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The Four C Model of Creativity

Creativity is an elusive concept that has intrigued researchers for years. For educators, such as those who hold an MSEd from an online university, understanding and nurturing creativity in the classroom can be essential to the success of their students.

Dr. James C. Kaufman and Dr. Ronald Beghetto have identified four developmental levels of creativity. “In this model, imagine creativity as a life span concept,” says Dr. Kaufman. “We believe that the Four C model has much to say about education. What we believe is that teachers can use some of these ideas along with their own ideas to better nurture creativity in their students.”

The Four C Model of Creativity

Levels of the Four C Model of Creativity

The mini-c level of creativity
Creativity is inherent in learning. Any time one attempts a new task, there is a level of creativity involved. At the mini-c level of creativity, what one creates might not be revolutionary but it is new and meaningful to them.
Example: Jacob brings home his first painting from school. It is his first attempt to be appropriate to the task and it is new and meaningful to him.

The little-c level of creativity
The little-c level of creativity reflects an aspect of growth from the mini-c level. With appropriate feedback, advancements are made and what was created might be of value to others.
Example: Jacob’s parents love the new painting Jacob brought home today. They place it on the refrigerator because they think it is good and they get enjoyment out of seeing it. It’s on its way to becoming art.

The Pro-c level of creativity
At this level, one has the ability to be creative at a professional level and in a professional venue. At this point, one would have had many years of deliberate practice and training. Not everyone at the Pro-c level can make a living with their creative pursuit; however, it is generally the goal of those at this level to support themselves doing something they love.
Example: Jacob majored in art in college and his pictures now hang in galleries. His paintings are recognized by art experts and critics as being creative. His paintings hang in the homes of others—not just his friends and family, but people who do not know Jacob personally but who appreciate and are moved by his art.

The Big-C level of creativity
Those at the Big-C level will be remembered in the history books. The Big-C level includes an evaluation of one’s entire career and entire body of work and then evaluates the entire body of work against other great contributors and decides where one fits in.
Example: Over the years, Jacob’s paintings have been bought by people who have tremendous collections of artwork. His paintings hang in famous galleries and are regularly discussed by experts. Decades from now, Jacob will be considered one of the greatest artists of all time.

Teachers, especially those with an MS in Education (MSEd) degree, can use the awareness that comes from understanding the Four C model of creativity to be more successful. The first step is that educators must realize that nurturing creativity is an essential piece of the learning process. Furthermore, educators should recognize that creativity is a process that happens throughout our lifetime. We must recognize that a small child and a grown adult can both be creative. We need to recognize and find value in creativity at all levels.

If we are not celebrating and nurturing creativity in students, it could have a negative impact for the whole world, depriving us of new ideas or inventions. As Dr. Kaufman points out, “Now, more than ever, creativity is essential. We need to have these innovative ideas. We need to enable cooperation and communication, and the sharing of these creative ideas. Once we start limiting creativity, we start limiting everything.”

If you are interested in online learning and considering an online master’s in education, consider The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Human Sciences at Walden University. Walden University offers a number of programs for teachers at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels and is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

Dr. James C. Kaufman is a contributing course content expert for Canter®, a Walden University educational partner. He is also an associate professor of psychology and director of the Learning Research Institute at California State University, San Bernardino.

Canter® Course: Returning Creativity to the Classroom, Resources Section 1. Kaufman, J. C., & Beghetto, R. A. (2009). Beyond Big and Little: The Four C Model of Creativity. Review of General Psychology, 13(1), 1-12.

Walden University is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). This accreditation covers initial teacher preparation programs and advanced educator preparation programs. As a recognized standard of excellence in professional education for the preparation of teachers, administrators, and other preK–12 school professionals, NCATE accreditation ensures that the institution has met rigorous national standards set by the profession and members of the public. However, the accreditation does not include individual education courses offered to preK–12 educators for professional development, relicensure, or other purposes.

Walden offers both state-approved educator licensure programs as well as programs and courses that do not lead to licensure or endorsements. Prospective students must review their state licensure requirements prior to enrolling. For more information, please refer to

Prospective Alabama students: Contact the Teacher Education and Certification Division of the Alabama State Department of Education at 1-334-242-9935 or to verify that these programs qualify for teacher certification, endorsement, and/or salary benefits.

Prospective Washington state students are advised to contact the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction at 1-360-725-6275 or [email protected] to determine whether Walden’s programs in the field of education are approved for teacher certification or endorsements in Washington state. Additionally, teachers are advised to contact their individual school district as to whether this program may qualify for salary advancement.