The Case for Divergent Thinking: Critical and Creative Thinking Strategies

One of my instructors in college was visiting from England to complete his Ph.D. in education, and something he said has and always stuck with me:

Don’t believe the myth that the American education system is a failure.

Of course there are areas of improvement and questions that still need to be answered, but don’t listen to the critics who cite our comparatively low test scores. The truth is that the scores our students produce on standardized tests will probably never compete with Germany, Finland, China, or South Korea. But it doesn’t matter.

Critical and creative thinking strategies used in Fairfax County Public Schools (VA).
The nine critical and creative thinking strategies used in Fairfax County Public Schools (VA).

American students aren’t nearly as good as other students on those tests because the best American teachers don’t want their classroom focus to be on convergent thinking. That is, they don’t want to have their students converge on an answer. Instead, they tend to promote divergent thinking. This mindset teachers adopt is what fosters innovation from the best scientists, musicians, engineers, and entrepreneurs in the world. We don’t want our students to get the right answer. We want them to invent new questions.

To that end, in addition to the standards prescribed by our states and Washington, D.C., we are charged with directly incorporating critical and creative thinking strategies into our classrooms. These strategies construct and develop the ingenious minds that will create a more peaceful, beautiful, and successful planet.

We don’t want our students to get the right answer. We want them to invent new questions.

It’s a difficult job, but the educators in Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia are one of many districts who have constructed specific guidelines and strategies teachers can use in their classrooms. The video above follows several FCPS  teachers as they lead their students to become more successful thinkers.

 

Feature image courtesy of Flickr, aarongilson.

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