Imagination Stimulation/alx

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Imagination Stimulation
Contributors Christian Köppe, Joost Schalken-Pinkster
Last modification May 15, 2017
Source Köppe and Schalken-Pinkster (2015)[1]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain
Imagination Stimulation-alx.png

You have the Suitable Content Selection (Suitable Content Selection) and distributed the content during Lecture Structuring (Lecture Structuring). You are thinking about how to increase Regular Attention Recuperation (Regular Attention Recuperation) and students’ learning during the lecture in general.


Being presented just pure facts and step-by-step instructions is boring for students. Providing the content in a well structured way does not support student learning by itself.

Curiosity Death. Curiosity is a good motivator for learning. Not having the opportunity, or not being encouraged, to think about things in new ways kills this curiosity and therefore hinders learning.

Unexpected Connections. There might be some connections between contents of the lecture and the prior knowledge of the students where you as a teacher are not aware of.

The Unknown Known. Students often do not know that they already know something about certain concepts. Many concepts can also be found in analogies the students are familiar with, but the students don’t know that these are related.

Delivery Form Monotony. It is hard to think of things in new ways if they only are presented using one delivery form.


Therefore: Stimulate the imagination of the students while presenting the content. This can be done using storytelling, music, movies, thought-provoking pictures, or by exposing the students to some unfamiliar situations. By stimulating the imagination of the students, one triggers and keeps the attention of the ones listening and/or following the lecture.

By stimulating imagination one activates different parts of the brain. Imagination helps with connecting existing knowledge to the newly presented knowledge. Imagination is also a good motivator, as it is a personal experience of a student and related to his or her own context. The content becomes a personal issue this way, which is of more relevance to the students and therefore more motivating to be learned.

A good way of stimulating imagination are thought-provoking questions. These should be Carefully Crafted Questions (Carefully Crafted Questions)[2], and should increase the effect of this questioning by making a sufficient Pregnant Pause (Pregnant Pause)[2], which gives the students enough time to think about their answer.

Topics that are presented with a Wider Perspective (Wider Perspective)[3]show the students how certain concepts relate to a bigger picture. Students can use this for thinking about other relations themselves. This can also be supported with Lay of the Land (Lay of the Land)[3].

The old knowledge of the students can be (re)used when looking for links with some new concepts. Leaving enough room for exploration of the new concepts when using the old knowledge as starting point requires the students’ imagination. Patterns that help hereby are Expand the Known World (Expand the Known World)[3] or Linking Old to New (Linking Old to New)[3].

If some examples are used that are analogies of the concepts to be presented, then probably not all parts of the example are evenly analogous as others. This might also trigger the students’ imagination, so take this into account when you select a Colorful Analogy (Colorful Analogy)[4]or a Consistent Metaphor (Consistent Metaphor)[3].

Seeing something often triggers questions. You should present things sometimes in a way that makes the students think about what other ways of doing it could be possible. This is a sign of interest, and interest is a great learning motivator. Patterns that help here are Show It Running (Show It Running)[5], Physical Analogy (Physical Analogy)[3], or Simulation Games (Simulation Games)[4].

In a lecture on optimizing queries in a database the teacher chose to first show a picture of a record collection. He asked the students about some different searches like finding all records from one artist. He asked the students what other searches one could do, based on how they look for music on their own. The answers by the students included searches for all records from a certain label, all records from certain period, etc. These answers then were used to make the link to the topic of the lecture: how to optimize these searches.

After discussing some parts of the main topic the teacher came back to the Module's Story (Module's Story)[4] by showing another picture with two piles of records, both pretended to be bought at a record fair. The question was how to find the identical records of both piles. This re-used the analogy of the record collection and the content of a RDBMS, and brought the students back from the theoretical content to more imaginative one. The answers to the question actually lead to different kinds of query joins.

After some concepts of performance measurement had been introduced and some ways of improving the performance, a tool was used to make these concepts concrete. We hereby often asked the students either what they would enter into the tool in order to reach certain goals. The answers were not presented upfront, so the students needed to imagine by themselves what possible answers could be. Additionally, we didn’t just answer the questions but executed them in the tool and had the students observe and analyze the results shown on screen. This also stimulated their imagination, as they were not familiar with the concepts.


  1. Köppe, C., & Schalken-Pinkster, J. (2015). Lecture design patterns: laying the foundation. In Proceedings of the 18th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Program (EuroPLoP 2013) (p. 4). New York:ACM.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Larson, K. A., Trees, F. P., & Weaver, D. S. (2008). Continuous feedback pedagogical patterns. In Proceedings of the 15th Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP 2008) (p. 12). New York:ACM.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Bergin, J., Eckstein, J., Völter, M., Sipos, M., Wallingford, E., Marquardt, K., Chandler, J., Sharp, H., and Manns, M.L. (2012). Pedagogical patterns: advice for educators. Joseph Bergin Software Tools.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Anthony, D. L. (1996). Patterns for classroom education. In Pattern languages of program design 2 (pp. 391-406). Addison-Wesley Longman Publishing Co., Inc..
  5. Schmolitzky, A. (2007). Patterns for Teaching Software in Classroom. In Proceedings of the 12th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (EuroPLoP 2007). New York:ACM.