Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is a method of engaging students and adult learners with artwork when they are in the museum or classroom by asking three open-ended questions:
- What is going on in this piece?
- What do you see that makes you say that?
- What more can we find?
If students make an inference in giving their responses to the first question and do not back up their statement, then we ask the second question. What do you see that makes you say that? This makes students articulate their thinking and observations and support it with evidence. The third question implies that there are still answers to be sought, which promotes inquiry, and reminds us that no one has all the answers. VTS also promotes research in the classroom concerning the artist’s technique, method, or underlying concepts. This type of thinking transfers across curricula because students develop the habit of higher-level thinking and back up their findings with evidence.
VTS supports the open-ended, learner-centered instruction that is integral to best practices in current pedagogy. In particular, classroom analyses have stressed the importance of encouraging student-centered critical thinking, as opposed to traditional or generic “right” answers, in the growth of significant cognitive development in participants. VTS is a powerful tool that promotes cooperation, respect, and tolerance for various viewpoints. National evaluations have quantified improvements among participants not only in visual literacy but also in general learning, including reading, writing, and math skills. A continued focus on specific key elements of the VTS methodology ensures the success and continued improvement of current and future Daum VTS programs.
“As the ELL teacher at Horace Mann, I have seen improvements in my students’ confidence levels, vocabulary usage, and writing skills while doing VTS. Children who once were too shy or embarrassed around their American peers to participate in VTS are now raising their hands and sharing ideas. They are expanding their thoughts to include not only concrete information but inferences as well. I see this not only in their speech but also in their writings. It seems that VTS has had a positive impact on my second language learners.” –Andrea Kuhlman