Brainstorming is a strategy used to generate a number of ideas to help solve a particular problem. The technique has been around for over 70 years and is still used today to engage students in solving a range of problems.
Techniques vary but there is a general structure to follow when developing brainstorming sessions. After the problem or issue is presented, students are organized into groups to brainstorm all possible ideas which could solve the problem. Discussion of these ideas takes place after the brainstorming session ends, usually after a defined period of time. Each idea will be discussed and considered, some ideas will be eliminated, and a final list will be ranked for possible use as a solution toward solving the problem.
Brainstorming is a cooperative approach in which a number of people collectively agree upon a solution after all of their ideas are brought forth and discussed.
It is important to plan the brainstorming session before implementing it in the classroom. As outlined below, you will need to consider the strengths, challenges and barriers when designing the session.
Provide students with the problem/topic that is new to them and one that challenges their current level of knowledge on the issue.
Stress that all ideas are welcome and even ideas which are perceived as “out there,” “funny or silly,” or “weird” can lead to creative solutions.
Ideally, more people in a group can lead to more ideas being generated.
Groups should consist of students who vary in experiences, backgrounds, knowledge and academic disciplines.
It is important to provide some form of follow-up to the brainstorming session as a sort of follow-through to support student effort.
Brainstorming sessions can be a useful strategy to encourage genuine collaboration and interaction in the classroom. Putting together a well-stated problem and careful planning strategies can lead to meaningful idea generation and idea building which can be used in solving problems or addressing specific course-related issues.
Baumgartner, J. (2005). Key factors to successful brainstorming. http://www.jpb.com/creative/keyfactors.php
Elkenberry, K. (2007). Brainstorming strategies: Seven questions that spur better solutions. http://www.sideroad.com/Meetings/brainstorming-strategies.html
Baumgartner, J. (n.d.). The complete guide to managing traditional brainstorming events. http://www.jpb.com/creative/brainstorming.pdf
Maricopa Community Colleges (2001). Brainstorming. http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/authoring/studio/guidebook/brain.html
Storm, J. (2004). 10 deadly brainstorming ruts that kill innovation. https://www.brainstormnetwork.org/articles/10-BrainStorming-Ruts.pdf
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Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Brainstorming. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide