Creat ive Educati on
2012. Vol.3, Supplement, 20-24
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes ( DOI:10.4236/ce.2012.38b005
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
The Effects of Thinking Sty le Based Cooperative Learning
on Group Creativity
Soon-Hwa Kim1, Ki-Sang Son g2
1Department of Comput er Education for the Gifted, Korea National University of Educat ion, Chung-won, Korea
2Department of Co mputer E d ucation, Korea N ational University of Educat ion, Chung-won, Korea
Email: ,
Received 20 1 2
Recent s tudies ha ve empha siz ed group cr eati vity withi n a soc io-cul tura l cont ext ra ther than a t an indi vid-
ual l evel, but not man y resear cher s report ed stra tegi es for devel oping g roup creat ivity. Thi s p aper ai ms to
explore strategies to enhance group creativity based on the theoretical basis of thinking styles by Stern-
berg. The hypothesi s was t hat groups wi th members of diverse t hinking st yles w ould show gr eater gai ns
in cr eat ive perf ormanc e. In t his s tudy, t he pa rti cipant s (n = 72) w ere divid ed into 24 three-p ers on groups .
Each group was given the task to create a game using Scratch programming language. Among the 24
groups, eleven gr oups (n = 33) consi sted of het erogeneous thinking styles, and the other thirteen groups (n
= 39) cons isted sol ely of homog eneous thi nking st yles. All divided group s perf ormed same cr eative ta sk.
The empi ri c al r es ults supp ort ed the h ypot hesi s tha t group forma ti on of di verse t hink i ng st yle shows b et ter
group creati vity.
Key words: Group Creati vity; Thinking Style; Socio-Cultural Context
Creativity within groups plays an important role in modern
society. Cr eativit y is ac knowledg ed as a cru cial asp ect o f doin g
business, research & development, arts and many other social
domains. Paulus (2000) suggested that interaction in groups can
be an important source of creative ideas and innovations. The
products of creativity are main factors in the survival of an
organi zat i on. In addition, in this highly specialized age, the
collaboration of each group members is becoming important
components of work. Generally, creativity is the ability to produce
work that is both novel (i.e., original, unexpected) and appropriate
(i.e., useful, adaptive when it comes to task constraints) (Sternberg
& Lubart, 1999). However, creative innovations occur within a
socio -cu ltural con text rath er than at an in dividual level. Watso n
and Crick’s discovery of the double helix can be a representative
historical example. When meeting Crick, Watson (1968, p.31)
notes that “Finding someone… who knew that DNA was more
important than proteins was real luck.” Thus, we need to
empirically evaluate the creative potential (Paulus, 2000) of
groups and identify the conditions under which high levels of
creativity are realized by group s .
Woo, Lee & Kim (2009) suggested that cooperative learning
depends on not only group members’ capability but also quantity
and quality of interaction. Therefore, appropriate team composition
strategies are necessary to enhance creativit y within the group.
Man y resear chers have a tentative con clusion t hat heterog eneous
group composition is more effective than homogeneous group
composition (Sawyer, 2007). Also, group creativity is optimized
when group members have different perspectives (Nemeth &
Kwan, 1985). There are reports that discordance between team
members thinking increases probability of finding novel and
appropriate solutions (Nemeth, Personnaz, Personnaz & Goncalo,
2004). However, Woo (2010) warned extreme diversity is harmful
to group creativity. Based on his finding, Woo (2010) recommend
that group composition through cognitive diversity is one of the
most effective methods. Also, Kim (2007) suggested that different
wor ki ng styles maximize synergy among group members.
In conclusion, heterogeneous group composition creates a
complementary relationship among group members so that group
creativit y is maxi mized. Ho wever , agreed sp ecific strat egies ar e
still absent. Through empirical d ata this paper aims to d iscover
specific strategies that lead to a significant improvement in
students’ group creativity. We are considering students thinking
styles as the parameter of group creativity, and the affect of
thinking styles during learning are also discussed in this study.
Cooperative Learning
Cooperative learning is a teaching and learning method that
aims to achieve a common goal through collaboration with
group members (Johnson & Johnson, 1999). Cooperative
learnin g is an effective teaching method for students to acquire
problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills and creativity
instead of fragmentary knowledge acquisition. Furthermore,
Cooperative learning helps students to develop affective domain
such as s elf-esteem, attitude an d social-skills (Johnson, Johnson
& Stanne, 2000). The advantage of cooperative learning coincides
with contemporary educational goal.
Jeong, Park & Hwang (2008) noted that there are lack of
studies related to the effective team grouping method although
teachers in Korea recognize the necessity of cooperative
learning. This is because there is lack of knowledge among
teachers in applying the effective model as well aslack of
empirical research.
When deducting scientific theories, scientists need active
collaboration and lively controversy. In the same vein, students
need close collaboration with group members when they learn
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
something. However, free-ride effect can occur when solving
problems with group members. Effective group composition
strategies n eed to be stud ied to enhan ce int erdep end ence amon g
team members (Johnson & Johnson, 1975).
Thinking Styles
Thinking styles are the kind of disposition in which people
organize or ponder their responses and attitudes toward certain
events or work. In other words, thinking styles are the way by
which people choose their thought; it does not refer to their
capability such as intelligence. It is an issue of whether people
want to respond or how they respond to an event.
Sternberg expanded the concept of thinking styles upon
mental self-government theory; He used this theory to explain
the thinking characteristics of creators. He divided thinking
styles into 5 main categories and 13 detailed types (Sternberg,
1988; 1990; 1997). Table 1 shows main cate go ries an d detailed
types of thinking styles.
The functions of mental self-gover nment ar e the t an gib le mental
and intellectual reflections of human beings. Generally, a gov-
ernment has three function s: legislative, e xecut ive and judicial.
Individual’s thinking styles can also be divided into three ana-
logous types (Jong, Lin, Wu & Chan, 2006)
Legislative: This is the inclination to construct one’s own
action style and rules as well as the ability to handle unex-
pected problems on one’s own, for example, composing ar-
ticl es, con du cti n g academic r es e ar c h, and cre ating arti st ic wor k.
People of this type are typically good at expressing their
Executive: This is the inclination to follow rules, deal with
expected problems, and practice duties under existing rules.
Examples include applying formula to solve problems, giving
a speech or teaching based on manuscripts or outlines. People
of this type tend to accept commands and act as requested.
Judicial: This is the inclination to assess regulations and pro-
grams, make regulations, handle analyzable materials or con-
ceptual issues. Examples include giving comments, conducting
system analysis, and examining plans. People of this type
have strong critical analysis skills.
Sternberg thought that thinking styles constitute mental self-
government. He indicated that the mental operations of human
beings are identical to those of governments by using government
organization as a metaphor. Just as a government have department
Tabl e 1.
5 mai n cat e gories and 13 de t ailed categories of thinking styles.
Main categories D etaile d types
Functions of mental self-government 1. Executive
2. Legislative
3. Judicial
Forms of mental self-government
1. Monarchic
2. Hierarchic
3. Oligarchi c
4. Anarchic
Levels of mental self-govern ment 1. Global
2. Local
Orientations of ment al self-government 1. Internal
2. External
Ideologies of mental se lf-government 1. Liberal
2. Conservative
to handle events; the same applies to people with different
thinking styles.
The three thinking styles mentioned above coexist in each
person, but with different levels of portion. Sternberg concluded
that a group of people with different thinking styles might per-
form better in cooperative activities (Sternberg, 1997). Thus,
this study investigated the effects of thinking style based group
composition on group creativity for students.
Group Creativity
The early stages of creativity research focused on the psy-
chological determinants for the individual of genius and gif-
tedness (Jeffrey & Craft, 2001). But research into creativity in
the 1980s and 1990s became rooted in social structures effect
on individual creativity (Jeffrey & Craft, 2001). This is so-
called social psychology and systems theory. In this context,
Sawyer (2003) defined group creativity as ‘two or more people
do something together pursuing a novel and appropriate out-
come. Also, he insisted that group creativity is not fully under-
stood by psychology investigating individuals’ inner side. Siau
(1995) illustrated components of group creativity as input, proc-
ess, output (see Figure 1.) Based on the framework of group
creativity, Fig ure 1, group creativity test was developed by Woo
Experimental Design
In this study, pretest-posttest control group (groups of dif-
ferent thinking style members/groups of same thinking style
members) d esign was used and the task of creatin g a game was
given to each group. Before beginning the class, a thinking
style test was carried out to divide participant into a control
group and an experimental group. After completing the class
teaching, a group creativity test was given to the participants.
Table 2 shows the design of this study.
Sevent y three 4 ~6th grade students who joined the university
summer gifted camp participated in this study. 33 (22 boys, 11
girls) stu den ts were assigned as experimental group, and 39 (24
boys, 15 girls) were assigned to control group. The mean age of
experimental group was 11.97 years old; the standard deviation
was 0.97, the mean age of control group was 11.97 years old;
Figure 1.
Components of group creativity (Siau, 1995).
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Tabl e 2.
Pretest-posttest control group design (G1: Experimental group, G2:
Cont rol group, O1/O3: Pretes t-t hinking st yle qu esti onnaire, O2/O4: Post-
test-group creativity assessment, X1/X2: creat ive gam e makin g task) .
G1 O1 X1 O2
G2 O3 X2 O4
the standard deviation was 0.49. All the groups were mixed
gender. Levels of inter member familiarity were moderate and
homogeneous among and within groups; this was confirmed by
the conditions of the summer gifted camp.
Overview of Evaluating Tools
Thinking Styles Questionnaire: Sternberg & Wagner devel-
oped Thinking Styles Questionnaire Short Version with 65
questions. Cho (2008) developed Korean version of Think-
ing Style Questionnaire based on Sternberg & Wagner’s
questionnaire (2008), composed of legislative, executive,
judicial, hierarchic, global, local, liberal, conservative com-
ponents with 39 questions. We used Cho (2008)’s Korean
Version of Thinking Style Questionnaire to divide groups
into heterogeneous thinking style groups and homogeneous
thinking style groups.
Group Creativity Assessment: Woo (2010) developed group
creativit y assessment tool composed o f creative atmosph ere,
cohesiveness, leadership components. We used Woo (2010)’s
group creativity assessment tool to identify the effect of th ink-
ing style based group composition.
The experiment consisted of four sessions: a) pre-session
survey by questionnaire, b) lecture of making games c) task
assign ment o f creative game makin g to group members, and d)
post-session survey by questionnaire.
First of all, thinking style questionnaire was used to assess
the type of individual’s thinking style within a 7-point scale,
and takes 10 minutes to respond. After finishing pre-session
survey, each participant was grouped as a particular three-per-
son gro up. The same t eacher gave a l ecture abo ut ho w to make
games with Scratch programming language for approximately
50 minutes.
After that, the teacher asked the participants to create games
based on their lear ning as group wor king. 90 minu tes was allo-
cated for finishing the task. The instruction consisted of fol-
lowing acti viti es: a) producin g as man y ideas as p ossible abou t
games, b) not directly adapting ideas that had already existed.
After finishing the group task, assessment of group creativity
was carried out using 4-point scale questionnaires.
The Result of Thinking Style Questionnaire
The data on individual-level of thinking style was aggregated,
and the authors examined each questionnaire to assess which
thinking style the participants displayed. It is not simply said
that one thinking style is the only one for each participant, but
we assigned individuals thinking styles based on the one that
dominated. We assigned three participants into one group, and
the main standard was functions of mental self-government.
Table 3 shows the result of group composition.
In the control group, approximately 54% of groups are the
legislative thinking style group. Sternberg & Grigorenko (1993)’s
survey about gifted students’ thinking styles demonstrated that
gifted students prefer legislative, liberal, judicial thinking styles.
Our result was consistent with Sternberg & Grigorenko (1993)’s
research fin di ng.
Then, we used independent group t-test to identify if the
group had some difference in thinking style. Table 4 shows the
result. According to Table 4, there was no significant difference
between experimental group and control group of thinking styles
(p > .05).
Tabl e 3.
The result of group composition by thinking style (E: executive, L:
legisla tive, J: Jud icial).
Experimental group Control group
Group 1 E, L, J Group 1 J, J, J
Group 2 E, L, J Group 2 L, L, L
Group 3 E, L, J Group 3 L, L, L
Group 4 E, L, J Group 4 L, L. L
Group 5 E, L, J Group 5 E, E, E
Group 6 E, L, J Group 6 J, J, J
Group 7 E, L, J Group 7 E, E, E
Group 8 E, L, J Group 8 L, L, L
Group 9 E, L, J Group 9 L, L, L
Group 10 E, L, J Group 10 E, E, E
Group 11 E, L, J Group 11 J, J, J
- - Group 12 L, L, L
- - Group 13 L, L, L
Tabl e 4.
The resu lt of independent group t -test of thinking styles between expe-
rimental group and control group.
Group N M SD t p
Legislative Experimental 33 5.01 1.19 1.124 .265
Control 39 4.71 1.19
Executive Experim ental 33 4.60 1 .16 1.411 .163
Control 39 4.24 0.97
Judicial Exper imental 33 4.61 1.38 1.368 .187
Control 39 4.24 0.95
Hierarchic Experimental 33 4.89 1.16 1.674 .099
Control 39 4.43 1.17
Global Experimenta l 33 4 .62 1.02 1.474 .145
Control 39 4.26 1.03
Local Experimenta l 33 4.56 1.08 1.659 .102
Control 39 4.16 0.98
Liberal Expe rimental 33 4.85 1.32 .867 .389
Control 39 4.57 1.41
Conservative Expe rimental 33 4.33 1.06 1.782 .079
Control 39 3.92 0.89
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
The Result of Group Creativity Assessment
In this study, we regarded group-level of creativity as deter-
mined by aggregation of group creativity assessment tool de-
veloped by Woo (2010). More precisely, we used the following
procedure in constructing each index of group creativity. a)
Calculate the mean score of each of the components of group
creat ivit y su ch as Cr eative at mosp here, Coh esiv eness, and Lead er-
ship. Especially, creative atmosphere is consisted of sub-com-
ponents such as support, trust, pleasure, challenge and commu-
nication. b) Calculate the mean of total component. Independent
group t-test revealed significant difference in support, pleasure
and l eadership (p < .05) (see Tabl e 5).
The result indicates that groups achieved the best perform-
ance when they had high degrees of diversity in thinking styles.
Especially, high levels of diversity within thinking styles are
effective in creating a su pportive atmosp here, dr awing interests
and demonstrating leadership.
The Qualitative Data from Class Observation
We also recor ded cl ass with video camera to analyze inter ac-
tion between group members. Generally, experimental group
had active interaction from beginning to end. In control group,
composed of judicial only, had the lowest interaction. In addi-
tion, one interesting phenomenon was observed in groups of
legislative only groups. These groups showed very active in-
teractio n at the begin ning of task, esp ecially in id ea generatio n.
Every team member in legislative only groups was busy think-
ing of new games. However, the active interaction disappeared
as time went on. After idea generation, they had to give shape
to a plan an d implement the id ea to make a creative game. Bu t,
they had difficulty in implementing ideas. Even some groups
could not finish the task.
The results indicate that diverse thinking style group mem-
bers complement their shortcomings each other so that it helps
finishing the task. The result suggests that a form of synergy
between diverse thinking style group members operates in group
In this study, we intended to investigate the prediction that
diversity in thinking styles of group members is a prerequisite
to obtaining benefits from different thinking styles when the
group engages in a creat ive activity.
As the research hypothesis that groups with high levels of
diversity in thinking styles within group members may gain
greater benefits from group working than homogeneous group
working, the experiment supported the hypothesis. From this
result, diversity in thinking styles showed a form of synergy
between group members that is effective in group creativity.
Furthermore, groups formed with different thinking style
members showed higher levels of collaboration than that of
homogeneous thinking styles groups.
Tabl e 5.
The result of independent group t-test of group creativity between experimental group and control group.
Group N M SD t p
Creative Atmosphere
Support Experimen tal 33 3.16 .48 2.565 .013*
Control 39 2.83 .55
Trust Experimenta l 33 3.06 .72 1.187 .239
Control 39 2.86 .68
Pleasure Experim ental 33 3.19 .74 2.253 .028*
Control 39 2.78 .76
Challenge Experimen tal 33 3.34 .75 .617 .540
Control 39 2.22 .87
Communication Exper imental 33 3.19 . 74 .748 .457
Control 39 3.06 .71
Cohesiveness Experimental 33 2.98 .57 .722 .473
Control 39 2.89 .51
Leadership Expe rimental 33 3.11 .61 2.351 .022*
Control 39 2.75 .65
Total Experimenta l 33 3 .15 .52 1.984 .051
Control 39 2.91 .45
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
It is interesting that this hypothesis is working at the elemen -
tary and middle school level classroom teaching. This implies
that the group formation strategies affect overall classroom
productivity but needs further studies due to the importance of
the K-12 education period of acquiring characters to tolerate
and cooperation with others.
This work has been supported by the Korea National Univer-
sity of Education Fund in 2012.
Cho, K.T. (2008). Relations with Sternberg’s thinking styles, learning
styles and probl em solving. Ph.D . Thesis. Chung-Ang University.
Jeffrey, B. & Craft, A. (2001). The un iversalization of creativity. In A.
Craft, B. Jeffrey, & M. Leibling (Eds.). Creativity in education.
London : Continuu m International Publishing Group.
Jeong, H.C, Park, Y.S & Hwang, D.J (2008) Analyzing perceptions of
small gr ou p in qui ry ac ti vi t y in th e gifted educ ati on of Korea. Journal
of the Kore an eart h sci en ce s o cie ty , 2 9(2), 151-162
Johnson, D.W. & Johnson, R.T. (1975) Learning together and alone:
cooperation, competition and individualization. Englewood Cliffs.
NJ: Pren tice Hall.
Johnson, D.W. & Johnson, R.T. (1999) Learning and together and
alone : Coope rati ve, compet i tive and indi vidua li stic le arni ng (5th ed.).
Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T. & Stanne, M.B. (2000). Cooperative
learning methods: A meta-analysis. Retrieved january 20th, 2011
from http://
Jong, B.S., Lin,T.W., Wu,Y.L., & Chan,T.Y. (2006). Effective two
phase cooperative learning on the WEB. Journal of Information
Scie nce and En g i n e ering , 22(2), 425-446.
Kim, Y.C (2007) Group creativity: How it could be effective? The
Korean Journal of Thinking & Problem solving, 3(1), 1-26.
Nemeth, C. & Kwan, J.L. (1985) Learning together and alone:
cooperation, competition and individualization. Englewood Cliffs,
NJ: Pren tice Hall.
Nemeth, C., Personnaz, M., Personnaz, B., & Goncalo, J. (2004) The
libera ting role of con flict in group c reat ivity: A cross-cultural study.
European Journal of Social Psychology, 34, 365-374.
Paulus, P.B. (2000) Groups, teams, and creativity: The creative
potential of idea-generating groups. Applied Psychology: An
International Review, 49, 237-262.
Sawyer, R.K. (2007) Group creativity: Music, theater, collaboration.
Mahwah, NJ: Lawence Eribaum.
Sawyer. R. K. (2007). Group genius: The creative power of
collaboration. New York: Basic Books. Sawyer, R. K. (Editor).
(2006). Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences. New York:
Cambridge U niver sity Press.
Siau, K. L. (1995). Group Creativity and Technology. Journal of
Creative Behavior, 29( 3) . 2 01-216.
Sternberg, R. J. (1988). Mental Self-government: A theory of
intellectual styles and their development. Human Development, 31,
Sternberg, R. J. (1990). Thinking Styles: Keys to understanding student
performance. Phi Delta Kappan, 71, 366-371.
Sternberg, R. J. (1997). Thinking Styles. New York: Cambridge
University Press.
Sternberg, R. J., & Wagner, R. K. (1992). Thinking styles inventory.
New Haven, Yale University, Unpublished Inventory.
Sternberg, R.J. & Grigorenko, E.L. (1995) Thinking style and gifted.
Roeper Revi ew, 16(2) , 1 22-130.
Watson, J.D. (1968) The double helix: A personal account of the
discovery of the structure of DNA. New York: New American
Li br ary.
Woo, S.H, Lee, H.J & Kim, J.W (2009) A method of composing an
effictive design cooperative learning group-elementary school
students in the early grades, Journal of Korean society of design
science, 2 2(4). 93-108.
Woo, S.H. (2010) Design coo per ativ e le a rning fo r pr omoti ng creat ivit y
on early elementary grades: A method for group composition. Ph.D.
Thesis, Yeo n-sae university.