Brief description

A brainwalk is an exercise that focuses on problems and solutions. In this exercise the students produce mind maps, for instance on topics or issues connected to specific assignments. All the students contribute to each mind map. This gives the students the chance to join forces and generate ideas based on the original thoughts of each student.  

Motivation for the exercise and required outcome

The use of a brainwalk as an exercise in your teaching (or between teaching sessions) gives your students the chance to develop ideas and consider their own ideas and those of other students in an open and reflective manner. This can help the students to get new ideas for topics, or to discover an interesting issue or a good approach to their work on academic assignments. By using the exercise in your teaching, you can help the students spot potential new perspectives which can inspire them in relation to a topic or an assignment.

The aim of the exercise is that the students should generate ideas through creative processes without any censorship. A brainwalk helps the students to keep an open mind in relation to any ideas which can inspire their future work, and can help them to delimit a topic for an academic question which they can use as a basis for further work.


Performing the exercise

  • Give the students a piece of A4 paper and ask them to write down their overall topic or idea in the centre. Set aside a specific amount of time for this (five minutes, for instance) and inform the students about the set time frame.
  • Based on the topic or idea, they then create a mind map by writing down the things that occur to them with regard to the topic or idea in question. Each time the students add something, they draw a line from the point of origin to one or more of the other ideas. This makes the different connections and angles clear, and keeps them well structured.
  • When the time is up, the students get up and leave their mind maps behind. They now move on to the mind map produced by the person sitting next to them.
  • The exercise is then repeated, with the students adding more ideas to each mind map. Repeat the exercise as many times as you find relevant (four times, for instance). 
  • To conclude the exercise, the students return to their original mind map and look at the ideas that have been added. Teachers need to consider how these mind maps should be used in future.

Variation options:

  • You can start by having a brief discussion in class about the students’ thoughts in connection with their topics. This kind of discussion may provide inspiration for topics and ideas before starting the exercise.
  • You could consider extending the exercise to include a free-writing exercise to get the students to reflect further on their topic and the associations and thoughts they had in connection with it.

The content of this page was developed by Stine Rank Langhøj, former employee at Center for Teaching development and Digital Media.

You will need: 

  • A4 paper for all students
  • Pencils/ball-point pens for all students