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Idea Generation: Brainwalk

Brief description

A brainwalk is an activity, 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 activity and required outcome

The use of a brainwalk as an activity 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 activity 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 activity 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 activity

  • 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 activity is then repeated, with the students adding more ideas to each mind map. Repeat the activity as many times as you find relevant (four times, for instance). 
  • To conclude the activity, 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 activity.
  • You could consider extending the activity to include a free-writing activity to get the students to reflect further on their topic and the associations and thoughts they had in connection with it.
  • Consider letting the students use chatbots to get new ideas for a topic or find a good entry point for an academic assignment.

You will need:

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

Useful tips:

  • How can you as a lecturer be as specific and structured as possible in relation to the time?
  • How should the re-application of the mind map take place?