Visual Thinking Strategies

Visual Thinking Strategy (VTS) is an inquiry-based teaching method that improves a student's ability to describe, analyze, and interpret imagery and information through observing and discussing visual art. VTS support the development of critical thinking skills and encourage participation in collaborative discussions, especially among students who struggle with traditional text-based or lecture-based learning environments. VTS supports the University's student learning outcomes


Visual Thinking Strategies was developed by cognitive psychologist Abigail Housen and museum educator Philip Yenawineare. VTS is based on Housen’s Theory of Aesthetic Development and corresponding research. You can read a summary of Housen's work and the stages of aesthetic development she identified over the course of 20 years of research on You can read Housen's full findings in her essay, "Eye of the Beholder: Research, Theory and Practice."

VTS is noted for developing critical, creative thinking skills  that lead to increased visual literacy for students across all fields of study.

At the core of VTS are three key questions:

  1. What's going on in this picture?
  2. What do you see what makes you say that?
  3. What more can we find?
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Step-by-Step Instructions

(Click on the image below to open the PPT in a new window and download.)

Facilitator's guide for creating your own VTS activity.

Additional Resources


External VTS Activities


Page last modified February 9, 2023