How to Encourage Outside-the-Box Thinking in Students

By Huntington Learning Center

Whether you teach first graders or high school seniors, teaching students how to think outside the box in school and life will be a valuable tool you can impart. But what exactly does that mean? Put simply, your goal should be to encourage your students to let their innovative ideas flow without restraint. Here are a few tips for how to do so:

  1. Ask open-ended questions. In the classroom, closed-ended questions (those with a right or wrong answer) halt discussion in its tracks. Phrase your queries in a way that invites students to share additional information (e.g. What do you mean by ___? Tell me how you feel about ___. Can someone add on to what Jennifer said?).
  2. Make yours a student-centered classroom. Yes, you’re the teacher, but put the students in charge of their learning. Give them appropriate autonomy and have them collaborate and work together often.
  3. Individualize learning. No two students learn alike, and your teaching approach shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all, either. Create lessons and assignments that require students to reflect on what they know and share that with you and their peers. Give your students daily opportunities to think on a higher level.
  4. Address the risks/downsides last. Don’t stop students from sharing or thinking through ideas because you foresee a few hurdles. Allow them to brainstorm without criticism, and save the risk assessment aspect of the exercise until later.

In today’s dynamic world, it’s more important than ever that you teach students how to be creative and arm them with the tools to solve problems, take risks, and innovate. Foster that kind of environment each and every day in your classroom and you’ll prepare your students for great things.


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