While teaching a creativity workshop recently, the discussion turned to how important divergent thinking is to problem solving skills. Divergent thinking allows children to look at a problem and explore the many ways it can be solved. I dislike scenarios where there is only one answer. I know that 2 + 2 will always equal 4, but for problems that offer the possibility of multiple answers, we should give children that opportunity.
I am a big believer in classroom meetings and introducing problems to children. Teachers often try to solve all the problems and make all the decisions. Parents do the same at home. I often use one example from my own classroom. In exasperation one day I noticed that the art center was a mess after we 'cleaned up' the room. I could have lectured or told the children how disappointed I was in their lack of follow-through. Instead, I drew the students' attention to the art center and asked if they could identify what was wrong. Of course they knew the center was not cleaned up properly. I asked for volunteers to clean the center. After it was appropriately cleaned I drew attention to how it should look after clean up. I then asked the children what we were going to do about the problem of having centers left in disarray. They had a variety of ideas, which we adopted as our procedures, and the problem of messy learning centers improved 100%.
Lecturing to the children was one ineffective approach to the problem. However, using several suggestions from the children solved the issue. Divergent thinking can rule the day!