Divergent Thinking – Changing Paradigms

After watching the video Changing Paradigms, Divergent ThinkingI was especially interested in the study on divergent thinking that Sir Ken Robinson described. He mentioned that after being tested in Kindergarten, the same students were tested later and declined in their ability to engage in divergent thinking. He attributed this decline to these students having been educated. When the education system is built on a foundation that was established in the tradition of industrialization, it is easy to see why a system this antiquated is not meeting the current learning needs of students. When I was a university student, I reflected on my educational upbringing. I noticed that the educational system was very similar to a factory. After graduating from the university, I had my theories on learning, but wanted to experience it from the perspective of a teacher. I taught for a number years, first in charter schools, then in private schools. After observing what I did, I made it a goal of mine to make a change. As a mathematics teacher, it was a challenge to encourage students to think divergently when most of them assumed there is only one solution to a problem. That is when I thought to even reconsider the manner in which I taught the content. Why resort to teaching the examples in the textbook exactly as they are given. If I am not willing to think divergently about teaching the concept, why should I expect my students to think divergently?

In the after school setting, I have been given an amazing opportunity to explore different ways of re-establishing the students’ ability to divergently think. In mathematics, I have students analyzing the linguistic aspects of word problems. They start with words that they commonly use and construct their own word problems to describe situations to which they can relate. I have also thought about the students’ struggle with seeing numbers in different ways. Similar to the study that Sir Ken Robinson mentioned, I asked students to write down as many variations of a number as they possible could. For example, I would use the number “10” and would get a few additions examples, subtraction examples, multiplication examples, and fraction examples. In all the situations that I asked this question, I never once saw “10 + 0.” I actually posted that on the board and students were quick to tell me that I never said they could add “0.” I realized that somewhere along their years of education, a sense of restriction was built in them. This video reaffirms my belief that as educators, it is our role to inspire divergent thinking.



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