ABC Method

Engineering Area
Ideation & Conceptual design
Group or Individual
Amount of People
Up to 15, 15-25
Type of Class
Duration of Activity
Half an hour or less
Type of Activity
Collaborative team setting, On-line Classroom activity


What is this technique about

The ABC Method is good for connecting the old and new information and is a great way to help      a group to get to know each other while having fun. ABC method prompts the participants to collect previous information and relate it to a new subject or task. The method is particularly suitable for the early inspiration phase. It helps group members to get to know each other and raise their level of knowledge towards the topic.

Where does it come from 

It is beneficial to use the ABC method in the inspiration process of the workshops. Since it requires that groups communicate with each other, it can enable individuals to learn through inspiration.

For which purposes it is used (why in your engineering teaching)

The ABC method is used to gather and frame ideas related to a predefined topic. It helps to activate the previous knowledge of all the participants.

It is used in engineering education to interpret the problem situations and to verbally express and explore the dimensions and components of basic concepts together with previous experiences.

How to use it

Participants are asked to create or (better) provided with a table with two columns. They write all the letters of the alphabet in the first column of the table. The second column should be wide because the comment will be written on the second column. Participants are given a short time (1-2 minutes) and asked to write a word about the topic using each letter in the alphabet. Through the time pressure, this action encourages people to “think creatively” and generates “unfiltered” ideas. Participants are expected to make short presentations for the comments they produce. The moderator creates a discussion environment based on the notes he took.

How to implement this techniques online

Preparation, what do before the session

    1. Install applications such as Zoom and Teams to share screens and communicate with participants, and have your students get these applications as well before the class.
    2. Provide general information on your communication or collaboration tool, such as Miro, Creately or Mural (can also be a shared document in Google doc or MS Teams).
    3. Prepare the online space/white board/ shared documents so that the participants will already have a template with a predefined table.
    4. Make sure all participants show up on this online collaboration tool and have access to eventually shared files.
    5. The groups or individuals may be asked to work alone or as a group. Similarly, the individuals or groups may be allowed to work on separate points on the collaboration tool, on separate tasks. This could increase the competition and student/participant interest.
    6. Define the word(s) or the topic(s) the participants should relate to during the exercise (but do not spoil them beforehand).
    7. If you work with groups, assign team members beforehand in a list.

During application, i.e., while giving the session

    1. If you prefer to work in groups, assign a group leader for each group.
    2. If they prefer to work individually, make sure that the participants are on the relevant tool simultaneously.
    3. Ask participants to use your two-column table in the online tool or shared document of your choice (attention: you will need to copy it there beforehand as many times as you have students/groups). Make sure that everybody knows where they shall write.
    4. Give participants a topic and ask them to post comments at the right side next to the letter of the alphabet, each comment starting with the given letter.
    5. Give them 2-5minutes minutes for this process.
    6. At the end of the time, ask the participants to share the screen and present it so that they can show their results to the whole class.

Follow-up, about what to do after the session

    1. Ask your students to report their ideas to you in an online environment. After analyzing each report well, give feedback to them.

Examples and/or testimonials

The below is an example of how the method was prepared and facilitated in February 2021 by a student group during the course “Megatrends and Technological Innovation” held by Prof. Dr. Patricia Wolf at the University of Southern Denmark.

Facilitator instruction guide

Inspiration (until 9.00 am max):

    • Ask them to open the doc “ABC method” in your folder. Open it yourself. Wait until everybody has done this.
    • Explain that this exercise is to make them get inspired, so they will have to write down words under huge time pressure.
    • This task has three rounds. Each round takes 2 minutes. Be prepared to take the time (if you get short in time, make it only 1.5 minutes, but do not tell the participants).
    • Explain that
      • you will give them a word, and that they should find one related word with each of the letters of the alphabet
      • e.g. if the word given would be “animals”, the A might be ape
      • All of them can write, but they can also assign a writer.
    • Ask them whether they are ready.
    • Start the first round by writing the first word in the first column with: Voice
    • Stop the first round after 2 minutes (no matter of whether they were finished)
    • Start the second round by writing the first word in the second column with a ?:
      • Steam 1: Artificial
      • Stream 2: Reality
      • Stream 3: Things
    • Stop the second round after 2 minutes (no matter of whether they were finished)
    • Start the third round by writing the first word in the third column with: Assistance
    • Stop the third round after 2 minutes (no matter of whether they were finished)
    • End of exercise.
    • Take a screenshot of the table.

ABC II Method, Lyreco Challenge, 2021, Group 2

DDeep voiceDocumentsDriving
J JellyJoin
NNoise New
X  Xray
YYell Youtube

Tools needed

To apply this technique in an online setting, the following tools are required:

    • A discussion board
      • Padlet
      • Creately
      • Mural

This discussion board would help you and your students in thinking creatively and creating new ideas

    • A whiteboard tool
      • Miro
      • Concept Board

These whiteboard tools provide an area in which participants feel free and creative thanks to a wide range of toolsets.

A shared document (e.g., MS Teams, Google docs)



Method description on

CONEDU (“Verein für Bildungsforschung und -medien”). (2014, August 22). ABC-Methode: Buchstaben geben Impulse für Ideen. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from