Saturday, April 12, 2014

Divergent Thinking

In one of my classes, Exploring Teaching, we have been discussing trends in education. A few weeks ago we watched a YouTube video, RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms, that opened my eyes to various ways people are challenging our education system. Ken Robinson, an author, speaker, and international advisor on education, talks about divergent thinking in the clip of the video I have embedded below:

As Ken Robinson elaborates, divergent thinking is a process of thought in which one explores many possible solutions to a problem. In divergent thinking, there isn't necessarily a correct or best answer; it is open-ended and aimed at generating novel ideas. It is often used in contrast to convergent thinking. (For more on divergent versus convergent thinking, follow this link to an article on Education Portal.)

Of course, after discussing the benefits of divergent thinking in the classroom, I had to test my own abilities. If you'd like to try divergent thinking for yourself, try the Incomplete Figure test, a drawing challenge in which you're given a shape and then asked to complete the image. I have created some incomplete figures for you and included them below:

Images created and uploaded by me, Anna Kron.

(If you'd like to see some other incomplete figures and a few completed images, click here.)

These are easy ways for us to test and practice our divergent thinking skills. But how do we ensure that children don't lose these skills as they grow older, or as Ken Robinson asserts, as they become more educated? How can I, as a teacher, challenge my students to use divergent thinking in my future classroom, so that their abilities DON'T deteriorate over time? 

We must start changing the ways we assess children. We can pose questions that can be interpreted in multiple ways and learn to value several answers to one problem. We must allow students to collaborate, to work together to come up with a multitude of solutions, and THEN permit them to choose which solution they think is best and explain why. 

I think technology plays a major role in this process. Technology is a tool that allows us to illustrate our thinking in a number of ways. If the students can imagine the solution, they must have the tools necessary to demonstrate their thoughts to others. For this reason, it is important that educators stay current with the latest technology and utilize it in our classrooms. We must provide our students with the gadgets necessary to make their ideas come to life. 

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