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San Diego State University

Center for Teaching Critical and Creative Thinking

CTCTC Mission

To advance performance and productivity in diverse communities by enhancing critical and creative thinking in schools.

We believe creativity and critical thinking are integrated processes. Both are required for problem solving in all academic disciplines and in everyday life: Should I be persuaded by this advertisement, editorial, pundit, web page, study, news report, textbook, photo, art object? What would make a more compelling argument, solution, presentation? Does my solution or product meet appropriate criteria? As educators, we assume that critical thinking and creativity can be cultivated. Our definitions should emphasize cognitive processes that can be learned.

Critical Thinking

A number of definitions exist for critical thinking and address processes involved in reasoning and evaluating. A synthesis might be:

Critical thinking is the systematic reasoning needed for making sound judgments to guide beliefs and actions. Critical thinking processes include examining purpose, assumptions, arguments, evidence, methods, and sources in terms of reliability, accuracy, aesthetics, ethics, or bias. Critical thinkers consider multiple perspectives, use data to support inferences, distinguish relevant from irrelevant data, weigh implications and consequences, and reflect on their work.


The literature offers a wide range of models and definitions that variously focus on person, process, situation, product, or a combination of these elements. The Center’s rationale for enhancing creativity concerns society’s need for creative solutions as well as the individual’s personal growth and satisfaction. Creative thinking is engaging in open-ended thinking processes to generate novel ideas appropriate for the task. Processes include fluency, flexibility, elaboration, synthesis, making connections, analogical/metaphorical thinking, divergent thinking, risk taking, imagination, visualization, and problem finding. Creative products are original and useful and at the highest level, elegant and transformative. Creativity is developmental in nature and defined with levels of impact: “Big-C” (e.g., Einstein, Mozart), “little-c” (e.g., winning a high school poetry prize), and “mini-c” (e.g., personal “ahas”). Mini-c creativity—combining ideas or seeing things in new ways—is an important aspect of everyday learning and a foundation for the higher levels.

Contact Us

Luke Duesbery, Ph.D., Director

Center for Teaching Critical Thinking
and Creativity
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182-1153

Location: Education & Business Administration Building, Room 216A

Phone: 619-594-8964