4 C’s

Authors: Brittany Guard, Hannah Farrell, & Katie Moffa

4C Model: framework for conceptualizing and classifying various levels of creative expression and points to potential paths of creative maturation

Mini C: novel and personally meaningful interpretation of experiences, actions, and events; this category includes “personal creativity”and “individual creativity”. Mini-c represents the initial, creative interpretations that all creators have and which later manifest into recognizable creations.

Little C: creative actions in which the non-expert may participate in each day. This level of creativity illustrates creative potential as widely distributed

  • The little-c category has been useful for addressing common misconceptions about creativity. For instance, too much of a focus on Big-C leads to the idea that only certain people can be creative, the only creativity that matters is that of the Big-C kind, or that creativity involves negative forms of deviance.

Pro-c: represents developmental and effortful progression beyond little-c that has not yet attained Big-C status. Anyone who attains professional-level expertise in creative fields will reach Pro-c

Big C: most people think of this when it comes to creativity. Big-C consists of clear-cut, eminent creative contributions–legendary scientists for example, whose contributions have impacted the world


Meaning of the theory or concept to the field of creativity and to classroom teaching-

When most people think of creatively gifted individuals, images of trend setters typically come to mind (e.g., Thomas Edison, Emily Dickinson). However–thanks to the work of creativity researchers and gifted educators, many people also recognize that creativity can occur in everyday settings and classrooms. Most conceptions of creativity are limited in that they tend to focus on everyday creativity (“little-c”), which can be found in nearly all people, and eminent creativity (“Big-C”), which is reserved for the great. The four C model of creativity expands this dichotomy.

Teaching and incorporating the theory into the classroom (for multiple content areas and ages)

The category of little-c helps underscore the important role that creativity plays in everyday life and points to the importance of identifying and nurturing creativity in the classroom.

The need for mini-c becomes clear when we consider standards used to judge creative insights of elementary or high school students. Most teachers are aware that none of their students likely are in the Big-C category. It is important to recognize the creativity inherent in students’ unique and personally meaningful insights and interpretations as they learn new subject matter.

The 4-C Model and Gifted Education

Most gifted educators will be teaching children who demonstrate lower levels of creativity than a Shakespeare or Mozart. Eminent creators can serve as important illustrations of the various levels of achievement that have occurred across disciplines

Example: 4-C Model with Mystery Writing Context

  • little-c category is useful for the everyday creativity of the person who writes mystery stories for fun and shares them with friends
  • pro-c category is appropriate for the writer who is well-known for writing popular mystery novels but has not yet attained Big-C status
  • big-C category is appropriate for mystery writers who have dramatically impacted the field

Specific ways to apply the theory in the classroom (for multiple content areas and ages): The 4 C model reminds teachers how important it is to nurture this creativity in the classroom, because it is essential to the learning process. This theory can be applied in the following contexts:


  • Have students do creative writing at least once a week (mini c)
  • Publish exemplary student writing in the library to share with the school (little c)
  • Allow students to create their own science experiments (mini c)
  • Have students create their own social studies project with your permission (mini c)
  • Math: showing multiple ways to solve a problem (mini c)
  • English: encourage students to enter writing contests (little c)
  • Science: instead of giving students a question/experiment, allow them to create their own question, hypothesis, and experiment based on the content (mini c)
  • History: give students choice for how they want to showcase their content knowledge in a project (i.e. creating a movie, painting, paper, etc.) (mini c)
Higher Education:
  • Research suggests that the best creativity instruction ties in the emotions of the learner.  In the “Odyssey angels” program students can devise a solution to help their local community, such as helping homeless youth.
  • Instead of having students write a paper, have them showcase their knowledge in a different way
Tips for all Teachers:
  • recognizing the creativity that all of our students may show in their work.
  • enable cooperation and communication of these creative ideas.
  • try not to limit students’ creativity.
  • Introducing improvisation to foster divergent thinking in the classroom: using skits to explain a topic, creating songs, etc.
  • “You know that student who often asks the question that goes a bit outside the lecture?  Well, engage him.  Once a week, intentionally address those questions.  Write them down on an assigned space in the board to go back to later.  Validate their creativity.” (Clifford, 2012″

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