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Creative Fusion: Benefits of Convergent and Divergent Thinking in Learning

Updated: Apr 1

         The world needs divergent minds to push the boundaries of human achievement.

Benefits of Convergent and Divergent Thinking: Two Modes

Holistic thinking is imperative to equip students to tackle the challenges of tomorrow. Central to this approach are two distinct yet complementary thinking styles: convergent and divergent. Understanding and effectively leveraging these two modes of thinking can significantly enrich learning experiences and enhance creativity and problem-solving skills among students.

Convergent Thinking:

Convergent thinking relates to an analysis of what already exists. It involves analysing something in depth for complete understanding. Understanding includes what the entity is and how the parts and whole are connected within the entity. Convergent thinking includes how the entity relates to other existing entities. Take a teacup. Convergent thinking focuses on its material composition, structure, shape, size and function. Students elaborate on how the construction and materials support its function. Beyond this internal analysis, students might consider how a teacup is important when entertaining guests. Entertaining is also an existing concept, and it is related to the teacup in this analysis. So, a teacup has physical features and cultural elements to it.

Divergent Thinking:

Divergent thinking goes beyond what already exists. It embodies creativity, where boundaries are challenged, and imagination reigns supreme. It's about exploring multiple avenues, envisioning new possibilities and thinking beyond conventional limits.

Educators play a pivotal role in guiding students to harness both types of thinking.

Convergent and Divergent Thinking each have a Process:

For convergent thinking students:

·         Examine what is before them

·         Analyse its whole and parts

·         Work out how all these elements are related and

·         Focus on how this entity or idea relates to other extant entities of ideas.

For divergent thinking students:

·         Select a problem, project or situation to focus on

·         Generate multiple possible ideas or solutions and

·         Expand on the models they have envisioned.

Merging the Two Modes:

Once divergent models or solutions are generated, they exist.

It then becomes possible to use convergent thinking to evaluate their effectiveness. So, they revert to convergent thinking. When students know how to approach each mode of thinking, they feel empowered to explore ideas freely and evaluate them critically.

A Practical Exercise with Ice Cream Flavours:

A practical exercise to cultivate divergent thinking involves inviting students to design unique ice cream flavours for a hypothetical ice cream shop. Encouraging them to brainstorm wildly without judgment can lead to innovative and unconventional ideas. From savoury to sweet, the possibilities are limitless, sparking creativity and imagination. Think of all the flavours of 'Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans' in Harry Potter books as another example.

Once the brainstorming session concludes, the transition to convergent thinking begins. Students are tasked with selecting a subset of flavours to feature in the ice cream shop, applying criteria to evaluate and prioritise options. This phase harnesses critical thinking skills as students weigh the merits of each idea and make informed decisions. What they decide will depend on what kind of ice cream shop they create. And that's a journey in itself!

Such activities stimulate creativity and essential skills like collaboration, communication, and decision-making. Moreover, it instils a growth mindset, encouraging students to embrace challenges and view failures as opportunities for learning and improvement.

Balancing divergent and convergent thinking approaches in curriculum design and classroom instruction is crucial. By integrating opportunities for both modes of thinking, educators empower students to become adept problem-solvers equipped to navigate an ever-evolving world.

Through purposeful activities and supportive guidance, educators can nurture students' cognitive flexibility and equip them with the skills needed to thrive in the 21st century.

Lili-Ann Kriegler (B. A Hons, H. Dip. Ed, M.Ed.) is an education consultant and award-winning author of Edu-Chameleon for teachers and Roots and Wings for parents. Lili-Ann’s primary specialisations are early childhood education (Birth to 9 years), leadership and optimising human thinking and cognition. She runs her consultancy, Kriegler-Education.

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