Divergent thinking or lateral thinking

Divergent thinking or lateral thinking is the essence of cognitive development. For example someone ask what is the opposite of the word dark.

Bright is an acceptable answer. Consider another situation, what is the opposite of a cupboard? Or what ideas come to your mind when you think of sunset? The answer to these questions is not straight jacketed.

They may be unlimited, with varying degrees of acceptability. This is the essence of divergent or lateral thinking which means to think in unusual, novel and unique ways.

Concept of Divergent Thinking:

In divergent thinking, we think in different directions, sometimes searching what, and sometimes seeking variety. Lateral thinking is another expression used for divergent thinking; it means an original line of enquiry.

Creativity or divergent thinking can be identified with openness in expressing feeling, receptivity to ideas, concern for others, desire to grow as a person and actualize one's potentials. Hence creativity is the playful exploration of thoughts by a person who is open, curious and imaginative.

Dimensions of Creativity:

Creativity is related to divergent thinking. Therefore, creativity is a multi-dimensional concept. A child with the following characteristic dimensions gives more evidence of divergent or creative thinking than others:

1) Fluency:

Ability to manage successfully when a number of ideas are sought.

It is the total number of relevant responses given by an individual to a stimulus.


In how many ways can you use a stick, a toothbrush etc.? Scoring: Count the number of ideas produced in each case; their total is fluency score.

2) Flexibility:

The ability to shift your reference and think of vary alternatives. It shows the capacity of an individual to use different approach in responding to a stimulus.


Make a list of five different factors which you would bear in mind when you opt for a career.


Each new multiple criterions get a score. The more the alternate criteria, the more the flexibility score.

3) Originality:

The production of novel, usual ideas which are also use relevant and apt. It is your capacity to give original responses to a stimulus .


Form a figure using these lines or use the words rough, shoo fault, and vault and make a poem.


A novel, unique and relevant idea gets a score.

4) Elaboration:

The ability to generate various alternatives (details) the implement or spell out an idea.


Sarah put her foot on the 10 foot long snake.


Varied details that have facilitated or elaborated get a score.
Identification of a Creative Child:

More or less every child has the capacity behaviour but some have specific creativity in some areas such as science, artistic contribution etc.

It is however, a difficult task to identify a creative child. The following are the major characteristics you may link to look for in your students:

(1) Original thought expression, action and behaviour

(2) Ask uncomfortable questions at times

(3) Persists/argues for his or her point of view

(4) Proposes alternatives to solutions

(5) Displays a high degree of risk-taking behaviour

(6) Self-concept is high, tends to be more anxious and possesses a greater degree of need for achievement

(7) More tolerant of ambiguity, and

(8) Curiosity/independent and exhibits more autonomy. Implication for Classroom Teacher.

To increase the fluency, flexibility. Originality and exploration of the students thinking/behaviour, the teacher can provide certain conditions.

(1) Pose open-ended, divergent questions with the focus on alternative responses and novelty, and not on right or wrong.

(2) Excessive discipline, reliance on text books, emphasis on rote learning or criticizing students for wrong answer reduce their creative potential.

(3) Encourage children to experiment, innovate, discover, hypothesis or imagine possible solutions to any pressing issue.

(4) Develop a spirit of inquiry, tolerate uncertainty; help to speculate, cultivate a deliberate pace of thinking, etc.

(5) Adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to teaching.

(6) Create a supportive environment.

(7) Appreciate student's creative efforts.

(8) Assign/suggest activities of an inter-disciplinary nature.

(9) Use teaching. Aids that stimulate imagination.

(10) Resist from premature evaluation.