Instructional design/Divergent Thinking

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Creating a starting point, not an end.
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Understanding Divergent Thinking

Framing the conversation

Let’s start with the end in mind. Ultimately, what are you hoping your learners will gain from their interactions with you or designed content? Are you just hoping to transfer information from you to them? If so, go ahead and click out of this module. You’re going to hate what is going to presented. Okay, you’re still here. That means either you’re intrigued with what we are going to discuss or you’re you have your “ya, buts” ready to fire. That’s the not the point of this lesson. The point of this lesson is to help instructional designers learn new ways to help open their learners’ minds to explore more than just the presumed “right answer.” If someone did not employ divergent thinking to some of our great inventors, we might not even be having this discussion right now because the technology that we are using might not even exist. Yet, take a mental inventory with your ideas and prejudices about divergent thinking. Reflect on your own personal values when answering these questions. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

  • Was your personal educational experience more divergent or convergent?
  • As an instructional designer or educator, do you create interventions that reflect a convergent stream of thinking?
  • Do you allow learners to experience divergent thinking before attempting to solve the problem?
  • When is a learner is struggling on a solution to a problem, how do you coach or advise?

Now, you’re probably thinking “so what?” I have a job to do and that’s to get my learners to understand the content that is before them. Wrong. That’s the short game. Divergent thinking helps spurn creativity that will help your learners increase their abilities to think of multiple responses to a given situation.

There are four major areas of divergent thinking according to Guilford’s Structure of Intellect (SOI) model:

  • Fluency (thinking of many ideas)
  • Flexibility (Thinking of different categories or point of view)
  • Originality (thinking of unusual ideas)
  • Elaboration (Adding Details to Improve Ideas) (Starko, 2005) [1]

This brief lesson will give you an opportunity to learn about the SCAMPER method to add to your toolbox. SCAMPER is a method that you can implement easily for any age and skill level that will help your learners down the path of divergent thinking with practical activities you can insert into new and existing implementations that will allow learners to open their minds to multiple solutions to a problem.

Just remember this… the peanut butter and banana sandwich is the result of divergent thinking. It’s invention is the result of fluency (what else beside jelly?), flexibility (Out of my thoughts, what else could go with peanut butter), originality (come on… bananas and peanut butter is pretty unique), and elaboration (someone took a plain ol’ PB&J sandwich and made it better).

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References[edit | edit source]

  1. Starko, A. (2005) Creativity in the Classroom- 3rd Edition. Mahway, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates