Converge = come from different directions and meet at one place, to move towards one single point.
Convergent thinking = bringing our thoughts together to find one correct answer. Is a left brain process that may be logical, precise, systematic and ordered.
Diverge = depart and go forward in different direction/s.
Divergent thinking = generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. Uses left and right brain thinking. May be more free-flowing, less ordered, non-linear, and more spontaneous. Supports out-of-the-box thinking.
I have been finding that in society, in our homes and schools there is a lot of value placed on convergent thinking, on quickly finding the one correct answer and then moving on. Convergent thinking is easy to measure and easy to test. While children need the skills for convergent and divergent thinking, there is a part of me that feels that for our children divergent thinking is undervalued and not as fully developed or realised as possible.
I've been making notes on how I can support and promote divergent thinking at home with all three of my children. Yes, this applies to our toddler too!
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Have the child lead their own learning, develop and ask their own questions to a problem.
- Teach children how to form and test a hypothesis.
- Role model divergent thinking and problem-solving.
- Problem-solve using divergent thinking as a family, for example with a family problem we can brainstorm, workshop or mind-map to stimulate ideas.
- Use lots of divergent thinking in everyday life, take risks - build our own cubby house rather than a store made kit, design our own meals/desserts/smoothies rather than use a recipe.
- Use Process Art. Child-led process art where the focus is on the process not on the outcome.
- Provide open-ended toys. Not to dictate or assume how these toys will be used and played with
- Allow for, provide for and support the child's independent exploration and experimentation (creativity) as much as possible, from birth.
- Take a Makers Approach. Build things, repair things, make sketches of ideas, make models.
- Include recyclables, loose parts in play and learning.
- Be open to the child's ideas and don't close down new ideas or thought processes. Support risk-taking in thought process by accepting and embracing mistakes and ideas that don't work out. Support the child to feel accepted and their thoughts and ideas valued. When having family discussions it's easy to dismiss younger children's suggestions but these must be valued.
- Embrace creativity as much as academic success - don't focus on test results as this is not always a true reflection of the child's thought processes or what they are capable of.
In reading The Backyard Play Revolution: How to Engage Kids in Simple, Inexpensive Outdoor Play and Increase Child Health and Motor/Sensory Development by Jason Runkel Sperling, I highlighted this quote.
"Convergent play, like convergent problems, has one solution. The ability to solve convergent problems has been linked to successful performance on standard classroom and intelligence tests where there is only one right answer. In contrast, divergent play requires a greater amount of imagination, tinkering, and creativity because there is not a single solution. These types of open-ended toys - like Lego blocks, magnetic tiles, and Loose Parts - positively influence children's ability to problem solve as they require thinking outside of the box. In my experience, toys that require divergent problem solving and play get far more attention and engagement than toys that have a single fixed solution."
Phyllis Pottish-Lewis in How Dr. Montessoir's Principles Intrinsically Foster Creativity, the Foundation for All Human Progress finds that in Montessori through the prepared environment which supports flexibility and originial thought promotes divergent thinking.
"An environment in which there are fluency, flexibility and originality is more likely to produce an individual who is capable of designing novel and appropriate ideas, because it promotes divergent thinking... Consequently, environments that predominantly emphasize convergent thinking squelch creativity, while environments such as Montessori classes that promote divergent thinking, complemented by convergent thinking, tend to produce budding artists, inventors, and scientists."
I hope that I can capture that in our Montessori home environment too!