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Group Brainstorming


^21st Century Skills MS/HS/College Strategy


Flexible Thinking Self-regulation Social Awareness

Group Brainstorming

All students, particularly those who struggle with collaboration

Teach It!

  1. Objective: Group brainstorming will allow all students to be heard and feel comfortable contributing.
  2. Teacher Takeaways: a) Model group brainstorming regularly so students practice and can use the approach in small group work. Establish a set time to begin and end; assign a facilitator and a notetaker. b) Set a positive tone: There are no bad ideas and don't criticize ideas. c) Encourage quantity over quality. This encourages students to throw out all ideas, without feeling the need to carefully think through ideas or risk being criticized. d) Scroll to the next slide for structured brainstorming approaches.

Class Brainstorming Approaches

  1. "Plussing": One person shares an idea. The next person responds with, "yes, and," or "what if," to comment on the idea or add another idea. Everyone agrees never use the words, "yes, but" to shoot down or negate an idea.
  2. Round Robin: Go around in a circle and everyone shares an idea. You can decide whether people are allowed to "pass" or how many "passes" each person can have.
  3. Structured Categories: If there is a clear output required, brainstorm according to an outline or categories. For example, if brainstorming for a debate, brainstorm in categories of pros and cons. Or, if multiple examples are needed, brainstorm by category such as political, environmental, social, technology (this is a common acronym called PEST).
  4. Write it Down: If you know you have reluctant and/or dominant speakers, consider having everyone write down ideas on sticky notes, to start, without names. Then put the sticky notes on the board with similar ideas grouped together. Discuss the groups of ideas.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Usually the goal of group brainstorming is to generate the best, most creative ideas by building on the team's diverse backgrounds, interests and knowledge. Since everyone is most creative when they feel relaxed, the best brainstorming requires that everyone on the team is comfortable sharing ideas without fear of criticism. Students could feel uncomfortable sharing ideas for a variety of reasons so it is important to think carefully about the optimal setting and structure which will vary depending on the goal and participants.