Tools For Generating Ideas

A wall with post-it notes after a brainstorming session

A student representative team is a group of students (and sometimes teachers) that work together to ensure that students are listened to in your school and classrooms.

One of the core functions of a student representative team is to generate ideas, but sometimes this can be tricky for a variety of reasons. To ensure that everybody gets a say and help make this process a bit more productive, here are a few different ways of generating ideas within your student representative team.

 

1. Brainstorming

Brainstorming is an easy way to get ideas, and is great to use when a group is stuck for ideas. The aim is to collect as many ideas as you can about a topic.

  1. Write the question up clearly and simply in front of the group.
  2. Group members take turns saying ideas.
  3. Every idea is written down with no further discussion.
  4. Ideas are grouped together in terms of similarity.
  5. The best idea is voted upon by the whole group.

Pros:

  • Can be done in both small and large groups
  • Lots of ideas can be generated

Cons:

  • People may be hesitant about having to bring up their idea in front of the group
  • Can get ‘messy’ and disorderly as people want their ideas to be heard.
  • Hard to get clarification
BRAINSTORMING.pdf (79 downloads)

 

2. The 1:2:4 Method

The 1:2:4 method is especially useful as it promotes a lot of discussion and fleshing out of different ideas.

  1. Write the question up clearly and simply in front of the group.
  2. Each person privately writes down their top three suggestions or ideas in response to this.
  3. Pairs are formed from everybody involved in the discussion.
  4. Each pair then has to decide on the best ideas between them. This can be any predetermined number, though for the sake of time it is suggested that this number is kept fairly low.
  5. Pairs form groups of four, and the process of choosing the best ideas is repeated.
  6. Keep going until the whole group reaches agreement.

Pros:

  • Allows people flesh out their ideas.
  • All ideas get a somewhat equal amount of discussion time

Cons:

  • May require a fairly large group to be useful
  • Time consuming
124-method.pdf (85 downloads)

 

3. Nominal Group Technique (NGT)

  1. Write the question up clearly and simply in front of the group.
  2. Individual members privately write down their ideas about a question.
  3. The ideas are then shared: each person contributes one idea, in rotation, without repeating ideas.
  4. Each idea is noted on the board. No debate or discussion is allowed. If individuals have no new ideas, they pass, until all ideas are on the board.
  5. Anyone can then ask for any idea to be clarified. If needed, ideas can be amended slightly to make them clearer.
  6. Similar statements are then combined, with the agreement of those proposing them.
  7. Everyone then votes by secret ballot for the most important ideas – each can have one, two or three votes as the chairperson decides. The number of votes for each item is recorded and this results in a list in order of importance to the group.

Pros:

  • Generates a large number of ideas
  • Promotes an orderly fashion of presenting ideas

Cons:

  • Time consuming
  • People may be hesitant about having to bring up their idea in front of the group
Nominal-Group-Technique.pdf (86 downloads)

 

4. Agree/Disagree/Unclear (ADU)

  1. Every person writes down three ideas; each one is written in large words on a separate piece of paper.
  2. The ideas are all pinned to the wall in front of the group under the heading: AGREE. Two other headings: DISAGREE and UNCLEAR – are also put on the wall.
  3. Anyone can shift a piece of paper along the wall to DISAGREE or UNCLEAR, but no-one can move it back again yet.
  4. After everyone has had a chance to shift the ideas or the proposals,
  • The ones under UNCLEAR are sorted out: What isn’t clear? How could it be written to make it clear?Once it is clear, it is shifted to either AGREE or DISAGREE.
  • The ones under DISAGREE can then be debated
  1. Use one of the other techniques to evaluate and prioritise the ideas under AGREE.

Pros:

  • Ideas can be clarified
  • Allows for anybody to challenge or discuss ideas

Cons:

  • Time consuming
  • May become disorderly and confusing
  • People may be hesitant to challenge others’ ideas publicly
agree-disagree-unclear.pdf (76 downloads)

 

5. The XYZ method

  1. Write the question up clearly and simply in front of the group.
  2. Each person has three pieces of paper, labelled X, Y and Z.
  3. The people work in pairs to think of three solutions, answers or actions in response to the question:
  • X is something that could be done straight away to address the issue
  • Y is something that will take longer, but could be done this year
  • Z is a weird idea that would address the issue, but may not be possible in this life! (but might suggest something else)
  1. Post all the ideas up on the wall and then use one of the other techniques to evaluate and prioritise them.

Pros:

  • Allows for discussion of long term and short-term ideas
  • Promotes small group discussion which can be good for less confident students

Cons:

  • Time consuming
  • May become disorderly and confusing
XYZ.pdf (76 downloads)

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