, and skills to use critical and creative thinking purposefully.

This capability combines two types of thinking: critical thinking and creative thinking. Though the two are not interchangeable, they are strongly linked, bringing complementary dimensions to thinking and learning.

Critical thinking is at the core of most intellectual activity that involves students learning to recognize or develop an argument, use evidence in support of that argument, draw reasoned conclusions, and use information to solve problems. Examples of critical thinking skills are interpreting, analyzing, evaluating, explaining, sequencing, reasoning, comparing, questioning, inferring, hypothesizing, appraising, testing, and generalizing.

Creative thinking involves students learning to generate and apply new ideas in specific contexts, seeing existing situations in a new way, identifying alternative explanations, and seeing or making new links that generate a new outcome. This includes combining parts to form something original, sifting and refining ideas to discover possibilities, constructing theories and objects, and acting on intuition. The products of creative endeavors can involve complex representations and images, investigations and performances, digital and computer-generated output, or occur as virtual reality.

Concept formation is the mental activity that helps us compare, contrast, and classify ideas, objects, and events. Concept learning can be concrete or abstract and is closely allied with metacognition. Dispositions such as inquisitiveness, reasonableness, intellectual flexibility, open- and fair-mindedness, a readiness to try new ways of doing things and consider alternatives, and persistence promote and are enhanced by critical and creative thinking.

Critical thinking is a skill that will be utilized and built upon for the duration of your educational journey. How that occurs often depends on the instructor, assignment, class, and student. For this class, however, the primary way that this skill will be developed is through writing assignments that involve research, analysis, and argumentation. While this class is primarily composed of essays, an essay can take many forms. Within each of these forms, there are additional specifications that help narrow the type of writing being used even further. While we will not be able to extensively cover each and every type of writing this semester (or even throughout your entire time in Composition 1 and 2), the following sections explain several of the Rhetorical modes that you will encounter throughout your time in college.

Rhetorical modes simply mean the ways in which we can effectively communicate through language. This chapter covers nine common rhetorical modes. As you read about these nine modes, keep in mind that the rhetorical mode a writer chooses depends on his or her purpose for writing. Sometimes writers incorporate a variety of modes in any one essay. In covering the nine modes, this chapter also emphasizes the rhetorical modes as a set of tools that will allow you greater flexibility and effectiveness in communicating with your audience and expressing your ideas.[2]


  1. 2.1 (except where otherwise noted) was borrowed with minor edits and additions from Critical Thinking by Andrew Gurevich which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
  2. The last paragraph is adapted from Writing for Success which was produced and distributed under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA) in 2011 by a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution. This adapted edition is produced by the University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing


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