What’s going on in this Picture?

You wouldn’t think that you could develop a student’s literacy and critical thinking skills by analysing artworks…but research states you can!

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is a tool that was developed by Abigail Housen and Philip Yenawine to facilitate discussion around close observation of works of art. It uses three simple questions to guide students’ responses:

What’s going on in this picture?

What do you see that makes you say that?

What more can we find?

Images with different levels of ambiguity are used for discussion.

 Pine Fresh Scent (2004) Amy Cutler (https://whitney.org/collection/works/25619)

VTS has been shown to improve students’ literacy and critical thinking skills. This year, two SFX Year 10 Photography classes have participated in the first research study evaluating the effectiveness of VTS in Australian schools. Seven schools are participating in the research conducted by the National Portrait Gallery. The study involves a facilitator, Meredith Hughes (pictured below) taking a class through ten 50min sessions of VTS. We have completed eight of the ten sessions and are looking forward to seeing the results. We’ll keep you posted!

Year 10 Photography and Meredith Hughes


Amanda Marshall

Photography Teacher, Visual Arts Department SFX

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