Planning with Williams’ Model of Creative Thinking

Bubbles everywhere! I walked up to the Year 6 students blowing bubbles with their coloured bubble wands. Large and small, multicoloured, floating in the slight breeze of the hot day. In 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, and their imaginations were 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 Williams’ model of creative thinking in the science classroom.

Drawing on 4 models of cognitive-affective thinking and the creative person (including Bloom and Piaget), Williams’ 3-dimensional (3D) model is often associated with the creative domain, the arts and literature, or for teaching gifted and talented students. Yet, Frank Williams 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 Williams’ Model

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

  • Curriculum content
  • Teacher behaviours – 18 strategies for developing a student’s thinking and creativity
  • Student behaviours – a taxonomy of 8 student processes that 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 behaviours and 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, be reflective and 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 in 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

Student Behaviors

William's Model

There are also 8 student behaviours, as detailed in the image above. These behaviours describe the creative activity or processes students will show, or are elicited as a result of the interactions of the content with the 18 teaching strategies. The process involves the presentation of content to students, as well as the use and manipulation of content by students.

The 8 students’ behaviours are generally shown as a hierarchical taxonomy, however, this is incorrect. Williams himself describes his model as a morphological model. He stated they were all as capable of creating critical thinking and contributing to the creative development of the student. There are four defined behaviours that relate to the cognitive areas of intellectual development. The remaining four relate to the affective areas of personal development.

In summary

William’s model has been used extensively as a planning framework for curriculum differentiation for the 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 Williams’ model of creative thinking for classroom planning? My book, Curriculum Journeys – Towards Inclusion (A Journey through the world of Curriculum Frameworks for the inclusive education of ALL students), gives more detail on William’s Model, as well as others and on the process of planning for an inclusive classroom. Framed as a journey through curriculum frameworks, the book takes you, the practising teacher, through seven different planning frameworks for developing a 21st Century inclusive classroom learning environment, one where all students can learn. You can find it on Amazon now!

Creativity in the Classroom

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