Cumulative Brainstorming

This collaborative activity promotes deep learning by encouraging students to build on or critique each other’s ideas.

Decorative element


  • The instructor writes a different issue, question, or problem onto four or five large sheets of paper, and then hangs those sheets around the classroom.
  • The instructor asks the students to form groups of about five members each.
  • Each group goes to a different sheet of paper and for three or four minutes they jot down some ideas pertaining to the issue that is written on it.
  • Each group then rotates around to the next sheet of paper and they jot down their ideas pertaining to that issue. They can add new ideas, they can propose counterpoints to the ideas written by the previous group, or they can endorse an idea written down by the previous group by putting a check mark beside it.
  • The groups keep rotating from sheet to sheet until each group has commented on all the issues.
  • Each group then returns to its original sheet and assesses or synthesizes what has been written there.
  • A member from each group reports back to the class as a whole.

Small group organization:
Cumulative brainstorming can also be done in a small group: each student in the group jots down an idea pertaining to a different problem or issue. Each student then hands their sheet of paper to the student on the left (clockwise), who adds an idea or comment to the sheet of paper they have just received. This continues until all the students have commented on all the sheets.