The effects of a cognitive pathway to promote class creative thinking.
An experimental study on Italian primary school students
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The goal of this experimental research was to demonstrate that creative thinking could be trained in
primary school children. After asserting the difficulty to determine a unique definition of creativity
– the concept fits to several fields and areas of interests – the capacity to produce numerous ideas
and to think divergently was chosen as the framework within creativity as a way of thinking that
can be assessed and measured. Even though creativity is challenging to define and consequently to
operationalize, tests exist with the purpose to evaluate creativity levels in individuals. Starting from
the Test of Child Creativity (TCI) an Italian mental reactive aimed at measuring the potential of
creative thinking in individual children, a Group Creativity Assessment (gTCI) was made up with
the objective to test 224 children belonging to 10 primary school classes (5 second grades and 5
third grades), achieving creativity scores of groups. The aim was to investigate whether children’s
attitude to think divergently would improve after participating in a creativity training made up of 10
interactive one-hour long sessions. For that reason, all the sample of children were tested in T0
before the training; afterward 8 out of the 10 classes were weekly trained, before being all 10
classes tested again in T1, 10 weeks after T0. The hypothesis was that the trained classes would
have improved in creative thinking, whereas the control groups would have not. It was therefore
demonstrated the efficacy of the specific technique to train creative thinking that was conceived,
developed and administered to the children.
Keywords: Creativity; Teaching; Divergent Thinking; Cognitive Training; Primary school
1.1. Creativity as a way of thinking
«There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity,
there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns», writes Edward
De Bono (De Bono, 1992). What is creativity? How can it be defined? It may be generally
perceived as a talent, a characteristic of eminent artists, a distinctive and innate personality trait of
few human beings. However, creativity can be conceived as an ability belonging to all human
beings and to all areas of knowledge, instead of being restricted to certain specific subjects like
visual art and music. The present research aims at testing whether creative thinking can be trained in
Creativity is a multidimensional construct. As such, it is difficult to reach a unique and
universally recognized definition. In psychology research it is typically defined as the process
leading to the generation of products that are new, original, useful, and effective (Runco & Jaeger,
2012). A creative mind is capable of imagine innovative answers to questions, and it is
characterized by flexibility and plasticity. These can be defined as the ability to generate ideas that
are different from each other, and the quality of being easily shaped or moulded, respectively.
Creative thinking can thus be considered as the ability to generate new concepts or solutions (De
Bono, 1970). The thinking processes underlying creative answers are based on the person’s skills,
knowledge, understanding, motivation, and emotions (Ferrari, Cachia, & Punie, 2009; Vygotsky,
However, to provide a wider frame of creativity, it is necessary to refer to several defining
models, each capable of highlighting particular aspects, or dimensions, of the construct. In
particular, Rhodes (1987), in the attempt of providing a complete framing of creativity, proposed to
classify models based on the focus on (a) the person who creates, (b) the cognitive processes
involved in the creation of ideas, (c) the environment in which creativity occurs, and (d) the
outcome of the creative activity.
Focusing attention on the cognitive processes involved in creativity, the Guildford’s model
(1957) collocates the creative thinking within the interaction of specific aspects of cognition. In
particular, Guilford described two possible ways to produce thoughts: the convergent thinking and
the divergent thinking. The former is the processes involved when we face known problems and we
can use the acquired knowledge or methods to arrive to a conclusion. The last refers to the ability to
create new ideas starting from an input. It can also be viewed as a creative cognitive style or
creative potential (Silvia et al., 2008). Children seem to develop this ability around 2 years (Bijvoet-
van den Berg & Hoicka, 2014). Divergent thinking is the opposite of functional fixity that occur
when a routinized way of thinking inhibits new ideas, leaving the thinker with just a few ideas
linked to previously tested solutions. Divergent thinking has the following components:
1. Fluency: Fluency may be defined as the ability to generate new solutions about new or
ambiguous problems in a short time
2. Flexibility: the ability to simultaneously propose different perspectives on a given problem;
3. Originality: the ability to produce ideas not previously developed by the individual;
4. Elaboration: the ability to systematize and organize the details of an idea and use this
information to carry on a task.
Divergent thinking is a good predictor of creativity, generally better than intelligence as
measured by IQ tests (Runco, Millar, Acar, & Cramond, 2010). Regarding the nature of the task,
Teresa Amabile has highlighted how understanding the nature of the task is a fundamental process
for creativity (Amabile, 1996). In fact, the task must trigger a heuristic approach to a given problem
so that the solution can be creative. On the contrary, under strictly regulated routine behaviours
(which we could define routine tasks) there can be no creativity, since it is enough to follow step by
step the instructions contained in the available cognitive algorithms. This condition, typical of many
working and educational contexts, allow fast responses and a linear learning process, but is also a
constraint to creativity (Amabile, 1998; Runco, Acar, & Cayirdag, 2017).
Munari, an Italian artist, designer, writer, and educator, asserts that in order to develop creativity
and imagination in a child, he/she should memorize as much information as possible in order to
make more connections between things, so to approach problems as well as everyday life. Munari
believes that the extent and breadth of childhood experiences influence the development of
creativity and thinking scope of a person (Munari, 1977). Also, Rogers affirms that genuinely
creative adaptability represents the only possibility that humans have to face the kaleidoscopic
change in their world (Rogers, 2012).
1.2. Creativity as a learning objective
Human creativity has been an interest to psychology and education science for generations (e.g.
Guilford, 1959) and it has been recognized as an essential skill (May, 2015) and a key educational
goal that should be supported in schools (Antonietti & Cerioli, 1992; Chan & Yuen, 2014).
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) highpoints creativity as
one of the most important learning goals for the 21st century (Lucas, Claxton, & Spencer, 2013):
schools should prepare students for a future that will request creative thinking in order to face the
multifarious and complex problems that our future society will disclose. The future of our
civilization, according to Sir Ken Robinson (Robinson, 2011), depends upon the creative
capabilities of young people. Consequently, the education system should strengthen personal and
individual attitudes and inclinations and avoid encouraging standardization: «If you run an
education system based on standardization and conformity that suppresses individuality,
imagination and creativity, don’t be surprised if that’s what it does» (Robinson, 2015).
It is important to consider that creativity may be referred to artistic expressions, to scientific
progress, to complex problem-solving or to daily activities. In this sense, creativity research refers
often to the dichotomy “big-C” versus ‘‘little-C” (Kaufman & Beghetto, 2009). Little-C is a
characteristic of everyday creativity and is a fundamental ability for human to survive. It is useful or
even indispensable in many aspects of life, from decision-making to behavioral procedures (e.g.,
inventing a story to go out at night, finding a parking for your car, or decorating). Little-c creativity
is thought to be accessible by nearly everyone and commonly distributed in the population
(Kaufman & Baer, 2006; Sternberg, Grigorenko, & Singer, 2004).
Big-C creativity, instead, refers to eminent examples, e.g. the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
o la Guernica by Picasso. Big-C creativity implies achievement that only a select few will reach in
their life. It is clear that an educational training must be aimed at promoting little-c creativity.
However, this product-oriented distinction is not very useful for our aims, since we are not
interested in evaluating a visible product. Instead, the aim should be to stimulate the ability of
children to be involved in a task where they can develop new interpretations and perspective of an
event so to promote fluent and flexible ideation. In this sense, we are interested in the so-called
mini-c, that may be described as the ability to interpret the experience in a personal way, instead of
just acting or reacting to it (Beghetto & Kaufman, 2007). The mini-c construct is the focus of our
study, since in a sociocultural framework it may be considered a particular way of constructing
knowledge within a virtuous individual-social world interaction. Promoting mini-c creativity, then,
can be useful to enforce different interpretation of a task in a given social context. So, it includes
both the development of mental process and the engagement in a social activity. This is exactly
what we did in our experiment. In fact, we wanted to promote mini-c creativity within the normal
interaction in a classroom, with the hypothesis that fostering creativity in a social context will target
- Promote individual mini-c level
- Promote the creative performance of the class as a group
Consequently, for education purposes creativity may be best conceptualized not only as a
personality attribute or as a general aptitude, but as a behaviour resulting from particular
assemblage of personal features, cognitive abilities and social and learning environment (Amabile,
1983). Moreover, only few previous studies (see for example Alfonso-Benlliure, Meléndez, &
García-Ballesteros, 2013; Cheung, 2012; Katz & Stupel, 2015; Lin, 2011; Tsai, 2013) highlighted
the importance of creating an appropriate learning environment, especially aimed at promoting and
supporting students’ creativity. Moreover, a proficient data comparison and integration that could
lead to more systematic shared practices is still missing.
1.3. Literature review: testing creativity
The best-known Italian creativity test is the Test di Creatività Infantile (TCI, [Test of Child
Creativity]; (Antonietti & Cerioli, 2002), a psychological tool aimed at measuring the potential of
creative thinking in children. Its structure follows from the verbal TTCT and it was developed as a
test specifically adapted to the Italian cultural context. In particular, it was thought as an instrument
to be easily administered in a primary school setting. The test measures fluidity, flexibility and
originality in tasks of spontaneous production of ideas.
There is a number of studies validating creativity being a cognitive ability, not an intrinsic and
fixed personal characteristic. Dealing with the possibility to measure creative thinking in children,
the Department of Applied Social Studies of the City Polytechnic of Hong Kong carried out a study
with the objective of determine the concurrent validity between activity-based measures of creative
thinking and standard divergent thinking tests (Kitto, Lok, & Rudowicz, 1994). In order to do so, a
sample of 30 fifth-grade children was chosen and five creative thinking abilities were measured
using the behavioural techniques and the children's scores for fluency, flexibility, and originality
were compared with those from the TTCT. Despite the small sample, the results indicate that the
measures of fluency and originality on the behavioural techniques correlate highly with the scores
of verbal fluency and originality on the TTCT, meaning that both the types of creativity
measurements are acceptable and valid.
A study from the King’s College of London (Hu & Adey, 2002) describes the development of a
test of scientific creativity for students. Based on the experience of the TTCT, a 7-item scale for
measuring scientific creativity was developed and validated through analyses of item response data
of 160 secondary school students in England. The aim was to investigate the relative scientific
creativity of students of different age and ability level: the results indicated that the scientific
students’ creativity increases with age and that science ability is a necessary but not sufficient
condition for scientific creativity.
As said, previous studies assessed creative thinking in individual settings, but there are almost no
practices of assessing creative thinking on groups of children. Furthermore, it is not usual to train
creative thinking in primary school. The interest in human creativity seems to have not led to either
substantial advances in the understanding of creative processes nor to theory-based techniques for
enhancing human creativity. Even if in the past 20 years the relevance of creativity emerged as a
need to improve students’ curricula (Wyse & Ferrari, 2015), in the Italian schooling system there
are no standard defined techniques or methods teachers normally use to assess student skills and
To sum up, in this paper we suggest that creativity is potentially present among all people. At the
same time, it is differently distributed in the population, as measured by the available tests, and
depends on a number of physiological, psychological, social and contextual factors. Finally, and
more importantly, it can also be fostered by specific training, as it will be shown in the following
1.4. Literature review: training creativity
Since creative thinking is a competence that can be learnt and taught, creativity levels can be
increased in young people by education and training. Research on the effectiveness of training
creativity disclosed that using specific techniques and training programs could help to enhance the
level of creativity among the students.
For example, academics from The University of Oklahoma completed a review of the
effectiveness of creativity training (Scott, Leritz, & Mumford, 2004) using a quantitative meta-
analysis on studies assessing creativity programs at school. The authors selected 70 prior studies
based on the following criteria: the paper was considered if the analysis included only research
focusing on creativity training, and not on general educational courses such as Arts. Also, the paper
had to include a clear description of the procedures used for the training, as well as of the
population involved. The study had to clearly describe the exact measures acquired to assess
creative performance and the statistics procedures to assess effect size. Finally, those studies
illustrating only general summaries or difference scores were discarded. The results of the meta-
analysis revealed that creativity training programs following the abovementioned criteria typically
induce improvements in performances. An examination of the factors contributing to the relative
effectiveness of these training programs indicated that more successful programs were likely to
focus on development of cognitive skills.
Similarly to the present study, the School of Psychology and Human Development of the
University Kebangsaan in Malaysia, carried out a study (Zahra, Yusooff, & Hasim, 2013) that
explores the effectiveness of training creativity on preschool students, administering 12 sections of
training creativity (Brainstorming, Tell Story, Web Link and Role Plays, Checklist and Torrance
Training Creativity Test). Results showed positive significant differences between pre-test and post-
test values, and a strong effect of training creativity on the preschool students.
1.5. Purpose of the present research
Previous studies were aimed at testing individuals on creative thinking, nonetheless only few
studies targeted creative thinking on groups of children. The Italian schooling system is based on
inclusivity, a policy about how classrooms, programs and activities are developed and designed so
that all students learn and participate together at the same time. Consequently, training and
assessing creativity at a group level may promote inclusiveness and prevent exclusions: that’s why
the idea was to test groups, and not to consider single students. We argue that it is vital to consider
creativity at a group level, since many work and educational activities in Italy are implemented in
this setting. Also, teamwork is considered a fundamental soft skill. Thus, an important target at
school could be to foster group creativity, instead of individual creativity. In this way, the entire
group will experience higher-level achievement, with direct positive effects on class performance
and potentially indirect effect on the individual performance. Generally speaking, in fact, it was
proven that when a group increases its achievements the benefits are both for the group (since many
assignments need to be accomplished at a group level), and for the individual (since being part of a
functioning group facilitates individual learning and increases the learning related self-efficacy;
Moreland & Myaskovsky, 2000).
Thus, the purpose of the present study was to verify if creative thinking is an ability that can be
trained collectively in a class. The research involved classes of three primary school in Milan, Italy.
The aim of the research was to investigate whether children’s attitude to produce numerous and new
ideas would improve after participating in a creativity training made up of 10 interactive one-hour
sessions, carried out for 10 weeks, once a week. The main factor that was observed is the capacity
to produce ideas, which was measured and analysed in the groups before and after the 10-week
training period. The hypothesis was that children belonging to the trained classes would improve in
creativity, whereas the others, belonging to the control groups, would have not, meaning that
creative thinking is an educable attitude not depending only on time.
2. Materials and Method
The sample consisted in 10 classes including 224 primary school students, 112 boys and 112
girls. 119 of them were second grade students while 109 were third grade students. Children in
second grade were born in 2010 and third graders were born in 2011. The Italian primary school
system starts at 6 years of age (1st grade) and lasts for five years. The average number of students in
the classes was 22.4 children (S.D = 2.32). The students belonged to 3 primary schools in the urban
area of Milan, Italy: 2 public schools and a private one, within the compass of 8-10 km. For privacy
reasons, the generalities, backgrounds and social and occupational category information regarding
the students’ families were not collected in the experiment, but it can be assumed that children
attending private school are more likely to belong to wealthier families comparing to the ones
attending public schools. The composition of the sample was the following: 147 students were
Italian, whereas 77 children were born in other countries (not native Italians) (see Table 1). The
study was approved by the school council and communicated to children parents, who signed the
informed consent. The study was evaluated approved by the local ethical board.
Insert Table 1 about here
At the beginning of the study (T0) all the classes of the sample (5 second grades and 5 third
grades) were tested (baseline pre-test) with a preliminary assessment. During the 10-week training
between T0 and T1, 8 out of the 10 groups were trained (Training classes, T), whereas the
remaining 2 just followed the standard class activities without a specific training (Control classes,
C). At the end of the training period (T1), all the classes were re-submitted to the cognitive
assessment to directly explore if and how the training produced any effect on creative skills.
2.3 Creativity Assessment
Describing the sub-tests in detail, the Examples trial asks the students to name all the objects
with specific features they could think about: a colour (green in the PRE, blue in the POST), a shape
(squared in the PRE, rounded in the POST), a material (wooden the PRE, plastic in the POST). The
Purposes trials was made up of 2 questions in which the children were asked to imagine all the
different ways in which 2 objects can be used (chair / tissue in the PRE and pencil / box in the
POST). Finally, in the Consequences trial, two different unusual situations were presented to the
students and they were asked to think about all the possible consequences to those situations (If
raindrops were as big as apples / If your classroom was a submarine in the PRE; If cars were as
small as peanuts / If your house was an aircraft in the POST).
The duration of the gTCI was 25 minutes in each class, the same for the pre- and the post-
training assessment. Specific timing for every set of questions is reported in Table 2.
Insert Table 2 about here
The used gTCI differs from the TCI for two main elements that were modified: first, the test was
proposed to the entire class environment and not to a single child at the time, in order to test the
whole group. Secondly, a specific timing was set for every question (3 minutes/item) instead of
giving the children an undetermined time to spontaneously answer, as for the original TCI.
The setting of the gTCI and of the training was the classroom itself. The children were seated in
their normal places and no changes were asked from the daily routine disposition of the students
and the ordinary work environment. Each series of answers was recorded on the blackboard,
drawing a small vertical segment for each word every child proposed raising his/her hand. Each set
of answers was scored, and the summation of the scores resulted in the total fluidity score for every
group of questions (Examples, Purposes, Consequences). Moreover, a Total number of answers was
calculated, summing up all words of the 3 subsections. The number of repetitions was also
considered as a parameter to give an idea of how the children listen to each other: the more they pay
attention to one another, the less they repeat words that have already been said by someone else.
This behaviour could be considered an index for the extent to find original ways to solve the
problem proposed. For every repeated word within the same question, a circle was drawn around
the vertical line (Fig. 1a/b).
Insert Fig. 1a/b about here
2.4 Creativity Training
2.4.1 Description of the training
Two classes formed the control group (C) who was not subject to a creativity training: the
teachers carried out the usual activities of the didactic curriculum for second and third grade. Eight
out of the ten classes were instead weekly-trained (T). The study was carried out for a total of ten
lessons, within each class. The 10 weeks teaching curriculum included a series of group games and
exercises. The aim of the interactive activities was to induce children to produce new ideas, the
ability to imagine multiple ways to use an object, and the capacity to think potential consequences
to events. The training mostly consisted in dialogical sessions, maieutic conversations and ludic
activities with the students, included drawings. Every weekly session of the training lasted 60
minutes: each session had different starting point, unfolding and development. All the types of
activities proposed to the children took the cue from simple objects, stories or subjects close to
them, that were starting points for an imaginative and inquisitive work together. The 10-week
training was not a propaedeutic course: the activities had no mean to teach some knowledge, but to
train some competences. For this reason, the interactive sessions could be submitted in different
orders in the 8 classes. In order to train children’s creative thinking, no particular material was
needed. The materials used were blackboards and chalks, paper, coloured pencils. The training did
not involve tasks similar to the ones used to assess creativity in T0 and T1 (see Tab 3 for further
*Insert Tab 3 about here*
2.5 Data analysis
Statistical analyses were conducted on the fluidity of data collected from the entire sample in T0
and T1 by using IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows (Version 24.0). Two different orders of analysis
were performed: the first step considered only the initial assessment (T0) to exclude the presence of
significant differences in terms of creativity among classes before the training, especially between
training and control groups. Then, the second step was aimed to directly assess the training’s effect
by comparing pre and post-training performance. Considering the small sample size and the
statistical recommendations for this cases, non-parametric analyses have been applied (Gibbons &
Chakraborti, 2010). Also, to compute effect-size, Cliff’s delta values have been calculated (Cliff,
The first set of analysis was completed in T0 before the training. Two non-parametric Mann–
Whitney U tests were applied on the five dependent variables of interest: Total Number of words,
Examples words, Purposes words, Consequences words and the number of Repetitions. The test
compared these scorings between the two levels of the two independent variables between subjects’
variables: condition (2: training vs control), grade (2: second vs third).
1a) A first test was run on the variable condition in order to prove that there was no statistic
significant difference between the performance of the training classes and those of the control ones.
1b) A second test was run on the variable grade with the aim of exploring if there were significant
statistical differences between the performance of the second graders and those of the third graders
before the training.
The second set of analysis was carried out to demonstrate the efficacy of the training. Since we
needed to analyse within-subjects values we opted for the Wilcoxon signed-rank, that allow to
compare data coming from dependent samples, and repeated measures. 10 non-parametric W tests
were applied to the 5 dependent variables of interest: Total Number of words, Examples words,
Purposes words, Consequences words and the number of Repetitions. Independent variables
included the within-subjects variable time (PRE; POST) and the between-subjects variable
condition (training; control).
2a) The first 5 tests were run on the training group scorings in order to investigate the presence of a
significant statistical difference between their performance before and after the training.
2b) The second 5 tests were performed on the control group scorings with the aim of excluding the
presence of a significant statistical difference between their performance in T0 and T1.
3.1 Step 1: Homogeneity (T0: PRE)
1a) No significant differences were observed in T0 concerning the PRE scores of the T classes if
compared to the C classes. All the children of the different classes and schools appear to have
similar starting point regarding their creative thinking attitude before the training.
1b) No significant differences were observed in T0 about the performances of second and third
grade classes. In other words, the students in second grade exhibited no significant differences
in their imaginative and creative abilities before the training compared to third graders.
*Insert Table 4 and 5 about here*
3.2 Step 2: Training Efficacy (T0-T1: PREPOST)
2a) The 5 Wilcoxon tests run on the training group revealed that in 4 out of the 5 dependent
variables a significant statistical difference between T0 and T1 emerged (see Tab. 4 for descriptive
statistics). Total Number scoring was improved after the training (Mpost= 159.5; S.D. = 19.1)
compared to T0 (Mpre=118,3; S.D. = 20.5), as displayed in fig. 2.
Insert Fig. 2 about here
Examples scoring was improved after the training (Mpost= 87.00; S.D.=11.7) compared to T0
(Mpre=64.00; S.D.=13.082). Purposes scoring was improved after the training (Mpost= 43.5;
S.D.=43.5) compared to T0 (Mpre=31.25; STD=4.5). Consequences scoring was improved after the
training (Mpost= 29; S.D.=4.81) compared to T0 (Mpre=23; S.D.=4). On the other hand, Repetitions
did not display any statistic significant difference between PRE and POST scores.
2b) The 5 Wilcoxon test run on the control group revealed that in none of the dependent variables a
statistic significant difference between the performance of the children in T0 and T1 was observed
(see Tab. 6).
*Insert Tab 6 about here*
For all the significant results, we found good effect sizes (as reported in Tab. 6). These indices
support the presence of large effects of the independent variables on the observed measures.
4. Discussion and conclusion
The present study aimed at demonstrating the educability of class creative thinking in second and
third grade students. In order to do so, a cognitive training was proposed to the training groups,
composed by 8 classes, with the intention to achieve collective group scores, and not individual
ones. The efficacy of the 10 week-creative thinking training administered to the children was
demonstrated through the statistical analyses.
4.1 Group assessment int T0
As revealed by the first set of analyses performed in T0, all the classes involved were similar in
T0 for creativity scores. The two Mann–Whitney U tests, in fact, revealed the absence of any
significant differences between training and control groups and between second and third graders
before the training. Therefore, it is possible to assume that there were no differences in the level of
creative attitude between children of different ages. The absence of any significant difference
between the classes assigned to the control and the training group was fundamental to demonstrate
that the improvement in T1 was actually an effect of the training.
4.2 Assessing training’s efficacy
The results of the Wilcoxon signed-rank comparing T1 and T0 scorings demonstrated the
efficacy of the training, showing that only the training groups’ performances widely improved,
whereas the control classes showed no statistical differences between pre and post assessment.
For the training groups, the analysis on Total Number of words showed a significant
improvement in the ability to produce ideas in the entire sample. A very similar effect can be
observed in the Examples scores (fluency), that is the number of answers given to the first 3
questions (color, shape, material). A significant increase, even if less pronounced, was also found
for the Purpose and Consequences scores, probably because those questions were more difficult
than the previous ones. The Repetitions variable did not display any significant statistical difference
in T1 after the training, differently from what was expected. The number of repetitions decreased,
but not enough to reach statistical significance.
As described in the Introduction, creativity can be seen as a particular assemblage of personal
features, cognitive abilities and social and learning environment (Amabile, 1983). The absence of
statistically significant change of Repetitions might highlight that some social-collective aspects
like listening to each other and cooperate in learning request more time and longer training in order
to show significant improvements, compared to some cognitive factors, such as creativity by means
of the production of multiple ideas (Runco & Jaeger, 2012). As a future perspective, it would be
appropriate to lengthen the lasting of the training in order to verify if the variable Repetitions would
decrease in a significant way, together with other interpersonal variables, such as empathy,
prosociality, mentalization and theory of mind. Concerning the control groups, the analyses
revealed no statistically significant difference between the performance of the children in T1 and
those in T0. The students in the control groups were not trained and, as expected, there were no
significant improvements in the answers of any of the set of questions of the gTCI. The control
groups’ performances concerning the Total Number, Examples, Purposes, Consequences,
Repetitions scores remained unvaried in T1, demonstrating that the evident change displayed in the
training group’s results was an effect of the cognitive pathway to promote creative thinking that was
offered to the students.
4.3 Limitations and future perspectives
To conclude, the present work provided initial evidence of a possible positive effect of a
cognitive training on fluency and idea generation in primary school children. The research and its
possible evolutions could give a substantial contribution to the future of learning and teaching
within a creative framework. Also, it could provide new insights and ideas to other scholars,
researchers and teachers to promote innovation towards teaching for thinking. Future research
should also target the relationship between an improved class creativity and education
achievements. Though, creativity may be considered as transversal skill which is useful despite of
any educational goals, it could be interested to find out how promoting divergence might impact
with one’s school trajectory. Indeed, several studies target the correlation between creativity,
personal achievements, QI and other individual parameters (e.g. Kim, 2011), but there is poor
evidence about how it is possible to increase school performance targeting creativity, also because
individual features, such as personality traits, might heavily modulate the results of interventions
(Entwistle & Ramsden, 2015). In this sense, our approach that targets class instead of individual
creativity, might be easier to apply, since it would be possible to evaluate the impact of targeted
creativity intervention on class performance.
Future research needs to confirm and extend our results also considering the present study
limitations. First, the test we used was previously validated for individual settings, while we
adapted it to a group setting. This adaptation requires further attention, so to assess the relationship
between group and individual measures of creativity and to prove the validity of the adopted
procedures. Furthermore, it would be convenient to increase the number of classes involved,
differentiating the sample including both different grades (adding 1st, 4th and 5th grade) and
different types of educational approach (e.g. Montessori, Steiner, etc.). This could be important to
track changes through age and to verify if the method can affect creativity levels and in which ways.
Moreover, it could be interesting to assess such variables through a longitudinal study, to monitor
the effects of the training and the progress of creative thinking step by step, as well as other possible
variables of interests such as family’s demographics, but also children’s personality.
Finally, it would be interesting to diversify the training pathway, using different methods (or
different pedagogical approach), to explore the effects of each technique to determine which one
can better enhance creativity, in which educational frame, and at which age.
Table 1: Samples’ composition.
Class # Grade Condition Children Boys Girls Non-Italian native
1 second Training 26 13 13 0
2 second Training 23 12 11 11
3 second Training 23 12 11 15
4 second Training 24 12 12 11
5 second Control 23 12 11 7
6 third Training 25 13 12 0
7 third Training 20 11 9 10
8 third Training 20 9 11 7
9 third Training 19 7 12 5
10 third Control 21 11 10 11
Table 2: gTCI session Timetable
Introduction and brief
of the gTCI
First step EXAMPLES 9 minutes
1 a Color 3 minutes
1 b Shape 3 minutes
1 c Material 3 minutes
Second step PURPOSES 6 minutes
2 a Object #1 3 minutes
2 b Object #2 3 minutes
Third step CONSEQUENC
4 a Situation #1 3 minutes
4 b Situation #2 3 minutes
Total time 25 minutes
Table 3: Sessions proposed to the children
The following table 4 shows titles and the main objective of each of the ten workshops that were
proposed to the classes belonging to the T-group. All the 1 hour-long sessions were designed as
games/stories in which the children of the class were involved collectively and orally. Some
workshops were fully oral; some others involved a graphic session.
We asked children to imagine a brand new planet, different
from the existing ones, and to draw on the blackboard while
they described it: how is it made? What color and shape is
it? Who lives there? What do they eat, drink, do...? etc. We
asked them questions about what they said and adopted an
inquisitive attitude regarding the topic.
2How did it
end up there?
on space and time
We presented to the students an unusual situation: there is a
penguin in the desert. We then asked them to imagine and
explain all the different possible reasons why the penguin
ended up there, what was it doing and why, motivating every
Verbal creativity A series of cards are given to the children: each one has an
"impossible word" that is a made up vocab that does not
exist. Children are asked to come up with all the possible
different meanings for that word.
Mind reading We drew two sad children on the blackboard and told the
kids that they have argued but we do not know why. First,
the children were asked to imagine some reasons why they
could have argued. Then we asked them to imagine and
explain all the possible ways in which they could reconcile.
5The Seashell Sensory play and
We brought children a bag with two seashells hidden inside,
and we asked them to guess what there was inside the bag,
hearing the noise, looking at the shape, touching it etc. After
10 minutes of guessing, we showed the seashells and
encourage the kids to smell them, listen into the holes and
describe an imaginary situation.
creating a story
The children were asked to choose a random card in a deck
of numbers and letters. They are encouraged to come up
with a certain number (number card) of words starting with a
certain letter (letter card), and combining them with some
other new vocabs we gave them, creating stories.
in the Tree
We showed to the class some images of a story: there is a
tree with a chestnut hidden under the leaves. A series of
animals try to climb the tree in order to catch the chestnut
but it is hard because they find obstacles on their way. How
can we help them?
on visual cue
Starting from some graphic signs, the students were
encouraged to think about possible objects, people, animals
those signs could become, combining them and discussing
each other in order to come up with the best solution.
9What if…? Capacity to think
We presented to the students many different strange and
unusual situations by using the form sentence: "What if....?".
For example: what if your bedroom was a ship? And then
asked them to imagine all the possible consequences.
10 Dices Capacity to create
stories by combining
We rolled some dices representing figures of objects, people,
and animals. We ask students to create a story using all the
visual cues faces of the dices, in the order they like.
Table 4: Descriptive analyses
Table 5: Homogeneity Test (T0)
Statistical significance showing that at T0 no significant differences emerged between C and T
groups (a), and between 2nd and 3rd graders (b).
C vs T groups
Total words 0.4
2nd vs 3rd graders
Total words 0.8
Table 6: Training Efficacy (T1/T0)
Scorings T0 Scorings T1
Examples M=50; SD=1.4 M=51; SD=4.2
Uses M=31.5; SD=2.1 M=30; SD=1.4
Consequences M=24; SD=5.7 M=21.5; SD=2.1
Total words M=105.5; SD=6.4 M=102.5; SD=7.8
Repetitions M=2.5; SD=2.1 M=4.5; SD=2.1
Examples M=64; SD=13.4 M=87; SD=11.7
Uses M=31.3; SD=4.5 M=43.5; SD=6.3
Consequences M=23; SD=4 M=29; SD=4.8
Total words M=118.3; SD=20.1 M=159.5; SD=19.1
Repetitions M=5.3; SD=1.2 M=4.1; SD=2
p value effect-size
Examples 0.7 -
Uses 0.2 -
Consequences 0.3 -
Total words 0.2 -
Repetitions 0.7 -
Examples 0.01 0.578
Uses 0.01 0.591
Consequences 0.01 0.593
Total words 0.01 0.875
Repetitions 0.1 -
Fig. 1a, 1b
Fig. 1: Picture depicting the number of answers recorded on the blackboard at pre-training (a) and
post-training (b) in a second-grade training class.
Fig. 2: Total Number average scores of the training (T) and control group (C).
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