The Scolaris Group
We make education better.℠

The Reverse Brainstorm


Getting Good Ideas from Bad

It is not uncommon when asking students to brainstorm to have it be difficult to get the flow of ideas going.  There may be multiple reasons for this:

  • Students may be uncomfortable speaking or being the first to answer.

  • Students may be afraid of getting it wrong.

  • Students may not understand the topic or the request (especially if this is something new or something for which they have no context).

In this exercise, students are asked to brainstorm bad ideas or wrong ideas for a given topic.  The purpose behind this is to encourage the free flow of ideas and to get as many bad ideas as possible.


step 1: The Brainstorm

Students are invited to brainstorm bad ideas about a topic - either in small groups or as a whole class. The idea here is to come up with as many bad ideas as students can, with no filtering or

If students come up with good ideas during the brainstorm - Great!  Set those aside for a bit and get back to the bad ones!

Step 2: The Switch

Once the class has compiled a list (or smaller groups), students then are tasked with changing bad ideas (or wrong ideas) into their opposites. That is, they are turning bad ideas into good ideas. If they already have good ideas, they can add those to the list or refine them. Students can then edit down their good ideas or further refine good ideas into better ones.


Why Do This?

  1. It lowers students’ affective filters and removes some barriers to participation.

  2. Students have fun with the exercise.

  3. Brainstorms become much more productive.

  4. Students put deeper thought into what to include/keep when making the conversion from bad to good ideas.