Imagine a training exercise on a simulator where the student is set up to fail because it’s designed to see how they cope with a no-win scenario. Imagine that you have a student who does not believe failure is inevitable. When it is their turn to take this exercise, they reprogram the simulator, so it is no longer a no-win scenario. Do you punish that student for cheating? Or reward them for thinking outside the box? If you chose the second option, you’re in the truly galactic company as this scenario is the Kobayashi Maru, used by Star Fleet Academy in the hit sci-fi series Star Trek. The audacious cadet was James T. Kirk, the most famous of starship captains. While this is a fictional scenario, educators and students should know the importance of lateral thinking and how it can enhance and improve the learning experience.
What is lateral thinking?
The term ‘lateral thinking’ was first coined by psychologist Edward de Bono, who emphasized the importance of considering a problem from different angles, particularly in creative businesses and activities. Lateral thinking is a method of problem-solving based on innovative and often radical thinking. Its opposite is linear thinking, where problem-solving follows logical steps. A mathematical problem, for example, may be solved with linear thinking as you follow the logical steps to reach the answer. However, many other issues are more complex, and there may not even be one single solution. People with good lateral thinking skills will become creative to reach the best possible solution.
An example of a lateral thinking question is the nine-dot puzzle. In this problem, nine dots are arranged in a three-by-three grid, and the challenge is to connect the dots using the fewest number of straight lines without lifting the pencil. Sounds easy? If you think outside the paper the grid is printed on; you may do even better. After all, it simply asks for the fewest possible lines – it doesn’t place any limit on how long those lines can be! There are several solutions, and those who think outside the grid will achieve the best result. There are several solutions, and those who believe outside the grid will accomplish the best result. There are several solutions, and those who think outside the grid will achieve the best result.
Lateral thinking in education
Traditionally, lateral thinking has not been a priority in education as there has been more emphasis on rote learning to remember facts for exams or logic for problem-solving. However, increasingly, the importance of lateral thinking in the modern world is being recognized, and educational theory is adapting to account for this.
Lateral thinking encourages curiosity, which young children naturally have in abundance. Harnessed, it can make them more active participants in their learning and promote the innovation and creativity that prepare them for future employment in the modern world.
Teachers, too, should be encouraged to use lateral thinking in their teaching. There is often no single way to teach a topic that suits every person. By thinking outside the box, they may have a breakthrough that helps them teach a child with a particular special need or attitude or to provide a challenge that will take students in an unexpected direction. Thinking of an educational challenge differently can radically change teaching and learning patterns.
Online learning is one of the most radical shakeups the education world has seen, with students and teachers needing to think differently than when all are physically in the same space. During the lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic, educators worldwide had to come up with creative solutions for teaching and learning when their pupils were no longer physically present. During the lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic, educators worldwide had to come up with creative solutions for teaching and learning when their pupils were no longer physically present. During the lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic, educators worldwide had to come up with creative solutions for teaching and learning when their pupils were no longer physically present. Even with schools and colleges open again, many continue to choose online courses, which can be ideal for those who can think outside the box as they develop the learning methods that are most effective for them. With many studies including a research element, this creative thinking is essential. A good example of this is the MA education online with the University of Exeter in the UK, which requires students to design and carry out a small-scale research study in the field of education. With the need to find the most effective methods and to consider the implications of their research for teaching, lateral thinking is essential.
Boosting lateral thinking skills
Teachers and parents can build ways to boost lateral thinking in the classroom and everyday life. Classroom debates can spark various ideas and encourage students to see other students’ points of view. Classroom debates can spark diverse opinions and encourage students to see other students’ points of view. Classroom debates can spark various ideas and encourage students to see other students’ points of view. By asking questions, the more random, the better; children can be encouraged to open their minds to different ways of thinking.
Mind maps are a good way for students to explore their thinking. Start with a word in the center of the page and then see what ideas it sparks. Some numerous puzzles and problems can be given to students to solve that encourage lateral thinking, including the nine-dot mystery mentioned above. Please encourage students to use all their senses, where appropriate, to solve problems, as other reasons may give solutions that our sight alone can miss.
Are there downsides to lateral thinking?
The Kobayashi Maru scenario nti, and maybe a triumph of lateral thinking, but it also sounds like a note of caution. Too much of anything can be bad, andd lateral thinking is no exception. As Kirk has used lateral thinking to solve the unsolvable in the simulation, he does not know how to act when he faces a no-win scenario, Inst, d, it is the cool logic of the Vulcan, Mr. Spock, who saves the day. Lateral thinking is certainly important in the modern world. Still, these skills should be encouraged alongside logic and linear thinking, with one key skill being for students to work out how best to think to solve a particular problem.