Thinking Through Art – Independent Schools Victoria Study Tour

Visual Thinking Strategies at Good Shepherd

Visual Thinking Strategies is a student-centred process where students interpret artwork through facilitated discussions. The use of artworks for this process is ideal as art is often ambiguous, allowing students to imagine multiple interpretations. Students are able to grow in their creative capacity to explore subject matter with curiosity without the fear of being wrong. This in turn develops their confidence to contribute their ideas and to build on the ideas of others.

Visual Thinking Strategies has become part of the Visual Arts curriculum at Good Shepherd. During VTS discussions students have shown a readiness to accept and build on others’ ideas, a capacity to give original, creative and thoughtful responses and an enjoyment of making meaning together as a class by speculating and clarifying. Usually these classes involve good-humour, lots of peer support and high student engagement. The aim of Visual Thinking Strategies is to empower students with the ability to creatively and critically interpret artworks alone and with peers. With regular Visual Thinking Strategies sessions, they can become independent creative and critical thinkers.

Visual Thinking Strategies Scholarship from Independent Schools Victoria

In May 2019, Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) will be hosting their second Arts Learning Festival.  As part of this festival, ISV created a scholarship program for teachers to travel Boston to train in Visual Thinking Strategies so that then they could return to Melbourne to implement their learnings in their School.  Mrs Jean Lyons, Good Shepherd’s Visual Arts Teacher, was one of the privileged recipients of the Visual Thinking Strategies Scholarship Program.  The small study group comprised of three staff from ISV and ten teachers from independent schools across Victoria.

The Study Group was based at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.  Isabella Stewart Gardner was a collector who travelled the world.  She built a museum to house all of the treasures that she had brought back with her which displays an eclectic and playful mix of paintings, sculptures, furniture, tapestries and sections of ruins and columns.

During the four days of professional learning and training, Mrs Lyons along with her study group practised Visual Thinking Strategies participating as both student and facilitator. As students they were able to practise their own critical thinking, offering interpretations of the artworks and building on the ideas of others. As facilitators they were able to practise three key questions:

  1. What’s going on in this picture?
  2. What do you see that makes you say that?
  3. What more can we find?

They also practised paraphrasing techniques and strategies to draw out students’ responses, leading them to give evidence of their thinking.

The highlight of this trip for Mrs Lyons was the opportunity to see so many amazing original artworks in the many cultural institutions that Boston has to offer: Museum of Fine Arts, The Harvard Art Museums, The Institute of Contemporary Art, The Watershed and of course The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Overall, the study trip to Boston was very successful, rewarding and inspiring.  Mrs Lyons has come away with an incredible learning experience, meeting and engaging with other art teachers and professional museum contacts in Boston.  The opportunity Independent Schools Victoria has given her further enhances her teaching and facilitating of Visual Arts Strategies at Good Shepherd as an independent, critical thinker.

Jean Lyons, P-6 Visual Arts Teacher
Penny Soong, Marketing and Communications Officer