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Get Creative with Divergent Thinking

What’s 2+2? 4. Easy, right? The problem is so effortless that you probably didn’t use a specific method to solve it. You could’ve written down two plus two vertically over a horizontal line, used your fingers, resorted to a calculator, or even asked a friend. The answer 4 is considered convergent thinking because there is only one answer. But if the question was “which method is used to solve this problem?”, divergent thinking takes place—there isn’t one correct answer as to which method should be used to solve this equation.

        Convergent thinking is often used for standardized testing – there is usually only one correct answer. Divergent thinking takes place in creative minds of those who ponder solutions outside of the typical answer. As a future educator, I have become stirred with emotions about the way students are learning today. I firmly believe each student learns uniquely, and it’s important we embrace that. Education tends to teach children how to think convergently; teachers teach for the tests, and students graduate with strategically similar mindsets. I am still working on the creative side of my brain and I am determined to become the teacher who encourages odd and separate thinkers!

        Let’s start off with the facts on convergent and divergent thinking. The purpose of divergent thinking is to create numerous and differing ideas on a topic. This type of thinking usually happens in a free-flowing manner—unexpected, unorganized, and random. On the other hand, convergent thinking is just the opposite—one answer as quick as possible. These methods have been researched and it’s concluded that there are great benefits to divergent thinking. Some benefits include improved language proficiency and positive mood swings. Research shows that students who are more creative in life were exposed to divergent thinking methods in early elementary. Divergent thinking benefits future occupations as most employers place skills above knowledge. The skills related to divergent thinking would be the ability to identify multiple possibilities, be open to experience, perform creatively, and more. It’s also proven that, as we age, our divergent thinking decreases. This makes sense in logical ways, such as most adults aren’t playing house as do 4-year-olds. The fact that our minds aren’t as imaginative anymore saddens me, especially because a lot of the blame is on teachers. For my fellow future educators out there, I’ve made a list of ways we can enhance divergent learning and encourage non-normative thinkers!

·      Value Mistakes

A big part to encouraging divergent thinking is by accepting mistakes. Students can learn a lot through trial and error, but it’s important for them to know that their “mistakes” are what we want. Divergent thinking isn’t a right or wrong; there’s no certainty to it. As teachers, it is our job to exaggerate the answers that seem contrary to what is normal.

·      Now, Not Later

I don’t know about you, but I hate when I forget my brilliant ideas that come so sparingly. One main aspect in divergent thinking is that it’s free-flowing and random. Start encouraging students to jot down their abstract thoughts as they come, not later when it’s relevant. This helps tremendously when those new ideas are needed.

·      Challenge Ideas

Younger students generally absorb and believe everything they are taught. After hearing views on specific topics, ask them to challenge those other perspectives. Let them get personal with their own beliefs

        There are numerous ways teachers can encourage divergent thinking in the classroom. Click here to see 30 ways that inspire divergent thinking. These concepts can be applied to anyone looking to enhance their creativity; it’s not just for students.

“If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.” – John Cleese

Gretchen is a junior at Winona State University majoring in Health Ed and Phy Ed with minors in Adaptive PE and Adventure Ed! She enjoys all things outdoors, she's a peanut butter fanatic, and Proverbs 31:26 is her favorite Bible verse. Gretchen is an RA in the resident halls and a Small Group Leader for a campus ministry, and she enjoys all the Lord equips her to do!
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