VISUAL THINKING STUDIOS

Articles & Other Readings

Click the title to download a PDF of the article.

  • Carpe Diem: Seizing the Common Core  
    by Mary Franco and Kathleen Unrath
    Originally appearing in: National Art Education Association Art Education Journal, January 2014. (c)2013. Used with permission of the National Art Education Association. 

  • Abigail Housen in Conversation with Dr. Carol Johnson
    A conversation between Dr. Carol Johnson, superintendent of Boston Public Schools, and Abigail Housen took place on November 11, 2008 at a fundraiser to support bringing VTS to Boston Public Schools. Before the conversation, guests participated in a VTS discussion.
  • Aesthetic Thought, Critical Thinking and Transfer
    by Abigail Housen
    originally published: Arts and Learning Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1, May 2002
    In 1993, VUE began a five-year longitudinal study of the effects of its Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) curriculum on aesthetic growth. In response to anecdotal teacher reports that students were using VTS strategies in other subjects, VUE also tested for evidence that VTS develops critical thinking, and its transfer. The study results not only support our hypotheses that VTS accelerates aesthetic growth, but also show that VTS causes the growth of critical thinking and enables its transfer to other contexts and content.
  • Assessing Growth
    by Abigail Housen and Philip Yenawine
    This document provides benchmarks for VTS teachers, who wish to track aesthetic growth in their students, by means of careful note-taking.
  • A Brief Guide to Developmental Theory and Aesthetic Development
    by Karin DeSantis and Abigail Housen
    Beginning with an overview of some essential concepts in developmental theory, including an introduction to Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, this guide proceeds to discuss the work of cognitive psychologist Abigail Housen and her Stage Theory of Aesthetic Development. It concludes with how Housen's theory can be applied to understanding museum audiences and building effective educational programs. This document was written for VUE's Eastern European program and assumes little or no knowledge of developmental theory.
  • A Conversation on Object-Centered Learning in Art Museums
    by Philip Yenawine and Danielle Rice, Associate Director for Program at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
    This conversation between Danielle Rice, associate director for program at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Philip Yenawine, VUE's co-director, was published in the October 2002 issue of Curator (volume 45, no. 4). It is based on, and grew out of, a demonstration video and discussion that Philip and Danielle presented at the 1999 National Docent Symposium. Both long-time art museum educators who have thought deeply about learning from art objects in the museum setting, Danielle and Philip present their approaches toward museum education, and question each other about their respective theories. Philip's approach, which is based on the research findings of Abigail Housen, has resulted in the development of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), a question-based learning method. Danielle's approach, based on her many years of art-historical and theoretical learning, and practice teaching in museum galleries, respects the learning processes of museum visitors, but assumes the importance to museum education of strategically-chosen facts about the work of art at hand.
  • Eye of the Beholder: Research, Theory and Practice
    by Abigail Housen
    VUE co-founder Abigail Housen gives an account of how she began her study of Aesthetic Development, how she came up with her research methodology, and the overall findings of her 20 years of research. Housen also briefly discusses how she applied what she learned to creating the Visual Thinking Strategies curriculum.
  • Guide to Museum Visits
    by Abigail Housen and Philip Yenawine
    This document gives recommendations for preparing all participants (teachers, students, chaperones, and museum staff) for a VTS museum visit. Teachers in particular must plan well in advance. If all parties know what to expect, the visit will run more smoothly.
  • Guide to Videotaping
    by VUE Staff
    This document gives recommendations to teachers who wish to videotape a VTS lesson in their classroom, as part of an assessment of a VTS project.
  • Guidelines for Image Selection for Beginning Viewers
    by Philip Yenawine
    Choosing objects to introduce beginning viewers to the wonders of art should be as thoughtful a process as choosing literature to engage the incipient reader. This document outlines the best practices for image selections.
  • Introduction to Visual Thinking Strategies
    by VUE staff
    This brief, two-page document describes goals of VTS, contents of each year's curriculum, teacher training, and desired outcomes. It includes a short history of VTS.
  • Jump Starting Visual Literacy
    by Philip Yenawine
    originally published: Journal of the NAEA, January 2003. Reprinted with permission from the National Art Education Association.
    This document makes suggestions for selecting images to foster visual literacy, using as a guide Housen's theory of and research into aesthetic development. Beginning readers learn by being taught what they are developmentally ready to understand, what is likely to sustain their interest, and what encourages them to read more deeply while supplying challenges at the right time. This document presents a comparable approach to helping beginning viewers of art develop skills related to looking at and understanding art.
    Download en Espanol.
  • Selected Bibliography
    by VUE staff
    This document lists selected VUE-created curricula, guides, videos, and reports. It also presents information about relevant publications by VTS co-authors Abigail Housen and Philip Yenawine. Documents available on this website are highlighted.
  • Selected Directory of Studies
    by Karin DeSantis and Abigail Housen
    Contains descriptions of selected studies relevant to VTS, from 1984 to the present. Descriptions include treatment, assessment tools, descriptions of subjects, findings, and project director/site coordinator. Reports available on this website are highlighted.
  • Theory into Practice: The Visual Thinking Strategies
    by Philip Yenawine
    Veteran museum educator and VUE co-founder Philip Yenawine discusses how the work of several developmental theorists (Piaget, Vygotsky, and Housen) informed his design of museum education programs, eventually leading to the creation of Visual Thinking Strategies.
  • Thoughts on Visual Literacy
    by Philip Yenawine
    originally published: Handbook of Research on Teaching Literacy through the Communicative and Visual Arts, Macmillan Library Reference, 1997
    Visual literacy is the ability to find meaning in imagery. It involves a set of skills ranging from simple identification, naming what one sees, to complex interpretation on contextual, metaphoric and philosophical levels. This paper discusses how visual literacy develops, how this development might be fostered, and the relevance of Housen's Stage Theory of Aesthetic Development.
  • Thoughts on Writing in Museums
    by Philip Yenawine
    Yenawine makes recommendations for those who write descriptive texts for museums, urging in particular that the writers take into account the fact that most of the readers of such texts are non-specialists in art.
  • Three Methods for Understanding Museum Audiences
    by Abigail Housen
    originally published: Museum Studies Journal, Spring-Summer 1987
    Cognitive psychologist Abigail Housen presents her study of museum visitors at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, using three different methods of collecting data: demographic; attitudinal; and developmental. This article discusses her research methodology, study findings, and gives a comparative analysis of the methods used.
  • Visual Art and Student-Centered Discussions
    by Philip Yenawine
    originally published: Theory into Practice, Autumn 1998
    VUE co-founder Philip Yenawine examines how student-centered discussions of art can be powerful forums for learning, and how the intricate design of the Visual Thinking Strategies curriculum creates an environment for such learning to take place.
  • Visual Thinking in Montessori Environments
    by Jacqueline Cossentino and Keith Whitescarver
    originally published: Montessori International, April-June 2011
    The authors introduce Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), the fascinating approach of using art to develop children’s thinking skills.
  • Voices of Viewers: Iterative Research, Theory, and Practice
    by Abigail Housen
    Housen discusses how she measures aesthetic response and gives examples of viewer responses from Stages I and II. Student growth, in particular, how to foster it, leads to a discussion of the VTS method. This is followed by a brief description of Byron, Minnesota research findings. Originally published in Arts and Learning Research, vol. 17, #1.
  • VTS Research & Theory
    by VUE Staff
    This document briefly outlines the research and theory behind Visual Thinking Strategies and includes information on Housen's Theory of Aesthetic Development.
  • Why Do We Teach Art in the Schools?
    by Peggy Burchenal, Abigail Housen, Kate Rawlinson and Philip Yenawine.
    Originally appearing in the April 2008 issue of NAEA News, the authors respond to an article by Ellen Winner and Lois Hetland.
  • Writing for Adult Museum Visitors
    by Philip Yenawine
    Yenawine provides background for his recommendations by discussing VUE research findings. He provides "A Guide to Writing," with suggestions for content, style, vocabulary, length, design and layout. Examples are provided.
    Download en Espanol

VTS & State Standards

The below "standards alignments" are meant for individual teacher's use in planning lessons and determining which state standards are addressed in VTS lessons and extension activities. We DO NOT claim that VTS meets all the standards listed on these documents. They are designed to narrow, but not eliminate, the standards that could possibly be met through VTS discussions, adaptations and applications.