VISUAL THINKING STUDIOS

Highlights of Findings


San Antonio, Texas Independent School District
Aesthetic Development and Critical and Creative Thinking Skills

Winter 2000-Spring 2002
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Visual Thinking Strategies Curriculum
Assessment tools: Biannual Aesthetic Development Interviews and questionnaires; material object interviews, writing samples, teacher debriefings; observations; videotapes.
Subjects:

  • 25 Experimental 3rd-5th grade students
  • 25 Control 3rd-5th grade students.

Findings:
By the end of the study, the differences between San Antonio students who had participated in VTS and those who had not were significant. Even though the control students started out ahead, the experimental students significantly outperformed them in both aesthetic and critical thinking growth. Experimental students transferred critical thinking skills, such as supported observations and speculations, fostered by VTS discussions about art to their individual art-viewing experiences independent of the group or a teacher. They also transferred critical thinking skills fostered by VTS discussions about art to individual viewing experiences of non-art objects. It is interesting to note that we did not find transfer of critical thinking skills to non-art objects until students were transitioning to Stage II in aesthetic understanding — the importance of extended, regular art viewing experiences is apparent.

Being 'at risk' and coming to school speaking a language other than English did not interfere with San Antonio VTS students' development of critical thinking strategies. They clearly demonstrated steps in the process of learning to learn. VTS, which mirrors and strengthens best practices for teaching 'at risk' and Limited English Proficiency students, supplies a missing component needed in schools.

The data convinced the San Antonio Independent School District to implement VTS system-wide.

Click here to download the entire report.
Site Coordinator: Penelope Speier

Back to Top


Eastern European and Central Asian Regional Program
Soros Foundations of Estonia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Macedonia, and Ukraine

Spring 1997-Spring 2000
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Visual Thinking Strategies Starter Lessons; Visual Thinking Strategies Curriculum.
Assessment tools: Pre and post Aesthetic Development Interviews and questionnaires; teacher debriefings; observations; teacher logs.
Subjects: At each site: 30 Experimental 1st-3rd grade students, 30 Control 1st-3rd grade students.

Findings: Data collected in Lithuania currently in analysis. Due to budget cuts the post data was not collected at the other sites.

Site Coordinators: Teams coordinated by local Soros Foundations.

Back to Top


Museum of Fine Arts Boston Teacher Interview Case Study
Winter-Spring 2000
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Visual Thinking Strategies Starter Lessons.
Assessment tools: In-depth pre and post teacher interviews, Aesthetic Development Interviews, observations (conducted by teachers of their students and by research staff.)
Subjects: 5 teachers

Findings: Participating teachers were able to record and reflect on the changes in the thinking of individual students and of the larger group, as well as gain a better understanding of the effect of the VTS program on their own teaching practice.

Site Coordinators: Margaret Burchenal, Laurel Bernini

Back to Top


Museum of Fine Arts Boston Thinking through Art Portfolio Case Study
Fall 97-Spring 98
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Visual Thinking Strategies Starter Lessons.
Assessment tools: Writing samples, videotapes.
Subjects:

  • 6 teachers
  • 18 students
  • Total Subjects: 24

Findings: The teachers who collected student writing samples and videotapes of classroom VTS discussions could, with support of the researchers, document and assess specific skills and demonstrate their transfer from one learning situation to another.

Site Coordinator: Margaret Burchenal

Back to Top


Museum of Fine Arts Boston Thinking through Art Pilot Program Study
Fall 96-Spring 97
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Visual Thinking Strategies Starter Lessons.
Assessment tools: Biannual Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires, content questions, Material Object interviews, writing samples, teacher logs; videotapes, observations.
Subjects:

  • 30 Experimental 5th grade students
  • 30 Control 5th grade students
  • Total Subjects: 60

Findings: The program was effective with students across a wide range of learning abilities. Participating classes included those designated as advanced work, inclusion, self-contained special needs and bilingual in addition to non-designated classrooms. Evidence of students applying skills developed in the VTS lessons was found in ADIs and writing assignments. These showed increases in observation and communication skills.

Site Coordinators: Margaret Burchenal, Diane Jaquith

Back to Top


Kazakhstan Pilot Project
Winter 1995-Spring 1996
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Visual Thinking Strategies Starter Lessons.
Assessment tools: Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires, observations, teacher logs, teacher debriefings.
Subjects:

  • 18 experimental students
  • 22 control students
  • 21 teachers
  • Total Subjects: 52

Findings: Stage scores from pre-test ADIs showed no statistically significant difference between experimental and control stage mean scores. As expected in a study over this short time period, post-test ADIs also showed no significant difference between experimental and control mean scores. Both experimental and control scores are comparable to scores of American and Russian students of similar ages and exposure; the interviews were coded as beginner viewers. The kinds of thinking exhibited were typical of beginner viewers. The mean stage score for teachers was similar to the mean for teachers in previous studies in the U.S. and Russia. Stage gain in teachers was found in pre-test/post-test comparisons.

Site Coordinators: Inna Saprova, Gulya Suleeva

Back to Top


Bronx Museum of the Arts Cross-Cultural Connections Study
1995-96
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Visual Thinking Strategies Starter Lessons: Cross-Cultural Connections.
Assessment tools: Pre and post Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires, teacher debriefings.
Subjects:

  • Experimental: 45 10th grade students
  • Total Subjects: 45

Findings: Program found effective at an arts academy in a large urban high school with a high percentage of at-risk students. Due to the uniqueness of the program no control data was collected. Analysis of ADIs revealed that students coded as beginner viewers, a finding consistent with previous research in the United States and Eastern Europe. Comparison of pre and post-study interviews showed a statistically significant change in student aesthetic stage over the course of the three month implementation of the program. Comparison also showed a phenomenon, which has been noted at other sites — the students who scored lowest at the beginning of the study showed the most change.

Site Coordinator: Jerri Allyn

Back to Top


Visual Thinking Strategies Study; St. Petersburg, Russia
1994-1996, 1994-1995
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Visual Thinking Curriculum, Year I
Assessment tools: Bi-annual Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires, teacher debriefings
Subjects:

  • Experimental: 60 4th grade students
  • Control: 30 4th grade students
  • Total Subjects: 90

Findings: In the post ADIs of the experimental group there is a trend towards stage gain.

Site Coordinator: Liubov Vaniushkina, St. Petersburg Pedagogical University

Treatment A: Visual Thinking Strategies, Year II
1995-96

Assessment: Bi-annual Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires, teacher logs, teacher debriefings; pilot phase of teacher assessment tool

Subjects:

  • Experimental: 30 5th grade students
  • Control: 30 5th grade students
  • Total Subjects: 60

Findings: Due to problems with the data collection, the data for this study is flawed. However, in the post ADIs of experimental students we find evidence of the emergence of viewing behaviors fostered by the VTS (grounding and speculating) together with evidence of an increase in comments typical of Stage II viewers, such as greater awareness of formal issues, concern with realism, and consideration of the artists' process and intent.

Site Coordinators: Liubov Vaniushkina, St. Petersburg Pedagogical University; Natasha Yevleva, State Russian Museum.

Treatment B: Visual Thinking Strategies, Year I

Assessment tools: Bi-annual ADIs, questionnaires and teacher debriefing,

Subjects:

  • Experimental: 30 1st grade students
  • Control: 30 1st grade students
  • Total Subjects: 60

Findings: Due to problems with the data collection, the data for this study is flawed.

Back to Top


Visual Thinking Strategies Pilot Study; St. Petersburg, Russia
Spring 1994
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Visual Thinking Strategies Starter Lessons.
Assessment tools: Pre and post Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires and teacher debriefings.
Subjects: 60 4th grade students.

Findings: As expected in a treatment of short duration, the stage scores derived from pre-test and post-test ADIs showed no statistically significant difference. The subjects coded as beginner viewers with the kinds of thinking exhibited typical of beginner viewers. These findings reveal that the method and coding manual are robust in another culture.

Site Coordinator: Liubov Vaniushkina, St. Petersburg Pedagogical University

Back to Top


Byron MN Methods for Museum Education Study
Fall 1993-Spring 1998
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Visual Thinking Strategies, artist residencies.
Assessment tools: Biannual Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires, content questions, material objects interviews (MOIs), writing samples, teacher logs, pilot teacher assessment grid.
Subjects:

  • Experimental: 25 2nd-4th grade, 25 4th-6th grade, 12 Teachers
  • Control: 25 2nd-4th grade, 25 4th-6th grade
  • Total Subjects: 112

Findings: Experimental students grew aesthetically more than the controls. There was a floor effect among experimentals in the early years of the program: students who were 'overdue' for change – students in a beginning stage and the older grade – gained the most. Primary among the findings is that by the end of the program the experimental students were talking about art in ways comparable to most adult museum visitors. This means that students in the program, even at average ages eleven and thirteen, were thinking about art in ways that are typical of much older people who have self-selected to attend museums. The program also supported the growth of critical thinking skills, which transferred to non-art objects.

Project Coordinator: Catherine Egenberger

Back to Top


Museum of Modern Art NY Art Education for the Blind Pilot Study

Spring 1993
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment:

  • Group 1: no additional aids/treatment before tour (Control)
  • Group 2: only verbal description before the tour
  • Group 3: raised line and verbal description before gallery tour
    Assessment: Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires, gallery talk recall questions.
    Subjects: 44 legally blind adults with varying degrees of sightedness.

Findings: The coding method and manual are robust with a 3-D object and legally blind subjects. Subjects' stage range is consistent with other studies (89% beginner viewers). Higher stages were visually impaired or born blind with degree of sightedness combined with exposure to art viewing. Partially sighted beginner viewers showed same needs and interests as sighted beginner viewers.

Site Coordinators: Sarah Stephenson, Francesca Rosenberg

Back to Top


Museum of Modern Art NY Pilot Visual Thinking Curriculum Study
Years I-III, Fall 1991-Spring 1994
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Pilot Visual Thinking Curriculum Version I.
Assessment tools: Biannual Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires, teacher debriefings, teacher logs, teacher reports, mentor reports, writing exercises.
Subjects:

  • Experimental: 31 4th-5th grade, 33 4th-6th grade
  • Control: 45 4th grade, 28 5th grade, 27 6th grade
  • Total Subjects: 164

Findings: The analysis of the pre- and post-ADIS showed that there was a change in the stage distribution of experimentals, no change in controls. 41% of experimentals gain. There was a significant difference in the lengths of pre and post ADIs of experimental and control groups. Experimental subjects show an increase in speculative thinking, questioning comments, justifications, and formal remarks. Participation led to a positive change in attitudes to art. Teachers, administrators and parents report transfer of critical and creative thinking among students. School principals also report school change, which they attribute to the program.

Site Coordinator: Nancy Lee Miller (Yr. I)

Back to Top


Museum of Modern Art New York Gallery Talks Study
Summer 1991
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Participation in MoMA gallery talks: American Art Since 1945; White Works; Pollock; Art Now; Abstraction: Picasso, Matisse, Rothko, Pollock.
Assessment tools: Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires, gallery talk recall questions.
Subjects: 22 adult participants in gallery talks.

Findings: Participants heard lectures and saw images through filter of their stage. Participant recall of gallery talk content correlated more with stage than any other variable.

Site Coordinator: Nancy Lee Miller

Back to Top


Museum of Fine Arts Boston Asian Galleries Brochure Study
Spring 1990
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Use/non-use of gallery brochure.
Assessment tools: Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires, observations.
Subjects:

  • 59 randomly-selected adult gallery visitors
  • 17 invited subjects
  • Total Subjects: 76

Findings: The brochure was not used by gallery visitors. The exterior of the brochure was designed for one stage while interior for another. While subjects appear to represent a homogeneous group of experienced museumgoers (frequency & length of visits, use of educational materials) because of different stages they have divergent learning needs: structured vs. unstructured reading materials.

Site Coordinator: Barbara Martin

Back to Top

Museum of Fine Arts Boston Classical Curriculum Study
1989-1990
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Use of pilot curricula based on MFA's collection of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art
Assessment tools: Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires, teacher debriefings, teacher self-evaluation reports
Subjects: 19 teachers

Findings: Teachers of varying aesthetic stages have different needs, attitudes, and approaches to curricula. Beginner viewer and more experienced viewer teachers handled material and project very differently: different preparation of lessons, design and choice of topics, and museum activities. Aesthetic stage provides a basis for designing materials for teachers.

Site Coordinator: Margaret Burchenal

Back to Top


Museum of Modern Art NY School Program Evaluation Study Year II
1989-1990

Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: School program as described in Yr. I; mentoring; participation by classroom teacher in 8 teacher-training workshops.
Assessment tools: Pre- and post-treatment Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires, teacher journals.
Subjects:

  • 45 teachers
  • 45 6th grade students
  • 25 high school students
  • 10 follow-up
  • Year I Total Subjects: 125

Findings: The experimentals exhibited significant stage change when compared to controls. Students with mentored teachers experienced greater stage change than other experimentals. Treatment caused no shift in use of visual literacy vocabulary and concepts.

Site Coordinator: Nancy Lee Miller


Museum of Modern Art NY School Program Evaluation Study Year I
1988-1989
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: 5-part school program: MoMA lecturer conference with classroom teacher; in-classroom presentation by MoMA lecturer; museum visit led by museum lecturer; follow-up in-classroom presentation by MoMA lecturer; participation by classroom teacher in 4 Teacher Training Workshops.
Assessment tools: Pre- and post-Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires, teacher debriefings, teacher journals, visual literacy questions
Subjects:

  • 72 teachers
  • 11 MoMA staff
  • 71 6th grade students
  • 83 11th grade students
  • 20 MoMA Saturday Classes students
  • Total Subjects: 257

Findings: The treatment caused little or no growth in aesthetic stage for most groups. Grasp of visual literacy concepts varies by aesthetic stage. Most participants, both students and teachers, are beginner viewers. The transmission of aesthetic ideas is affected by the relative stages of teachers, lecturers and students. The higher intensity programs in which teachers present all lessons themselves, with the aid of museum staff, are more likely to produce measurable impact.

Site Coordinator: Nancy Lee Miller

Back to Top


Bard College/Red Hook School District Arts in Education Study
Spring 1988-Spring 1991
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen
Senior Research Associate: Karin DeSantis

Treatment: Pre-visit slide presentation and teacher packets; museum visits with hands-on art project; follow-up activities; PTA presentations; workshops; artist residencies; annual arts celebration.
Assessment tools: Biannual Aesthetic Development Interviews, questionnaires, content questions.
Subjects:

  • Experimental: 20 2nd-4th grade students, 20 2nd-4th grade students
  • Control: 20 2nd-4th grade students, 20 2nd-4th grade students
  • Total Subjects: 120

Findings: The theoretical model and measure – originally derived from an older sample – are robust and inclusive for elementary age children. The model measures microchanges in aesthetic development. There were statistically significant differences in aesthetic stage scores between experimentals and controls. The experimentals gain in their ability to engage in longer dialogues about art using more sophisticated vocabulary, and to view art from many different perspectives. Stage inappropriate art concepts (e.g. perspective) don't stick. An incubation period is required to assimilate information. Possible developmental ceilings exist.

Project Director: Catherine Egenberger

Back to Top


Institute of Contemporary Art Boston Audience Pilot Study
Spring 1984
Principal Researcher: Abigail Housen

Treatment: N/A
Assessment tools: Aesthetic Development Interviews (ADIs), demographic questionnaires, attitudinal questionnaires.

Subjects:

  • 36 randomly selected adult gallery visitors.

Findings: A combination of three types of measurement tools allowed a sharper picture of audience. The ICA attracts an audience highly focused at particular stages. The majority of viewers at these stages would not use more structured and traditional educational offerings, preferring individual exploration.

Back to Top