Divergent Thinking in the Classroom – An Overview

15 min read
Divergent Thinking in the Classroom – An Overview

Nurturing creativity in your students is extremely important for encouraging growth and development. If you’re looking for easy yet effective tactics to do so, divergent thinking maybe your answer. It is a process that allows and helps students discover their abilities and creativity.

Divergent Thinking in the Classroom - An Overview

By using divergent thinking strategies in your classroom, you can not only foster creativity in your students but also promote innovative ideas and alternative solutions. It is also a great way to help your students come up with several answers to a single question. Then, they can choose from the different solutions to go with the most suitable and useful one.

Divergent thinking strategies are all about pushing students to think outside the box. This enables them to generate new ideas and thoughts that ultimately produce amazing results. This makes it incredibly important to help students tap into their creative potential through this thinking process.

Keep reading this piece to learn what divergent thinking is, what makes it important, and how it differs from other learning processes. Then, you can also discover some strategies to encourage, improve and maintain this type of thinking skills in your classroom.

What is Divergent Thinking?

Divergent thinking is basically a problem-solving thinking process that allows a person to come forth with solutions and ideas. It refers to the free-slowing generation of ideas regarding a specific topic in just a short period of time.

Oftentimes, these ideas that are generated during a solution-requiring situation are unique and varying. This is especially true when a group of people use their divergent thinking skills to find solution to a single situation.

It is because all people think differently with their unique perception of the world and situations. The group of people addressing the same situation then share their ideas and solutions, evaluates and connects them, often in unconventional ways. With that being said, this type of critical thinking also allows students to see things through a new perspective in an open-minded way.

Simply put divergent means to think outside of the box. This suggests that this type of creative thinking skill has no restrictions to an idea being the only correct answer. In fact, the point is to acquire a wide range of ideas and answers when people think divergently about a problem/ situation/ question.

Although creativity and divergent thinking are not synonymous, the two are quite closely related. While creativity refers to the ability to have new ideas and make something new, divergent thinking is the thinking process that allows you to think beyond restrictions.

The process of divergent thinking can lead to creativity when a student comes up with unique, creative solutions to a problem. Likewise, it is possible to promote divergent solutions by encouraging creativity.

What is Divergent Thinking

Divergent Thinking in the Classroom

As the educational systems around the world evolve, authorities are encouraging more divergent thinking than ever.

Divergent thinking refers to the thinking process in which one can generate ideas in order to maximize the range of possible answers. Whether looking for a solution to a problem, or applications and examples, this type of thinking process can be of significant help. This is the reason why enabling divergent thinking in the classroom is extremely important.

It is, in fact, the initial stage of creative problem solving skills. By implementing divergent thinking tactics, learners get the freedom and space to explore out-of-the-box ideas. Not only this, but educators can also encourage students to take risks, push beyond obvious and easy ways, and probe deeper. It lets students know that there can be more than one way to solve a problem.

Besides, divergent thinking in classroom is more about enhancing and maintaining already-existing skills rather than creating new ones. In fact, various studies and research also proves that children tend to have stronger, much better divergent thinking skills than adults. For example, children can divergently visualize ideas better than older adults. In fact, such  abilities decrease with progression of age if not practiced and worked on.

Typically, divergent thinking involves collecting associations relating to a given topic, brainstorming solutions, answers or examples, and eventually coming up with expansive ideation.

After this stage, learners usually carry out convergent thinking where learners use their critical thinking skills to sift through all the possible solutions. This happens by considering the realistic limitations, restrictions, and feasibility of each possible solution. Comparing the positive and negative attributes and evaluation of usefulness allows learners to make thoughtful decisions.

Divergent Thinking in the Classroom

Divergent Thinking vs. Lateral Thinking

Both divergent and
processes are used for creative purposes; so many people often confuse the two for one another. However, the two are still quite different.

Lateral thinking is a problem-solving thinking technique that emphasizes on erasing the possibilities. On the other hand, divergent thinking allows learners to brainstorm as much ideas as possible.

With divergent thinking, your students can come up with various solutions to a single problem or situation. Meanwhile, lateral thinking skills only offer freedom and space for one idea, example, application or solution.

Divergent Thinking vs. Lateral Thinking

Divergent Thinking vs. Convergent Thinking

Divergent thinking and convergent thinking are completely opposite methods of critical thinking. Convergent thinking allows students to see given situation from one single perspective only whereas divergent thinking encourages perceiving a situation from more than one point of view.

What mainly sets divergent and convergent thinking apart is that engaging in the latter has its restrictions or limitations. With convergent thinking, you must follow a certain process to come up with one solution that is the only right answer.

While divergent thinking seeks to broaden and unfold, convergent thinking focuses on narrowing down and filtering. For example, one can use their convergent thinking skills after thinking divergently about a situation. This way, they can evaluate, identify and clarify the next step.

Divergent Thinking vs. Convergent Thinking

Types of Divergent Thinking

There are three different types of divergent thinking. These are hijacking, incubation, and illumination. Let’s briefly discuss these.

1.      Hijacking

Hijacking is a type of divergent thinking in which the mind wanders away. Your mind may start thinking about another topic than the one you are trying to pay attention to. Your mind usually gets hijacked when you are distracted.

2.      Incubation

Incubation is the second type that requires you to stop thinking about a particular situation or thing for a certain period of time. When you try and stop thinking about the situation, the subconscious mind doesn’t. This means that you will still be solving an issue without actively and consciously working on its solutions. This is where you will ultimately obtain an idea or solution.

3.      Illumination

Illumination happens when you are able to come up with an answer or solution quickly and immediately. You experience illuminating divergent thinking when a thought or idea suddenly pops in your mind. Oftentimes, people are often surprised as to where it may have come from so suddenly. However, illumination may also happen while you’re working, sometimes. This is because it is also necessary to connect dots and information together.


Why is Divergent Thinking Important?

Application of divergent thinking in classroom is incredibly important for opening possibilities of new and innovative ideas, fostering empathic understanding, building learners’ curiosity and developing creativity.

1.      Generates New Ideas and Possibilities

Enabling divergent thinking is essential if you wish to open your students’ minds for generating new ideas and possibilities. By thinking divergently during a solution-requiring situation, learners think in an open-minded manner. They see the given situation from various perspectives. Not only this, but it also allows students to question current norms and come forth with unique solutions.

2.      Develops Creativity in Students

As we already discusses earlier, encouraging divergent thinking skills can help develop creativity among students. The two are closely related to one another and one can lead to healthy development of the other. Enabling this type of thinking process in your classroom enhances a student’s ability to think creatively and use their problem-solving abilities. When thinking outside the box, a student goes beyond their abilities and come up with creative solutions.

3.      Promote Better Ideas

The great thing about divergent thinking skills is that it helps promote better, unique ideas. This is the reason why educational systems around the world are promoting new tactics and strategies to promote this kind of thinking process.

Research and studies also suggest that thinking divergently is healthy for the brain and promotes productivity at the same time. Students start coming up with original and unique answers once they get in practice. Not only this, but they also get alternative solutions that the students may not have been able to think about otherwise.

Promote Better Ideas

Benefits of Divergent Thinking

It has many perks and benefits for work processes in the classroom.

Previously, schools, districts and educational systems used to encourage convergent thinking. During these years, it was believed that there is only one solution and one way to arrive at the solution. With evolution of education, people now promote creative thinking skills in both the school and the real world.

Students require being flexible and think outside the usual box. Divergent thinking is a great way to allow students for making connections between ideas and connecting dots. This way, students learn new ways of creative thinking that also allows them to view problems differently.

Thinking divergently allows students to find solutions and answers in new and unexpected ways. This is extremely healthy for the brain. Furthermore, it also promotes teamwork as it allows students (learners) to think work together and generate new ideas together.

When students work together, it increases team morale, encouraging collaboration. As a result, students also become encouraged and prepared for working with others in future stages of life. For example, it will be much easier for the students as they enter college or career setting. With collaboration, students become more pushed for imagination and schema.

On the other hand, divergent thinking also boosts a sense of excitement and interest among the students. It is a great way of encouraging students regarding a subject matter. Students are more likely to develop interest subject and put their best action when students practice approaching a curriculum by thinking divergently.

Benefits of Divergent Thinking

Enabling Divergent Thinking in the Classroom

Do you wish for your students to answer questions by thinking divergently? Here are some amazing strategies that you can try out in the classroom.

Encourage Questions

You can encourage divergent thinking among your solutions by asking them questions. Make sure you ask your students various questions to promote interest and ignite creativity. When asking questions, the learners wonder the reasons behind a particular solution. The students become willing to think from different perspectives and develop new problems.

For example, you can ask your students what they would do when asking them to write an article for improving the quality of air. Different students will come forth with different solutions.

Allow Self Expression

Usually, this type of thinking process is a result of numerous questions. A line of questioning allows students to express themselves with freedom and no restrictions at all. Allowing this can help teachers get to the root of students’ thought process. This way, students open up and you can better seek their ideas and opinions.

Allow Self Expression

Best Strategies to Enable Divergent Thinking

There are many different questions of enabling divergent thinking in the classroom. Some of the best ones are:

1.      Brainstorming

Start brainstorming techniques and ideas for encouraging students to think outside the box. Allow your students to come up with as many ideas as they can and don’t be hesitant in asking ‘what if’ questions.

2.      Role-Playing

This is a great technique for getting your students to think outside the box. Encourage role-playing in the classroom by assigning different roles to the students. Each of them can then come up with a solution based on their particular role in the given situation.

3.      Opinion Swap

Opinion swap is an extremely exciting technique for encouraging divergent thinking and developing interest among students. You can either pick students to present their unique ideas or split your class in groups.

Some other techniques include mind-mapping, learning games, visual thinking, self-reflection, and the think, pair and share technique.

Opinion Swap

Bottom Line

Schools and districts all across the world are now promoting divergent thinking in classrooms for its numerous amazing benefits. It helps develop creativity and interest, promotes team morale, and encourages students. You can implement it in your class by encouraging questions and allowing self-expression. Some popular strategies include brainstorming, role-playing, and opinion swap.