The old proverb "birds of a feather flock together" is thought to date back to Plato's time. In nature, birds of a similar species do often form a flock, probably as a form of protection from predators. In professional learning classes it is common to see participants band together in favor of (or opposed to) a common idea. Standing out with a different opinion is a risky stance for a participant to take. Yet, as a learning facilitator, it is our responsibility to protect those individuals and to encourage some "out of the flock" thinking.
One way to encourage independent thinking is to structure participation opportunities so that they grow from an individual reflection to a larger sharing.
By slowly building the task, all participants will have an opportunity to share in a non-threatening way, and divergent thinking will rise up.
How do you encourage "out of the flock thinking?"
For more active engagement ideas, check out Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Training.
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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