Convergent and Divergent
Thinking Styles

Hudson (1967) studied English schoolboys, and found that conventional measures of intelligence did not always do justice to their abilities. The tests gave credit for problem-solving which produced the "right" answer, but under-estimated creativity and unconventional approaches to problems.

He concluded that there were two different forms of thinking or ability in play here:

convergent thinking

  • One he called "convergent" thinking, in which the person is good at bringing material from a variety of sources to bear on a problem, in such a way as to produce the "correct" answer. This kind of thinking is particularly appropriate in science, maths and technology.

  • Because of the need for consistency and reliability, this is really the only form of thinking which standardised intelligence tests, (and even national exams) can test

DIVERGE.GIF (7376 bytes)

  • The other he termed "divergent" thinking. Here the student's skill is in broadly creative elaboration of ideas prompted by a stimulus, and is more suited to artistic pursuits and study in the humanities.

  • In order to get at this kind of thinking, he devised open-ended tests, such as the "Uses of Objects" test

Uses of Objects Test

Below are five everyday objects. Think of as many different uses as you can for each:

  • A barrel
  • A paper clip
  • A tin of boot polish
  • A brick
  • A blanket

(No time limit: usually completed in 15 minutes)

 From Hudson 1967

Hudson's argument has important implications. Not only does it suggest that conventional approaches to assessment may be seriously under-estimating the talent of part of the school population; but also that the very assumptions behind current curriculum and pedagogic strategies are restrictive. With divergent thinkers, for example, it is not always realistic to specify the intended outcomes of a lesson in advance. This of course leads into the traditional minefield of assessing and accrediting creativity. Fortunately, convergence and divergence are ideal types, and not mutually exclusive.

See the use Kolb makes of this distinction in discussing forms of knowledge

To reference this page copy and paste the text below:

Atherton J S (2013) Learning and Teaching; [On-line: UK] retrieved from

Original material by James Atherton: last up-dated overall 10 February 2013

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