Based on the studies of the creative person and process, the William’s model is associated with the creative domain. Although often used for developing classroom instruction for Gifted and Talented students, the model was for encouraging students who ‘march to a different drummer’ (Schurr, 1989). The model was designed to encourage the systematic teaching of creative thinking and problem solving. There are 18 suggested teaching behaviours or teaching strategies, which are there to help the teacher get started on this journey.

Aside from the 18 teaching behaviours, there is also a taxonomy of creative thinking, concerned with creativity as a process. The taxonomy describes the stages of creative activity or process, which are involved with creative thinking. Process involves the presentation of content to students, and the use and manipulation of content by students. Questions to be asked, and the mental and physical activities required form part of the process.

3 Dimensions of the William’s Model

The 3 dimensions identified by Frank William in his model are –

  1. Curriculum content
  2. Teacher behaviours – 18 strategies for developing a student’s thinking and creativity
  3. Student behaviours – a taxonomy of 8 student processes which are involved in creative thinking

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.

Teacher Behaviours

There are 18 teaching behaviours, strategies that can be used in the classroom 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 and their intent for creating critical and creative thinking and engagement:

Paradox Situations opposed to common sense; self-contradictory statements or observations that may contain an inherent truth.
Attribute Listing Identification of inherent properties or qualities by examining them in a new light.
Analogy Comparisons of very unlike things; forced associations or connections.
Discrepancy Focus on gaps and missing links in knowledge, often deliberatively set up for the students to discover themselves.
Provocative Question Any inquiry of students to incite exploration and curiosity.
Examples of change Two ways to do this: Show dynamics of how something has changed; or Make one’s own modifications, alterations, substitutions.
Examples of habit Examine examples that demonstrate rigidity and inflexibility.
Organised random search Knowledge of a known structure allows the development of random new solutions.
Skills of search Research on something done before; trial and error on new ways.
Tolerance for ambiguity Posing of a “what if” or “what would happen if” open-ended scenarios that challenge thinking within problem situations.
Intuitive expression Being sensitive to inward hunches or nudges.
Adjustment to development Learn from mistakes and failures. Show how failure, mistakes and accidents have led to worthwhile discoveries.
Study creative process Analyse the traits and characteristics of eminently creative people through biographies.
Evaluate situations Evaluate solutions and answers in terms of their consequences and implications. Pose the question: “What if?”
Creative reading skills Students generate as many ideas as possible after reading a text.  This can stimulate a student to develop new ideas.
Creative listening skills This is the skill of generating ideas by listening.
Creative writing skills This is the skill of generating and communicating ideas through writing.
Visualisation skills Provide opportunities for students to perceive or visualise themselves in many contexts.

Student Behaviours

William’s model

The 8 student behaviours in the William’s model are often viewed as a taxonomy for creative thinking. They are 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 here I choose to think of them as all being capable of creating critical thinking, and contributing to the creative development of the student, as in the diagram above.

Fluency: many Generating as many ideas and responses possible
Flexibility: adaptability Categorizing ideas, objects, and learning by thinking divergently about them
Originality: uniqueness Creating clever and often unique responses to a prompt
Elaboration: adding on Expanding upon or stretching an idea or thing, building on previous thinking
Risk Taking: exploration Taking chances in their thinking, attempting tasks for which the outcome is unknown
Complexity: intricacy Creating order from chaos, exploring the logic of a situation, integrating additional variables or aspects of a situation, contemplating connections
Curiosity: inquiry Pursuing guesses, wondering about varied elements, questioning
Imagination: fantasizing Visualizing ideas and objects; going beyond just what is front of them

In summary, the William’s model has been used extensively as a model for curriculum differentiation for gifted and talented. 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).

William’s Model of Creative Thinking

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