Brainstorming is an active learning strategy in which individual students or groups are encouraged to come up with thoughts and ideas to facilitate creative problem solving. Typically, individual brainstorming is effective for solving a simple problem, generating a list of ideas, or focusing on a broad issue. Group brainstorming is more effective for solving complex problems (MindTools, 2014). 

Practical Applications ​

Brainstorming can be easily implemented into a class session as a way to review prior knowledge or previously introduced course concepts, prepare students for upcoming content, make connections to content introduced during the class, or as a way to summarize key concepts at the end of the class. 

To implement brainstorming, use the following steps:​
  1. ​Accept all ideas without judgment
  2. Look for as many ideas as you can – emphasizing quantity over quality at this stage 
  3. Stretch for new ideas – creative ideas often come after the flow of common ideas ceases
  4. Seek combinations of ideas and use ideas to expand to new ones (Tileston, 2007)

​Examples ​

Recommended Resources

  • Individual Brainstorming and Group Brainstorming – Mindtools: Essential skills for an excellent career: ​ this website for definitions of brainstorming, various approaches to brainstorming, and ideas for implementation. 
  • Alphabet Brainstorming – Madison Area Technical College: This resource describes a brainstorming approach for individuals or groups for generating ideas and tapping into prior knowledge. ​

Related Sources

Related Evaluation and Assessment Resources ​

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) can be used to provide formative feedback on student scaffolding, brainstorming and discussion. Specifically, pairs or small groups could engage in one or more of the following to inform and improve teaching and student learning:

  • One-Minute Paper
  • Muddiest Point
  • Application Article
  • Journals

For specific instructions on the techniques listed above, visit Classroom Assessment Techniques, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Iowa State University: ​

Also, active learning strategies can be used as collaborative assessment techniques. Strategies that enable instructors to formatively assess student learning include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Think-Pair-Share
  • Student Summaries
  • Question and Answer Pairs
  • Two Column Method
  • Roundtable
  • Problem-Based Learning
  • 3-2-1 Format
  • Note check
  • Jigsaw


  • MindTools Ltd. (2014). Brainstorming: generating many radical, creative ideas. Retrieved from
  • Tileston, D. E. W. (2007). Teaching strategies for active learning: Five essentials for your teaching plan. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.