Planning with William’s Model of Creative Thinking

Bubbles everywhere! I walked up to the Year 6 students blowing bubbles with their colored bubble wands. Large and small, multicolored, floating in the slight breeze of the hot day. A creative moment, I asked curiously what was happening. The teacher explained that it was a problem-based-learning science lesson in, well to be honest, I don’t remember! But I remember the bubbles, the fun and the creativity in the lesson.

My curiosity was piqued, the students’ creativity was piqued, their imaginations captured. As I watched, the teacher would ask a few provocative questions, inciting them to explore further – with the mixtures, with the sun and the shade. Getting them to break the bubbles and then start again. For me it has stood as an example of using William’s model of creative thinking in the science classroom.

Drawing on 4 models of cognitive-affective thinking and the creative person (including Bloom and Piaget), William’s 3-dimensional (3D) model is often associated with the creative domain, the arts and literature, or for teaching gifted and talented students. Yet, Frank William intended his model of curriculum planning to be used in all disciplines, to engage students who ‘march to a different drummer’ (Schurr, 1989). The model was designed to inspire the systematic teaching of creative thinking and problem solving.

3 Dimensions of the William’s Model

The 3 dimensions identified by Frank William in his model are:William's 3D Model

  • Curriculum content
  • Teacher behaviors – 18 strategies for developing a student’s thinking and creativity
  • Student behaviors – a taxonomy of 8 student processes which are involved in creative thinking

Let’s have a look at each of these in more detail.

Curriculum Content

This is the content to be taught in the classroom curriculum, and can be based on any existing curriculum. It can be any content, based on the k-12 curriculum, and may include science, maths, English, arts and so on. The content is not differentiated in this model, all students cover the same content.

Teacher Behaviors

There are 18 teaching behaviors, strategies that can be used in the classroom. They are intended to help the teacher get started on the journey to develop a student’s thinking and creativity. The 18 teaching strategies focus on challenging the status quo, risk taking and not accepting things at face value. They encourage students to critically engage, to be reflective and to use meta-analysis.

The following table lists the 18 strategies for creating critical and creative thinking and engagement:

Exploring Paradox Attribute Listing Use Analogy
Uncover Discrepancy Provocative Questioning Examine Examples of change
Examine Examples of habit Organise random searches Develop Skills of search
Develop Tolerance for ambiguity Create Intuitive expression Adjust to development
Study creative process Evaluate situations Creative reading skills
Creative listening skills Creative writing skills Visualisation skills

William's Model

Student Behaviors

Aside from the 18 teaching behaviors, there is also a taxonomy of creative thinking, concerned with creativity as a process. The taxonomy of 8 student behaviors, describes the stages of creative activity or process, which are involved with creative thinking. The process involves the presentation of content to students, as well as the use and manipulation of content by students.

The taxonomy is generally considered hierarchical. The first four levels of the taxonomy relate to the cognitive areas of intellectual development. The remaining four levels relate to the affective areas of personal development. But I choose to think of them all as capable of creating critical thinking, and contributing to the creative development of the student.

Fluency: many
Flexibility: adaptability
Originality: uniqueness
Elaboration: adding on
Risk Taking: exploration
Complexity: intricacy
Curiosity: inquiry
Imagination: fantasizing

The image above is available as a free printable – print it out, stick it to your classroom wall, and encourage the creative thinkers in your class (no email is required)

William’s Model FREE! Printable

In summary

the William’s model has been used extensively as a model for curriculum differentiation for gifted and talented. However, there is great scope for this to be used to develop the creativity of all the students in the classroom. It is a question of how you embed it in your classroom curriculum planning.

“A good teacher must plant the seeds of creativity and then nourish, fertilize and cultivate those seeds into the blossoms of original thought” (Schurr, 1989, p. 63).

Want to know more?

Do you wish to learn more about using William’s Model of creative thinking for classroom planning? I have developed a course which takes you through understanding this Model for Curriculum Planning, including how to apply each of the 18 teaching strategies. The course takes you through what the full model looks like, and how it can be used to plan a lesson, unit of study, or how it works with other models.

The introductory course helps you to Plan your Classroom for Inclusion of all your students. I tell you all about 3 key curriculum frameworks, and shows you how to use them for your planning. The BONUS? When you have completed the course, you can add 5 hours to your professional development log. And if you live in the Australian Capital Territory, you automatically qualify for 5 hours of Accredited Professional Learning.

Tell me more about the course – Classroom Planning for Inclusion!
Creativity in the Classroom

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