Brainstorming Activities

‘Identify the big idea’

Ask every member to write down what they think the most important concept, idea or information related to your topic is, along with a justification. Have each member offer it to the group. Take 10 minutes to discuss the links, relative importance of each, and how to develop your ideas in your group work.

If your group has members who are less confident discussing, you could have each person write their key idea on top of a piece of paper and then hand the paper around the group asking every person to write a 'pro' and 'con' underneath. This way everyone gets to input before the main discussion or decision.


‘One minute paper’

The Chair should present a topic to the group and time one minute, during which each member should write a response. At the end, each member should share their response with the group. This activity is a good way to get each member to set out what they think the most important information and ideas are. It can encourage conversation about similarities and differences between ideas and approaches.


‘K – W – L’

Each member writes down one response to:

  • What I know

  • What I want to know

  • What I have learned

This can be used to focus the session/ your discussion. It can be used after an initial phase of research as a way to share progress, or to focus the group on areas where knowledge needs to be improved. You can return to these lists later in the discussion, or in subsequent meetings to assess any progress.


A moderator gives each person a blank sheet of paper, with the problem/ issue written on the top. They time three minutes, during which each person should write down ideas (don't allow discussion). The moderator collects and shuffles the papers, then hands them out again. Everyone is asked to either build on the idea on their new paper, or to add new ideas. You can hold as many rounds as you like. When these are done, the moderator writes each idea on the board and opens discussion for how to best solve the problem.​​


‘Peer Lessons’

This can be a useful follow up to ‘K – W – L’. Select several problems or issues identified as needing more knowledge or information. Assign each to individuals/ groups who will be tasked with addressing them (either in a set time during the session, or in time for the next one). Each group teaches the rest of the group and should attempt to also talk about their thought processes for addressing the problem or topic, and their methods for finding ‘solutions’.


‘3. 2. 1’

Ask every person to write down 3 topics they know well enough to teach to others, 2 topics they don’t understand and need more help with, and one possible key unifying theme/ idea. Typically, you will find overlaps and group members can help one another with the things they identified.