Understanding Visual Literacy: The Visual Thinking Strategies Approach

Chapter

Abstract

This chapter makes the case for two aspects of visual literacy that the authors believe to be generally overlooked: (1) that visual literacy occurs by way of a developmental trajectory and requires instruction as well as practice, and (2) that it involves as much thought as it does visual awareness and is an integral component of the skills and beliefs related to inquiry. This chapter roots these ideas in the theory and research of cognitive psychologist Abigail Housen, coauthor of Visual Thinking Sttategies (VTS) with museum educator Philip Yenawine. Housen identified aesthetic stages that mark the development of skills helping to define visual literacy. Her research is also the basis of VTS, a method of engaging learners in deep experiences looking at art and discussing meanings with peers, a process that, this chapter posits, furthers visual literacy. This chapter presents that body of research and details the resulting VTS protocol. It reviews academic studies to date, subsequent to Housen, that document the impact of VTS interventions in various settings, and suggests beneficial areas for future research. In order to probe what development in visual literacy looks and sounds like on a granular level, two case studies of student writing from existing studies are presented and analyzed. Visual literacy skills enabled by VTS are briefly connected to broader educational concerns.

Keywords

Visual Thinking Sttategies Aesthetic development interview Viewing art Museum education Teaching strategies in museums Aesthetic experiences Visually literate 

References

  1. Adams, M., Foutz, S., & Luke, J. (2007) Thinking through art: Isabella Stewart Gardner museum school partnership program year 3 research results. Annapolis: Institute for Learning Innovation. http://www.gardnermuseum.org/microsites/tta/links/Year_3_Report.pdf.Accessed March 1, 2014
  2. Arnheim, R. (1966). Toward a psychology of art. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  3. Arnheim, R. (1969). Visual thinking. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  4. Baldwin, J. M. (1975). Thought and things: A study of the development and meaning of thought or generic logic (Vols. III and IV). New York: Arno.Google Scholar
  5. Boudreau, J. D., Cassell, E. J., & Fuks, A. (2008). Preparing medical students to become skilled at clinical observation. Medical Teacher, 30, 857–862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bruner, J. (1960). The process of education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bruner, J. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Burchenal, M., & Grohe, M. (2007). Thinking through art: Transforming museum curriculum. Journal of Museum Education, 32(2), 111–122. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/jme.2007.32.2.111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Changeux, J.-P. (2012). The good, the true, and the beautiful: A neuronal approach (trans: L. Garey). New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Chapman, M., Hall, W., Colby, R., & Sisler L. A. G. (2013). How images work: An analysis of a visual intervention used to facilitate a difficult conversation and promote understanding. Qualitative Social Work, 13(4), 456–476. doi:10.1177/1473325013496597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Croskerry, P. (2003). The importance of cognitive errors in diagnosis and strategies to minimize them. Academic Medicine, 78(8), 775–780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crouch, C. (2008). Afterword. In J. Elkins (Ed.), Visual literacy (pp. 195–204). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Curva, F., Milton, S., Wood, S., Palmer, D., & Nahmias, C. (2005). Artful citizenship report: Three-year project report. Tallahassee: The Wolfsonian-Florida International University. http://www.artfulcitizenship.org/pdf/full_report.pdf.Accessed March 1, 2014Google Scholar
  14. Dallow, P. (2008). The visual complex: Mapping some interdisciplinary dimensions of visual literacy. In J. Elkins (Ed.) Visual literacy (pp. 91–104). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Debes, J. (1968). Some foundations for visual literacy. Audiovisual Instruction, 13, 961–964.Google Scholar
  16. DeSantis, K., & Housen, A. (1984–2003). Selected directory of studies. New York: Visual Understanding in Education. http://vtshome.org/research/articles-other-readings.Accessed March 1, 2014
  17. DeSantis, K., & Housen, A. (2007). Highlights of findings—San Antonio: Aesthetic development and creative and critical thinking skills study. New York: Visual Understanding in Education. http://vtshome.org/system/resources/0000/0004/SanAntonio-TX-VTS-Study.pdf.Accessed March 1, 2014Google Scholar
  18. Dewey, J. (1910/1997). How we think. Boston: DC Heath & Company.Google Scholar
  19. Dewey, J. (1934/1980). Art as experience. New York: Perigee Books.Google Scholar
  20. Dewey, J. (1938/1997). Experience and education. New York: Touchstone Press.Google Scholar
  21. Duke, L., & Housen, A. (1998). Responding to Alper: Re-presenting the MoMA studies on visual literacy and aesthetic development. Visual Arts Research, 24(1), 92–102.Google Scholar
  22. Duska, R., & Whelan, M. (1975). Moral development: A guide to Piaget and Kohlberg. New Jersey: Paulist.Google Scholar
  23. Fleischer, N., Zea, A., McManama, J., & Miller, A. (March 2014). The science behind art: Teaching critical thinking through art observation. Presentation at Academic Dental Education Association conference, San Antonio, TX.Google Scholar
  24. Geller, G. (2013). Tolerance for ambiguity: An ethics-based criterion for medical school selection. Academic Medicine, 88(5), 1–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Grohe, M., & Egan, S. (July 2016). VTS growth over time. Presentation at the conference, VTS Summer Institute, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO.Google Scholar
  26. Hailey, D. (2014). Visual thinking, art, and university teaching across disciplines. About Campus Magazine, 19(4), 9–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hershman, W., Miller, A., & Yadavalli, G. (2016). Fresh eyes: An arts-based workshop series for clinical faculty. In P. Brett-McLean & A. Peterkin (Eds.), Keeping reflection fresh: Top educators share their innovations in health professional education. Kent: Kent State (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  28. Housen, A. (1983). The eye of the beholder: Measuring aesthetic development. Dissertation, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  29. Housen, A. (1984–1991). Institute of Contemporary Art Boston Audience Pilot Study (1984). Museum of Fine Arts Boston Asian Galleries Brochure Study (1990). Museum of Modern Art New York Gallery Talks Study (1991). Summary of unpublished studies. http://vtshome.org/pages/highlights-of-findings#7.Accessed March 1, 2014
  30. Housen, A. (1987). Three methods for understanding museum audiences. Museum Studies Journal, 2(4), 41–49.Google Scholar
  31. Housen, A. (September 1999). Eye of the beholder: Research, theory and practice. Paper presented the conference, Aesthetic and art education: A transdisciplinary approach. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal.Google Scholar
  32. Housen, A. (2002). Aesthetic thought, critical thinking and transfer. Arts and Learning Journal, 18(1), 99–132.Google Scholar
  33. Housen, A. (2007). Art viewing and aesthetic development: Designing for the viewer. In P. Villeneuve (Ed.), Periphery to center: Art museum education in the 21st century (pp. 172–189). Reston: National Art Education Association.Google Scholar
  34. Housen, A., & Yenawine, P. (2000–2001). VTS curriculum. New York: Visual Understanding in Education.Google Scholar
  35. Jasani, S., & Saks, N. (2013). Utilizing visual art to enhance the clinical observation skills of medical students. Medical Teacher, 35, e1327–e1331. doi:http://informahealthcare.com/doi/pdf/10.3109/0142159X.2013. 770131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Klugman, C., Peel, J., & Beckmann-Mendez, D. (2011). Art rounds: Teaching interprofessional students visual thinking strategies at one school. Academic Medicine, 86(10), 1266–1271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kohlberg, L., & Hirsch, R. H. (1977). Moral development: A review of the theory. Theory into Practice, 16(2), 53–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Livingstone, M. (2002). Vision and art: The biology of seeing. New York: Abrams.Google Scholar
  39. Loevinger, J. (1976). Ego development: Conceptions and theories. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  40. Loevinger, J. (1993). Measurement of personality: True or false. Psychological Inquiry: An International Journal for the Advancement of Psychological Theory, 4(1), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Miller, A., & Yenawine, P. (2014). Visual thinking, images, and learning in college. About Campus Magazine, 19(4), 2–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Moorman, M. (2013). The meaning of visual thinking strategies for nursing students. Dissertation, University of Nevada Las Vegas.Google Scholar
  43. Naghshineh, S., Hafler, J., Miller, A., Blanco, M. A., Lipsitz, S., Dubroff, R. P., Khoshbin, S., & Katz J. T. (2008). Formal art observation training improves medical students’ visual diagnostic skills. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 23(7), 991–997.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Olson, S., & Loucks-Horsley, S. (2014). Inquiry and the National Science Education standards: A guide for teaching and learning. Committee on the Development of an Addendum to the National Science Education Standards on Scientific Inquiry; National Research Council. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9596.Accessed March 1, 2014
  45. Parsons, M. (1987). How we understand art: A cognitive development account of aesthetic judgment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Piaget, J. (1926). The language and thought of the child. New York: Harcourt Brace.Google Scholar
  47. Piaget, J. (1951). Play, dreams, and imitation in childhood. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  48. Rawlinson, K., Wood, S., Osterman, M., & Sullivan, C. (2007). Thinking critically about social issues through visual material. Journal of Museum Education, 32(2), 155–174. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/jme.2007.32. 2.155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Shifrin, S. (2008). Visual literacy in North American secondary schools: Arts-centered learning, the classroom, and visual literacy. In J. Elkins (Ed.), Visual literacy (pp. 105–128). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  50. Stafford, B. M. (2007). Echo objects: The cognitive work of images. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  51. Stafford, B. M. (2008). The remaining ten percent. In J. Elkins (Ed.), Visual literacy (pp. 31–57). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  52. Ter Horst, R., & Kruiper-Doesborgh, S. (2012). Visual thinking strategies, toegepast als therapie bij patiënten met niet-aangeboren hersenletsel. Tijdschrift voor Neuropsychologie, 7(3), 141–150.Google Scholar
  53. Vygotsky, L. (1962). Thought and language. CambridgeA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind and society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Yenawine, P. (2003). Jumpstarting visual literacy: Thoughts on image selection. Art Education, 56(1), 6–12.Google Scholar
  56. Yenawine, P. (2013). Visual thinking strategies: Using art to deepen thinking across school disciplines. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hailey Group, LLCCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Arts Practica, LLCGuilfordUSA
  3. 3.Visual Understanding in EducationWellfleetUSA

Personalised recommendations