Instructional design/Divergent Thinking/SCAMPER

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Background of SCAMPER
Alex Osborn, credited by many as the originator of brainstorming, originally came up with many of the questions used in the technique. However, it was Bob Eberle (1977, 1996), an education administrator and author, who organized these questions into the SCAMPER mnemonic. The main purpose of SCAMPER is to help in generating idea-spurring queries.

The S in SCAMPER is for substitute. Here, you asking question that naturally substitute one current material or item for another. Many new products and solutions come as a result of solution. The easiest example is diet soda. Before artificial sweetener, diet soda didn't exist. But when the inventors substituted sugar for the new sweetener, whoa a new drink with little to no calories! Waistbands around the world rejoiced in joy. There are many examples even in your own household that are a result of substitution. When a group of learners are stuck on a problem, instead of focusing on the one solution, encourage learners to think of other items that might also solve the problem.


The C is for combine. It is as simple as it sounds. This is asking "How can I combine parts or ideas?" This is basically getting to the point of asking can you create something new by putting two or more things together instead of inventing something brand new? Think how ingenious Pert was in the 80s when they combined shampoo and conditioner into one bottle. That is an example of combining two things together to create something new. The snack world is littered with examples of combinations from the cronut to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. One of my favorite combinations from my childhood--dipping french fries in Wendy's Frosty.

The A is for adapt. When you are using this strategy, you are asking questions such as "What else is like this?" or "Could we change or imitate something else?" In adapting, we change something known to solve the problem (Starko, 2005). These type of questions help learners look at what is currently available that when adapted, will help solve the problem. We can look at the world of fashion of adapting trends of the past (neon from the 80's for example) and adapting it to today's fashions. Or another neat adaptation mentioned by Starko was her graduate students developed a perforated pizza box that broke away into smaller pieces--eliminating the need for plates. There are many products and ideas out there today that with a small adaptation can solve another whole set of problems.


M is for modification. On the surface, this looks similar to adaptation. However, adaptation is taking an existing product and making a change to make it a new product. Modification is taking the a product and making changes (appearance, smell, flavor) and still solve the same problem--just better. Sports teams are great example of modifying its color or logo to appeal to its customer base. In the product world, modification to could be a simple as adding chocolate chips to pancake mix to get chocolate chip pancakes. The modification didn't change its delicious purpose--it just made it better.

Put to Other Use
P stands for put to other uses. When trying this strategy, ask your learners "How can I use this in a new way?" Children are great at imagining new uses for items. If you don't believe me, watch a child with a refrigerator box. Children can think of at least one way to use the box in a new way other than its intended use. The entire recycling movement is centered around coming up with new ways to put items into other use. As a warm up, give your learners a simple object such as a pencil and ask them to come with different uses for it other than its original intended purpose.

The E in SCAMPER stands for _. Ha, that was a joke. It stands for eliminate. Now, I hope the joke makes sense because you are eliminating unnecessary components to solve a problem. You could ask questions like "What can be omitted or eliminated?" Or, "Are all the parts necessary?" Most people when deciding on foods will make decisions based on diet. They might eliminate butter from the recipe if it doesn't affect the final dish to cut the amount of fat or calories in a meal. When helping learners develop new solutions ask them questions to help reduce items that are not necessary to the final solution. You could coach learners to break down an object into two categories-- what must you have and what is nice to have in order to make the product or solution work. This helps learners eliminate extra components to the problem or product.

Finally, the R stands for rearrange. When leading learners, you could ask questions like "Could I use a different sequence?" Or perhaps, "Could I interchange parts?" What about "Could I do the opposite?" Some prevalent inventions that might have come from this process is left-handed scissors and dressing bottles that has the opening on the bottom instead of the top. Applying rearrange helps learners focus on process and design that can help solve problems that might not be as obvious with other methods.

1 What question would not be an example of a substitution?

How can we fix this problem?
Is there something different we could do?
What can we use instead of a paper for a cup?

2 What would you not ask your learners to promote combination?

Is there something we could remove to make this work?.
Are there two or more things together that could solve the problem?
What could we bring in to add to this solution?

3 What would you not ask your learners to promote adaption?

What is another idea you could copy?
What are some other uses for a pen?
What else is the product like?

4 What would you not ask your learners to promote modification?

What elements of this product could you strengthen to create something new?
What are ways to make your least favorite vegetables taste better?
What about this solution or product could be better?

5 What would you not ask your learners to promote putting to another use?

What could you understate or tone down?
Could you recycle the waste from this product to make something new?
Who else could use this product?

6 What would you not ask your learners to promote elimination?

What rules could you substitute?
How could you make it smaller, faster, lighter, or more fun?
What could be eliminated from a soda and still be drinkable?

7 What would you not ask your learners to promote reversing?

How could you streamline or simplify this product?
What would happen if you reversed this process on sequenced things differently?
What other words does the letters in bears spell?

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