The Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) teaching method and school curriculum centers on open-ended yet highly-structured discussions of visual art, significantly increasing students' critical thinking, language and literacy skills along the way.
Through VTS' rigorous and engaging individual and group 'problem-solving' process, students cultivate a willingness and ability to present their own ideas, while respecting and learning from the perspectives of their peers.
Through VTS training programs for schools and museums, educators learn to facilitate student-centered discussions, engaging learners in a rigorous process of examination and meaning-making through visual art that has been carefully selected for age and developmental appropriateness.
Experience with VTS produces growth in all students, from challenged and non-English language learners to high achievers. In addition, teachers enjoy the process and benefit from a new approach that reaches all students and is useful across their practice.
VTS has been molded and refined over the past 30 years based on ongoing research by VTS co-founder, Abigail Housen. Abigail first developed VTS as an effective teaching strategy based on her theory of aesthetic development.
Abigail's theory describes the viewer's experience of the visual world, and specifically of visual art. Abigail's research has influenced every aspect of the VTS program which was developed to accommodate the strengths and needs of viewers at different aesthetic stages.
Students are presented with a work of art and asked to discuss ‘what is going on in this picture’. The teacher guides the conversation with lose prompts dictated by the questions and comments of the students.
Iris Rodriguez, one of PS84‘s Dual Language Kindergarten teachers gave her perspective on using VTS in our classrooms:
The VTS program that PS 84 uses allows all of the children in a class to offer opinions about the piece of art they are observing. The children are offered the opportunity to develop verbal skills, as well
as thinking skills. Everyones thoughts and comments about a piece are "right", there are no wrong answers. The children gain confidence by expressing themselves in a group setting. They also learn to how to substantiate their opinions by answering the question, "What do you see that makes you say that?”. My kindergarteners enjoy talking about the art work that is presented to them during our VTS sessions.
One of Mrs. Rodriguez’s students offered this:
“Well, it’s really relaxing and we all end up seeing different things in the pictures, like we end up talking about if we think its a lady or a boy and we all have different comments. It’s like a good test for people who don’t see so well and a good test for your brain. We end up talking about new things altogether.”