Are You Thinking…Divergently?

15 Nov

How many uses for a paper clip can you think of?

Maybe 10…20…50? How about 200?

What does a paper clip and its many uses—real or imagined—have to do with the arts?

Quite a lot, actually.

In the College of Fine Arts we value the ability to think beyond boundaries, we nurture students’ desire to take risks or try new things, and we encourage students to question established ways of doing things.

Unfortunately, certain education models don’t always promote or encourage these things.

Today, we’d like to share a video with you that we think is interesting, important and, quite frankly, pretty cool to watch.

In the video “Changing Educational Paradigms,” Sir Ken Robinson explains that the current model of public education is designed to focus primarily on an individual’s intellectual ability of the mind often called “academic ability,” meaning that there are people who are smart and people who are not smart.

He argues that this model has created an educational system based on the interests of industrialization and the image of it. (Schools are organized on factory lines: ringing bells, organized by subjects, students are educated in batches). He argues that this model has led to chaos in our system of education and this chaos has caused people who move through our educational system to lose their ability to think divergently.

Divergent thinking is an essential capacity for creativity and is the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question and lots of ways to interpret a question. To see multiple answers, not one! Creativity, Sir Ken Robinson explains, “is the process of having original ideas that have value.” In other words, divergent thinking is what helps us tap into the creative process.

RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms–Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson explains that we must “think differently about human capacity.” We need to recognize that “most great learning happens in groups and that collaboration is the stuff of growth.” If students are expected to take their place in the economies of the 21st century (see last week’s blog), then we need to break down the ways that we’ve been educated out of divergent thinking.

Ultimately, if we believe in the importance of creativity and divergent thinking, we need to remodel the education system. But, there are some things that you can do. Think about how you might reconnect with your natural capacity for divergent thinking. How might you flex and stretch your divergent thinking muscles?

How many uses for a paper clip can you come up with? Better yet, how many uses of [insert: your preference here] can you come up with?


Posted by on November 15, 2012 in Students


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4 responses to “Are You Thinking…Divergently?

  1. lista de email

    December 6, 2012 at 4:20 am

    i just want to say i like it and thanks.

  2. Stephen

    November 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    I’m not sure that we are going to produce geniuses if we sit around all day trying to figure out what to do with a paper clip. A lot of the argument is that we let studenTs make decisions as to what they want to learn and what they want to become. So if a child enters first grade and would rather jump and skip about the room, then we should make that person a dancer, and not try to pressure them into learning how to read. Of course in a couple of years or more there that dancer is with his other dancer friends, without any ability to read.
    Where I understand that we need the arts in education, I disagree that we need it at the expense of everything else. Just like we say to those young students who dream of making it in the NFL, you also need to do something else. Life can hand us many possibilities, so it is best to be prepared.

  3. John Tapscott

    November 26, 2013 at 3:19 am

    Stephen, education should not be about pressuring students to learn anything. If it requires pressure I would contend that you’re doing it wrong. Every day I see young children happily learning new words, new concepts and new ways of dealing with numbers. Why? Because their teachers know where they are up to and what they are capable of learning. If you have to resort to pressure, believe me, as a teacher you have lost the plot. A better word to use would be “encourage”.

    All children have unique interests and abilities which ought not to be discounted and ignored. I know where this leads too. I see children in middle schooling jaded and discouraged about the education process. These are the ones who become disengaged, “lazy”, misbehaving, because nobody bothered to know where they were up to and dished them up an educational diet whether it was digestible or not. This is often the outcome of a state mandated, one size fits all, curriculum.

    As far as the Arts are concerned, I don’t believe Robinson advocates Arts at the expense of Sciences and Languages. What he did say was that Sciences and Languages, necessary as they are for their own sake, on their own, are not sufficient.


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