7 Stages of Creativity

A professor and artist who lost the ability to draw and to speak through traumatic brain injury finds his voice as a proponent of creativity.

In an inspiring and informative 15 minute lecture called, “7 steps of creative thinking: Raphael DiLuzio at TEDxDirigo” explores how the creative process unfolds and how that knowledge can help us nurture the process.  This is a TED talk in Maine.  TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design and TED events are conferences for “ideas worth sharing.”

According to Professor DiLuzio, 7 stages of creativity are described by Murray Gelman, a nobel laureate physicist.

This is my summary of Professor DiLuzio’s presentation of Gelman’s 7 stages of creativity.
I believe these stages can be shared with students, engaged in ourselves and related to the simple process of sharing our crazy ideas, connections and inspirations that can lead to insight, creative connections and deeper learning.

Stage 1: find/ ask/ pose/ realize a question or a problem that needs to be overcome.  Frame a question.  This can be a simple question about what is being learned, or a question that is raised by the learning.

Stage 2: engage in research.  Research is second nature to us – like a baby putting everything in its mouth.  Check out the world / try different things, experience the world and gather info around that question.  Look into your question.   Don’t be afraid to admit that you have questions.

Stage 3: When you stop researching – Enough is enough moment.  Time for the student to stop inputting new info.

Stage 4: Gestation – hold that question. Enter into a state of detachment.  Let it stew.  Keep the question in the back of your mind.  Do something different, think of other things, approach the question through metaphor – what would the question look like if it was a tree?  Visualize the problem as something else – mesh intuition and empiricism.  Operate with fearlessness of imagination like an artist.  DiLuzio says, “Invention is part of our primal being.”

Stage 5: Eureka moment (flash of idea – a song, a connection, how to fix something, how to handle a problem).  It is very important to write Eureka moments down – we do not give them enough importance.  You may just have a Eureka moment about what you are stewing on, or something related…. or something that leads back to your original question.

Stage 6: Process of making – bringing the idea into being – stage of fear, “what will people think?” “I’d rather have eloquent failure than boring success.”  Engage people who can help.  Talk about the elements you don’t think you can handle with those you think can handle that element.

Stage 7: Testing and criticism – share it.  See what other people think.  Bring it into the world.

The stages may come in different order – allow yourself to keep track of the stages – what stage you are in and to acknowledge the process because it may open you up to engaging in the process more frequently and losing some fear about creativity.

Value ideas.  DiLuzio asks us to, “Keep them, make them and share them.”  It may make it easier for your students to value their own ideas and connections and inspirations if you value their ideas, connections and inspirations first.  Encourage creative participation in your class.

Questions to Spark Interest and Creativity in A&P

The question can be more important than the answer…. at least if it is a question that motivates a student to find an answer.  Learning nomenclature can be dull, there is no doubt but if questions involve more than pure fact, perhaps even a little imagination, the learner might just find things to be interested in where there was no prior interest.

Giving students some unusual questions to answer about A&P topics might engage them creatively and help them make connections that they will remember and build on.  Try some of these questions in class, as extra credit on quizzes or to start students off making concept maps or mind maps.

The ‘it’ in the questions is the organ, tissue, pathway, process, physical concept or cell in study.

1) Could I live without it?  If not – how long would it take to die?  Would it hurt?

2) Is it at all involved in sex?

3) Can I palpate it, auscultate it, smell it or sense it in any other way?

4) Is it something we eat from animals or something we remove in the butchering process?

5) Does it (or any part of it) come in ___________ (enter favorite color here)?

6) What do we NOT understand about this?

7) Is this self-directed or automatic?  In other words, do I have to think about making this happen?

8) How would you phrase admiration of a good example or fine specimen of this in another person?

9) What celebrity would you choose to endorse better understanding of this and why?

10) What could you substitute for this and why?  (It’s all right to be whimsical or imaginative.)

11) Can you think of a piece of equipment or a process from sports or the arts that is similar?


Concept Mapping & Mind Mapping in A&P

Help your students cast a net for enhanced learning by stringing ideas together into a network of connections and explanation.  Both concept maps and mind maps are like graphic organizers but they emphasize much more inter-connectedness between the ideas and explanations portrayed.  There is a simple and on-going exercise for using these tools in your classroom at the end of this post.
Concept Mapping
“Concept maps are tools for organizing and representing knowledge. They include concepts, usually enclosed in circles or boxes of some type, and relationships between concepts or propositions, (indicated by a connecting line and linking word) between two concepts. Linking words on the line specify the relationship between the two concepts. Joe Novak defines “concept” as a perceived regularity in events or objects, or records of events or objects, designated by a label.”  Read more….
(Excerpted, rearranged (and annotated) from an online manuscript by Joseph D. Novak, Cornell University.)
Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is very similar but does not direct the maker to label the lines or connections between mapped items.  In that regard, I think concept mapping is more helpful to a student in learning or understanding concepts while mind mapping may be a more freeing and creative exercise, which can help some students get the ball rolling with learning to make new connections.
Examples of mind maps from a science perspective and other links about mind mapping…
This is a journal paper about using concept maps in the science classroom.
Stringing or Linking a Semester Worth of Learning Onto a Poster Board
Start the semester by providing an avenue for progressive concept mapping.  Place poster boards around the room with concepts central to A&P at the center of each poster board.  These will become collaborative mind or concept maps with students (and you) adding on as the semester progresses.  Use concepts like osmosis, acid-base balance, homeostasis, stress, automaticity, threshold, healing, protection or action potential as the themes for each map.  Allow students to add to these posters as the semester progresses.  Then when there is a lot of material present, you can have groups work together to re-arrange what is present with greater connectivity and organization in mind.

Preparing to Think: Pre-learning Activity

From the University of Virginia Magazine:

Costly Cartoons? : Fast-paced shows hurt kids’ executive functions, study shows.

The cartoon SpongeBob Square Pants rules the roost as the most popular television show for children between the ages of 2 and 12.  But the program’s undersea mayhem may come at a cost.
A study by two U.Va. researchers concluded that fast-paced, fantastical shows are not the best things for children to watch if they need to pay attention, solve problems or moderate their behavior after watching.
Those abilities, called executive functions, seemed to be impaired among 4-year-olds after watching nine minutes of SpongeBob SquarePants. That’s when compared with similar study groups: one that watched Caillou, a slower-paced, public television show, and another that spent nine minutes quietly drawing.
Immediately after the activities, 15 percent of the children who watched SpongeBob were able to pass a problem-solving task, compared with 35 percent of the Caillou watchers and 70 percent of those who drew.
Lead investigator Angeline Lillard, a psychology professor at U.Va., says the results show such TV programs may handicap youngster’s readiness for learning.  But the results don’t warrant conclusions that fast-paced shows can ‘harm children’s brains,” as suggested in a Bloomberg news agency story.
“If a child has watched a television show that has reduced their executive function, you can’t expect them to behave at their normal level,”  Lillard says.
“We don’t know what the long-range impact is of watching shows like this on a consistent basis.  But what we’re seeing over the short term is a disruption in executive function,” she says.

Now I don’t want to extrapolate this data on the behavior of 4 year olds to your students whose ages possibly range from 17 – 60(?), but you have to admit that 70% number is intriguing.  Why not ask your students to take just a few minutes to draw something or write a few questions down at the beginning of class or lab.  It might get them in the groove for problem solving and succeeding in A&P!

Exercises for Increasing Creativity

A Game called ‘Uses For’

This is probably not something Professors can use class time for, however it is a basic example of a brainstorming, creativity technique that might help your students to learn to think outside of the box.  If students learn to think more openly and creatively they are likely to make more lasting connections between things they learn, see and experience.  This can only improve memory and performance, not to mention interest.  So share this with them and even suggest they try it at the beginning of a study group session, or their own studying.  Or they can refresh their thinking in the middle of studying with this exercise.  And of course you could do it yourself… or at the beginning of a faculty meeting!

Uses For.
Choose one of the items below and think of at least 25 original uses for it. (That is, you cannot list things that the item is already used for.) The uses can be fanciful, but should at least approach practicality. Describe each use in a sentence or two.
Uses for a steak knife.
1. Drill a hole in the tip and use it as a “knife switch” to turn electricity on and off.
2. Use the wood or plastic handles of two or three to make a hot pad for serving casseroles or soup in hot containers.
3. Use it to measure a spot for a new sofa, so when you go to the store you will know how many “steak knife units” long your new sofa can be.
4. Use it to drill holes in plasterboard walls.
a cardboard box
a towel
a nail
a sheet of paper
a spoon
a fan
a roll of adding machine paper
a ball point pen
the yellow pages
an inner tube
a candle
three feet of Scotch tape
popsicle sticks
a plastic drinking glass
a toothpick
a marble
old newspapers
ball bearings that aren’t round
worn out automobile tires
non-returnable soda bottles
tons of broken rubber bands
I got this idea and list from Virtual Salt:

Organization Enhances Creativity

It might seem like organization is anathema to creativity, however, the kind of connections that creative thinkers make often have a basis in the fact that information is organized in their heads.  They see patterns, cross barriers and extrapolate because they can see a big picture in which ideas and facts are related and inter-related.  Helping students become organized in thought, not necessarily in locker, notebook or bedroom, will help them make creative and thoughtful connections.

Many struggling students do not organize information on their own.
As a student, I received many outlines that were not actual hierarchical outlines, ie, the same level in the outline did not signify the same level in the organization of information.  This is very confusing to students.  In other words, if you state an organ at a level and then use levels below it to tick off the functions of that organ, do not then include a description of that organ, or a new organ at the same level as the functions of the organ.  Then when you return to the organ level, present another organ, not an entire system at that level.   Help students use outlines to guide their studying and their understanding of relationships.  Flash cards laid out on the floor in an ‘outline’ format of relationship help build a picture of understanding as opposed to merely providing vocabulary study.

You can help students learn to organize information by encouraging them to use graphic organizers.  Graphic organizers are simply blank organizing formats that can be filled in or copied while relating information.  There are examples of graphic organizers and examples of using them at our website.  Students can read about, download and print graphic organizers in the study skills section of this website.

This almost sounds too simple, but really think about the difference between a student who automatically places information within a hierarchy and automatically makes connections and a student who does not.  How many test questions involve giving examples of something?  This is much easier when there is a heading for ‘something’ in your brain with entries below it.

As your students progress in  A&P, suggest that they find principles across systems.  See who can find the most instances of osmosis or active transport in all that you’ve studied.  Can anyone find similarities between the path that food takes toward excretion and the path that filtrate takes toward excretion?  Have any hormones reared their heads in your studies more than once?  In what instances is pressure an important factor in physiology?

Encourage students to take a quick peek back in their text or notes when something previously studied is mentioned in a current chapter.  Taking that quick moment to remember the old information in a new context and with a new connection will help them better remember and understand both pieces of information.  It will help them organize the information into a more complex web.

Creativity : Behind the Buzz

Both business and education are focusing on creativity.  Why?  Because new ideas are needed.  What the world needs now (besides love, sweet love) is new ideas to handle to host of problems we face as a culture, a nation, and a species.  We have not been nurturing creative thinking or problem solving in our educational system, but the researchers are out there as are the trainers and the supporters of the arts tooting the horn of creativity.

What does this mean to you?  Creative thinking increases interest & enjoyment, which can only increase time spent studying, depth of understanding and outcomes.  Following are 2 examples of the focus on creativity in business and education.


1) Corporate Creativity Could Apply to the Classroom and the Department

2) Scientific literature supports creative teaching

1) As I was looking for support for the idea that creativity enhances learning and performance, I came across an interesting website.  It is for a company that sells seminars and programs to increase creativity and creative teamwork in the workplace.  The site includes some articles about creativity and education.  I have included some quotes below with links to the larger articles.  If you read these and are in agreement, perhaps your department would benefit from discussing the ideas – or even venturing into some creative team building experiences.

There will be links to the articles following the quotes but the overall website, Innovative
Leadership and Team Development, is:

“So do we lose our creativity as we become adults? It appears to be more the case that we lose our creative confidence, and as a result need to work harder to regain it. It appears that it’s not that adults are not creative, but rather the right environments and opportunities need to be built for creativity to flourish. And we must be committed to doing this in order to ensure we can all cope with the demands of the future.”
From : Hands Up: Who Killed Creativity?
Is there a crisis in creative confidence in the workplace?
By Andrew & Gaia Grant

Following is one of the suggestions for increasing creativity found in the article:
Keys to Creativity
by Gaia Grant
“DIVERGENT THINKING is a major key to creativity. It is the ability to let your mind wander, and then to make mental connections between unrelated matters. By allowing your mind to wander, you are utilising your most powerful creative tool-your IMAGINATION. 98% of children aged 3-5 yrs old score at the top of the scale of divergent thinking, while only 2% of adults have this ability. We tend to lose this ability with formal education and acculturation.. and yet this ability is what can help us to solve problems creatively.”


2) Scientific literature supports creative teaching!

Enhancing Creativity with M.U.S.I.C

In an article in The Alberta Journal of Educational Research (Vol. 55, no. 2, Summer 2009, pp199 – 211), Jim Henry reviews the emphasis on and importance of creativity in education.  After exploring varied ideas about creativity and definitions of creativity, he has come up with the following acronym to help enhance student creativity in learning, production and life.  This is already posted on my other website, to read, click: http://www.lisajonesbromfield.com/ctn4a.htm


Engaging Students with Technology

Think outside the box with technology.

There are 2 ideas here – both from high school teachers.

1) The following information comes from a high school language teacher in England.  Mr. Picardo is also a consultant and speaker who educates educators on using technology to enhance education.  More about him and his endeavors can be found @ http://www.josepicardo.com/ and at www.boxoftricks.net

The following is gleaned from a youtube video referenced below.  My additions / comments are in italics.

Top Ten Tips for using technology in the classroom

Tip 1: Use Streaming Video

Tip 2: Use music more often.

May I suggest “Groovin’ in the Hippocampus: Songs to Learn A&P By – seriously any excuse to include a little bit of music will get their attention.  The pulmonary and cardiac systems offer lots of possibilities for bits of songs to play to introduce a topic.  Try “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, or “Heartbeat” by King Crimson.  Better yet – challenge the students to bring in or suggest a song that has words related to the current A&P topic.  Pick a song and play it at the beginning of class – or even as students are coming into class.

Tip 3: Use teleconferencing tools such as Skype

Link to other professors/students to share or watch presentations.  Link to an MD or nurse who is willing to answer a few questions about the topic at hand and specifically what they see at work in regards to your current topic of study.

Tip 4: Create your own interactive exercises.

There are websites like hot potatoes and content generator that allow you to make games using your own content.  Content generator has a few free downloads you can use to do this and hot potatoes is all freeware but doesn’t look to have as much creative variety.

Tip 5:  Use your interactive whiteboard more effectively : take a course or use on-line tutorials  (one place to check for tutorials http://rmtc.fsdb.k12.fl.us/tutorials/whiteboards.html#resources

Tip 6: Create your own podcasts.

Making special demonstrations or presentations available as podcasts will help students review.

Tip 7: Start a blog or a wiki – showcase pupil work and achievements.

A place where students can discuss or respond to your ideas.  An earlier newsletter of mine suggested establishing a ‘student body’ wherein each student represents an organ or component of a system (such as pH level, BP, respiratory rate, or the heart or kidneys)  Introduce stressors to the system and allow the ‘student body’ to react in the blog by each ‘part’ describing how it would react to or counteract a stressor or change.

Tip 8: Use social networks – can create closed groups on Facebook

Tip 9: Use internet tools ; try animoto which will help you make videos from slides or shorter videos.


Tip 10: Make the most of your pupil’s gadgets – cell phones, i-pods, etc.

Video any student presentations and post on Blackboard with student permission.  Encourage students to create videos that explain or expound on classroom topics that can be posted as appropriate.

Link for Jose Picardo video covering the 10 Tips:



2) Blogging on A&P

High school teachers must engage students who have little choice about being there, so some pretty interesting ideas for engaging students are coming out of high schools.  Below is a link to an article about a high school English teacher who used a blog and interactive web application to interest her students in “Romeo and Juliet.”

Okay, so “Romeo & Juliet” is a story and your students have to learn facts, not stories….. Or do they?  A little anthropomorphization goes a long way.  You could set up a community on-line wherein different students play different body parts / systems or even specific hormones.  Introduce something into the system and let the players act it out.  Or, ask the students for ideas about using the web to make A&P engaging in the way most students under 30 are engaged : on-line.

Offer prizes for sharing ideas and connections on-line.  Ask students for their creative suggestions about how to create an interesting on-line learning environment.  Alter egos could be used (as long as they do not flame or use profanity) that share weird connections they think of within the field of A&P or between A&P and other fields.

These thoughts are based on an article on the National Education Association Webpage.  It is titled :

“Students live in a Digital World. Are schools ready to join them?”  By Tim Walker


Enjoy – and let your creative side go wild thinking of ways to digitally engage your students!



Why Focus on Creativity?

1) Struggling students do not think creatively (at least about the topic they struggle with)
2) Learning from the Experts

I am guessing that every teacher reading this was a good student.  An interest in teaching, research, or pedagogy in general rarely arises in someone for whom school is a struggle, or even a nightmare.

So how are we, good students who have achieved advanced or multiple degrees, to understand the struggling student?  What did we do that they fail to do?

Of the struggling students with whom I have spoken, I have discovered that they neither make connections between concepts or facts they are learning in a field or connections between concepts or facts they learn in diverse fields.  They rarely ask internal questions about their reading or while studying, and I would guess while listening to you lecture.

They usually rely on memorization using flash cards and study questions.  This is not an approach that creates a love of learning, a greater interest in a topic, new ideas for a rapidly changing planet and society, or a particularly successful student.

So can we teach struggling students to make connections when they listen and read?  Can we teach struggling students to organize information in ways that make sense and are of interest to them?  Can we teach struggling students to become more creative learners and thinkers?  I believe that we can and we must.

One of the first steps is to open up our own definitions of the word creativity to include the synthesis of ideas and the creation of new and unique connections between facts and ideas.

Following is an excerpt from an article about the importance of creativity by Sir Ken Robinson

Educational Leadership, September 009, Volume 67, #1, pp 22 – 26
“Teaching for the 21st Century”

“One (misconception about creativity) is that it’s about special people – that only a few people are really creative.  Everybody has tremendous creative capacities.  A policy for creativity in education needs to be about everybody, not just a few.

The second misconception is that creativity is about special activities.  People associate creativity with the arts only.  I’m a great advocate of the arts, but creativity is really a function of everything we do.  So education for creativity is about the whole curriculum, not just part of it.

The third misconception is that creativity is just about letting yourself go, kind of running around the room and going a bit crazy.  Really, creativity is a disciplined process that requires skill, knowledge, and control.  Obviously, it also requires imagination and inspiration.  But it’s not simply a question of venting:  It’s a disciplined path of daily education.  If you look at some of the people we most respect for their creative achievements, it’s because of the extraordinary insights, breakthroughs, and discipline they have brought to their work.”

I hope this inspires you to recognize your own creativity and to help your students find their creativity as well!
Here is a link to an incredible video “Changing Education Paradigms” from Sir Ken Robinson.  This video utilizes a very creative animation style and is well worth the 11 minute length


2) Learning From Experts

In The Executive Summary from How People Learn: brain, mind, experience, and school (e-edition, pp xii – xiii). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.  Bransford, et al. sum up the activities of experts that can inform our learning, and of course, our teaching.

“Key conclusions (from studies of people who have developed expertise in a variety of fields of study):

“Experts notice features and meaningful patterns of information that are not noticed by novices.

“Experts have acquired a great deal of content knowledge that is organized, and their organization of information reflects a deep understanding of the subject matter.

“Experts’ knowledge cannot be reduced to sets of isolated facts or propositions but, instead, reflects contexts of applicability, i.e., it is ‘conditionalized.’

“Experts are able to retrieve important aspects of their knowledge with little attentional effort.

“Though experts know their disciplines thoroughly, this does not guarantee that they are able to instruct others about the topic.

“Experts have varying levels of flexibility in their approaches to new situations.”

Some of these qualities involve the ability to make inter-field and intra-field connections, as well as flexibility of thought.   Sounds kid of like creativity, doesn’t it?  Increasing creative thinking in the class and while studying may help students achieve some of the behaviors of ‘good students’ and even of ‘experts.’