6 Thinking Hats – Brainstorming Activity

It’s important and challenging for teachers to teach Critical Thinking in their classrooms. The Six Thinking Hats is a practical technique to use when teaching students problem-solving in groups or to improve the outcomes of brainstorming sessions.

What are the Six Thinking Hats?

This useful technique was famously described by Dr. Edward de Bono who in 1985 published a book with the title. Each of the six metaphorical hats has a different color that represents a particular type of thought process. It provides a practical approach for groups to debate or explore issues from different angles.

How to use the 6 Thinking Hats in class

How can teachers show students how to analyze something critically? How do we teach learners to look at the different details and compare, contrast, analyze, categorize and evaluate the subject at hand? This article looks at a few practical classroom management strategies to teach critical thinking successfully, but the most important factor is you – the teacher! It is up to you to model the correct behavior. We actually have to show our students how to think critically about things.

If you have a project you want to do with your students, then there’s a superb activity that you can do called the Six Thinking Hats. As we go through these hats, think about what “hat” you normally wear. What is the way you think?

When you have to analyze information in a group where persons have different viewpoints, De Bono suggested that everyone in the group put on the same color hat to think about the same aspect of the issue before moving on to the next.

Alternatively, each person in the group can wear an alternative hat to think of the information differently and contribute from a particular angle to the group.

So, what do the metaphorical hats represent and what questions should students ask in this process?

Blue Hat: Structured thinking, high-level overview of the situation, the big picture.

The Blue Hat is structured thinking with a holistic view of the situation. The thought process of the Blue Hat is to direct the group towards a goal, for the group to see the bigger picture. Such a person is not focused on the details, but to control or organize the brainstorming process. The Blue Hat would typically be the group leader or chairperson guiding the process of finding solutions to reach a set goal. Using De Bono’s technique in group discussions or brainstorming always starts with the Blue Hat to determine the process the group will follow in reaching their objectives.

Blue Hat Sample Questions:

• What is the problem? • What is our goal? • Who is best suited for each task? • What process do we need to follow? • What steps should we take? • How should we think about…? • What do we need to know about…? • Where can we find…? • When should we….?

White Hat: Analytical, objective thinking, with an emphasis on facts.

The White Hat represents thinking objectively about things; you’re an analytical thinker. You only look at the facts and are concerned with making decisions based on sufficient and correct information.

How do you get trustworthy information? What sources can you trust? The internet makes most information gathering easy, but to verify information is difficult. How do you gather the information that’s not in the public domain? For example, how do you go about gathering information on the personal preferences of students?

White Hat Sample Questions:

• What information do we require? • What questions need asking? • What information is missing? • Where can we find this information? • What is the context (who, what, when, where, why, how, how much)? • What are the theories and opinions in play?

Red Hat: Emotional thinking, perception, and opinion.

The Red Hat is about emotional thinking. It’s the subjective feelings or intuition that you have that are more based on an opinion you may have on a particular issue. So, in a group activity, differences of opinion are taken into consideration.

Red Hat Sample Questions:

• What do you think about this? • How do you feel about it? • What was your first reaction? • What is your gut feeling?

Black Hat: Critical, skeptical, focused on risks, and identifying problems.

So, if you think of all these different angles, then you wear the Black Hat because you’re critical or skeptical. We can basically say you’re what you’re the Devil’s Advocate. You actually look at the risks and the problems that might come from a particular decision or action.

The Black Hat the Black Hat is critical or focused on risks. It represents logic, caution, critical judgment, assessing risks, evaluating available information. The role of the Black Hat in a brainstorming session is to consider weak points in an idea and figure out how to avoid mistakes. While the black hat can be the most useful of the six hats, De Bono warned against the overuse of the Black Hat as this can stifle creative ideas and positive thinking.

Thinking back to my school years, I think I always wore the Black Hat, because I was always thinking about what’s the worst thing that could happen.

Black Hat Sample Questions:

• What is the main problem with this? • What was overlooked? • What are the risks? • Why should we be cautious? • What are the possible failure scenarios? • What are the consequences? • Why won’t this work? • What are the weaknesses?

Yellow Hat: Optimistic, speculative, best-case scenarios.

The Yellow Hat represents the optimistic view or best-case scenario. Thinking from a positive perspective helps a group to view creative ideas in a rational light. To look at the benefits and feasibility of a decision or plan of action. It guides the group to consider the benefits of a particular decision or new idea. It is useful to help a group see the bright side when the mood is negative or they are despondent about an issue.

Yellow Hat Sample Questions:

• What is the best about this? • What is your favourite…? • Why do you think this will be successful? • What are the benefits? • How does this improve things?

Green Hat: Creative, associative thinking, new ideas, brainstorming, out-of-the-box.

The Green Hat is about creative thinking; generating new ideas, and examining new possibilities. The Green Hat perspective provokes risk-taking when a group is involved in brainstorming.

Green Hat Sample Questions:

• How can we change…? • What can we do about…? • How can we improve it? • What will we do when…? • Why don’t we try…? • How can we do this another way? • What new idea does this generate?

Advantages of the 6 Thinking Hats method

  • The Six Thinking Hats method stimulates parallel thinking
  • It is a well-defined method that provides structure to group brainstorming activity
  • It stimulates team engagement and performance
  • It teaches students the difference in thought processes
  • It teaches students that there can be a variety of possible solutions to a problem
  • It inspires creative and effective critical thinking.

Disadvantages of the 6 Thinking Hats method

  • Using the Six Thinking Hats method is time-consuming
  • Teachers need to control emotions to prevent disagreements from turning into conflict about different perspectives.


Using the Six Thinking Hats technique in group work, students learn to observe a program holistically; assess the pros and cons of a problem and explore potential solutions; learn to analyze and evaluate a challenge from all possible angles.

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