We have been researching creative teaching since the mid 1980s (Woods, 1990, 1993a, 1995; Woods and Jeffrey, 1996). I wish to consider here some of the critical moments in this research. Like teaching, research consists of a bedrock of planning and routine. There are many false trails and blockages and unsure directions (Measor and Woods, 1991). In qualitative research in particular it is customary to have long boring periods when the whole research rationale comes under question, and/or the researchers are swamped by the data. The 'creative teaching' research was no different from this. But it did have its critical moments. These can be either positive or negative. It is the former I am concerned with here. Without them, the work would have been much diminished. In some cases, the criticality arose from the conjuncture of chance, accident, or 'near miss' (something that nearly did not happen) on the one hand, and particularly revelatory insight on the other-a phenomenon commonly termed 'serendipity'. Of course, chance occurrences can destroy, as well as create. Fine and Deegan (1996), in their discussion of 'serendipity', comment
The difference lies in being prepared to turn what seems like the ashen remains of a project into a creative opportunity for scientific discovery. In this way, courting serendipity involves planned insight married to unplanned events. (p. 435)
But critical moments occur not only through chance. They may be the product of a particular decision, or somebody else's key input, or a combination of factors that go uncommonly well. They have three distinguishing characteristics: 1) they lead to exceptional insight; 2) this result is unanticipated; and 3) they are radical in that they lead to new directions for the research. All such instances, as with chance, require a quality of 'recognition' in the researcher-the ability to see and grasp the opportunity. In this paper, I select examples of types of prominent critical moments that have occurred throughout the research. First, I give a brief description of the creative teaching research to date.