By Tracy McClure, Carol Henerson, and Diane P. Zimmerman
"A 6th grader stands in front of his photo montage and moderates an image dialogue with his peers. Using an app from his phone, he creates a study in gray abstraction with a red sweatshirt as the focal point. Just as he has seen his teacher do many times, he invites his peers to "take a moment to look at this picture. What's going on in this picture?"
"He carefully paraphrases each of his peers' responses and follows with, "What more can we find?" When a student breaks protocol and asks if the picture was taken in his bedroom, he craftily paraphrases, "So, you are wondering if it is my bedroom? What do you see that makes you say that?"—a nonanswer with a probe for supporting evidence.
"He continues, "What more can we find?" The class is mesmerized.
A New Path
"Five years ago, our school adopted the visual thinking strategies (VTS) program as a way to enhance the study of art and because it offered a way of measuring changes in students' thinking over time. Little did we realize how much this experience would change our teaching.
"VTS, developed by Abigail Housen and Philip Yenawine (2000), began as a way to explore aesthetic development in children. New York City teachers told Housen and Yenawine that VTS encourages aesthetic development and develops critical thinking, explaining that their students spontaneously made causal links and regularly sought evidence to support their claims. Likewise, our students demonstrate this level of thought, and we continually discover more about the power of mediated learning to enhance the creative, interpretive experience.
"Here are some of the lessons we've learned."