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Visual Thinking Strategies: HOME

Visual Thinking Strategies

What is VTS?

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is a teaching method that can help students develop critical thinking and effective communication skills through facilitated discussions of visual images. Originally designed to help young people learn to approach works of art, VTS can be used with all ages and adapted for all disciplines.

In a typical VTS session, participants spend a few moments looking silently at a carefully selected image. A trained facilitator then uses the following three questions to encourage participants to infer meaning, share ideas, and provide visual evidence to support observations.

  • What is going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can we find?

The facilitator paraphrases the responses in a non-judgmental way, creating a safe environment conducive to free expression and collaborative problem solving.

For more information about Visual Thinking Strategies, including examples of how it is being implemented in a variety of educational settings, visit

Philip Yenawine

VTS was created by museum educator Philip Yenawine and cognitive psychologist Abigail Housen. In the video below, Yenawine presents a lecture and conducts a VTS session at the Portland Art Museum.

VTS in Action



Further Reading

Got art?

If you're looking for high-resolution art images to use in VTS sessions, remember that the MDC Libraries provide free access to an extensive collection of images through JSTOR. Once inside the JSTOR database, click the "Images" tab to gain access to over 2.5 million images from world class institutional and public collections. If desired, create a free JSTOR account for full access to premium content and features.

You may also want to consider using graphic novels for VTS sessions. For more information about the graphic novel and graphic non-fiction collections available through the MDC Libraries, visit the Graphic Novels & Comics LibGuide.


Are you an MDC professor, tutor, or librarian who has implemented, or plans to implement, VTS with your students? Please share your experiences and ideas by completing this brief survey.

About this page

This page was created by Kendall Campus Faculty Librarian Jenny Saxton to accompany a presentation at the 2021 TutorTIPs Symposium. Questions and comments are welcome.