Posted in Flexible Thinking

Divergent Thinking

The goal of divergent thinking is to generate many different ideas about a topic in a short period of time. It involves breaking a topic down into its various component parts in order to gain insight about the various aspects of the topic. Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, such that the ideas are generated in a random, unorganized fashion. Following divergent thinking, the ideas and information will be organized using convergent thinking; i.e., putting the various ideas back together in some organized, structured way.

To begin brainstorming potential topics, it is often helpful to engage in self analysis and topic analysis.

Self Analysis

Ask the following questions to help brainstorm a list of potential topics.

  1. How do I spend my time? What are my activities during a normal day?
  2. What do I know about them? What are my areas of expertise? What am I studying in school?
  3. What do I like? What are my hobbies? What are my interests?
  4. What bothers me? What would I like to change in my world or life?
  5. What are my strongest beliefs, values and philosophies?

Topic Analysis

Ask the following questions to help narrow and refine a broad topic into a specific, focused one. Substitute your topic for the word “something.”

  1. How would you describe something?
  2. What are the causes of something?
  3. What are the effects of something?
  4. What is important about something?
  5. What are the smaller parts that comprise something?
  6. How has something changed? Why are those changes important?
  7. What is known and unknown about something?
  8. What category of ideas or objects does something belong to?
  9. Is something good or bad? Why?
  10. What suggestions or recommendations would you make about something?
  11. What are the different aspects of something you can think of?

Techniques to Stimulate Divergent Thinking

1. Brainstorming. Brainstorming is a technique which involves generating a list of ideas in a creative, unstructured manner. The goal of brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible in a short period of time. The key tool in brainstorming is “piggybacking,” or using one idea to stimulate other ideas. During the brainstorming process, ALL ideas are recorded, and no idea is disregarded or criticized. After a long list of ideas is generated, one can go back and review the ideas to critique their value or merit.

2. Keeping a Journal. Journals are an effective way to record ideas that one thinks of spontaneously. By carrying a journal, one can create a collection of thoughts on various subjects that later become a source book of ideas. People often have insights at unusual times and places. By keeping a journal, one can capture these ideas and use them later when developing and organizing materials in the prewriting stage.

3. Freewriting. When free-writing, a person will focus on one particular topic and write non-stop about it for a short period of time. The idea is to write down whatever comes to mind about the topic, without stopping to proofread or revise the writing. This can help generate a variety of thoughts about a topic in a short period of time, which can later be restructured or organized following some pattern of arrangement.

4. Mind or Subject Mapping. Mind or subject mapping involves putting brainstormed ideas in the form of a visual map or picture that that shows the relationships among these ideas. One starts with a central idea or topic, then draws branches off the main topic which represent different parts or aspects of the main topic. This creates a visual image or “map” of the topic which the writer can use to develop the topic further. For example, a topic may have four different branches (sub-topics), and each of those four branches may have two branches of its own (sub-topics of the sub-topic) *Note* this includes both divergent and convergent thinking.

Source: Faculty of Washington

Posted in Flexible Thinking

6 ways Flexible Thinking Weakness impact your kid at school

1. Flexible Thinking and Real-Life Learning

Doctors have a term to describe the ability to think about things in a different way. They call it “cognitive flexibility.” It uses two skills—flexible thinking and set shifting. Flexible thinking is when kids are able to think about something in a new way. Set shifting is when they can let go of the old way of doing something in order to use a new way.

Here’s an example of how those skills work together. Kids often start out learning to tie shoes using the “Bunny Ears” method (making each lace into a loop). They then often progress to the “Squirrel and the Tree” method (making one loop and wrapping the other lace around it). Flexible thinking enables kids to consider this new squirrelly approach. Set shifting helps them “unlearn” the old bunny-ears way in order to use the new method.

Kids who are rigid in their thinking have difficulty moving beyond the more basic ways of doing things. If your child has weak flexible thinking skills, taking on new tasks and responsibilities as she gets older may be tough.

2. Flexible Thinking and Reading

Kids use flexible thinking both for learning to read and for reading to learn. When they’re starting out, flexible thinking enables them to understand how the same letter combination can make different sounds (such as the “ough” in words like enough and dough). It’s also the skill that helps kids understand how words can be used in more than one way (such as “Don’t slip on the banana peel” and “Sign the permission slip”).

As kids start reading books to get information, they use flexible thinking to understand what information is important and what details are just used to add to a description. Flexible thinking is also what helps them understand the perspectives of different characters in a story. Flexible thinkers have an easier time understanding idioms (such as “keep your ear to the ground”) and puns (such as “the joke about the duck quacked me up”).

If your child is rigid in her thinking, you may see that she has trouble identifying the correct pronunciation for words and interprets what she reads much too literally.

3. Flexible Thinking and Writing

Writing is a complicated process for kids. They have to organize their thoughts and choose the words for the sentences. They have to add supporting details while keeping track of the main idea. On top of that, they need to be able to check for grammar and spelling mistakes. All of that requires the use of flexible thinking. Kids who are more rigid thinkers can have a hard time shifting among all these things.

If your child has trouble thinking flexibly, her writing may not have enough supporting details. Or it might have lots of errors in it.

4. Flexible Thinking and Language Learning

Flexible thinking is the skill kids use to learn the rules of language. It helps them to know, for instance, that the way to put most words into the past tense is to add “-ed” to the end. Flexible thinkers also understand there are exceptions to those rules. It makes sense to them that the past tense of go is went. These kids can easily use both rules and exceptions of language.

Flexible thinking also plays a role in learning foreign languages. In other languages, letters can have different sounds. Sentences aren’t put together the way they are in English.

If your child is not a flexible thinker, it may be hard for her to learn the rules and the exceptions that make up languages. She may learn better by listening to how people speak the language than by sitting down and reading the rules in a textbook.

5. Flexible Thinking and Math

Flexible thinking is a key skill in math. Kids use it to find ways to solve word problems and to understand that a phrase like “how many in all” means that addition is being used. Flexible thinking also helps kids understand that there’s more than one way to solve a math problem. They can see how a new type of problem can be solved using a formula they already know.

Without strong flexible thinking skills, your child may struggle with math that requires her to do more than just solve the equation on the page. “Cheat sheets” that connect words or phrases to math operations can be helpful tools for your child. So can checklists of the different things she needs to look at to solve a problem.

6. Flexible Thinking and Studying

Doing homework and studying for a test require flexible thinking, too. Knowing how to switch between different subjects during homework time becomes increasingly important as kids get older and have more work to juggle. Doing math problems requires a very different strategy than doing a writing assignment. Kids need to be able to change their thinking to handle both.

When it comes to studying, kids use flexible thinking to figure out what kind of information they need to pay the most attention to. Do they need to memorize facts and information, such as for a multiple-choice quiz? Or do they need to learn the basic ideas so they can retell the story, such as for an essay test?

If your child has poor flexible thinking skills, switching strategies will not come naturally. This can make homework time a source of frustration. Teaching her note-taking strategies and providing homework planners can ease the stress on both of you.

The Good News: There Are Ways to Help

If your child has trouble with flexible thinking, she’s likely to have some problems learning. There are ways to help, though. Your child’s teacher can use strategies in the classroom to teach your child in ways that make more sense to her.

You and your child can also play games at home to build flexible thinking skills and come up with ways to make homework more manageable. One of the best things you can do is to help your child learn to make a list of pros and cons, first on paper and then in her head, to determine the best choice.

Key Takeaways

  • Kids who have weak flexible thinking skills have trouble knowing when not to use typical grammar and pronunciation rules.
  • Kids with weak flexible thinking skills have difficulty understanding abstract concepts in math and reading.
  • There are tools and strategies that can help your child think less rigidly.


Posted in Flexible Thinking

Flexible Thinking

At a Glance

  • Flexible thinking allows kids to switch gears and look at things differently.
  • Flexible thinking requires the ability to “unlearn” old ways of doing things.
  • Flexible thinking plays a key role in all types of learning.

Imagine you’re driving somewhere, and discover that a street you were planning to turn onto is blocked off for construction. Your initial plan for reaching your destination obviously isn’t going to work. So you instantly come up with a new way to get there.

That’s what flexible thinking is about—being able to quickly switch gears and find new approaches to solve problems.

Your child may struggle with flexible thinking, which plays an important role in how kids learn and adapt to new information in many areas.