Visible Thinking in the Museum Day 1

Visible Thinking Training

Have you ever wondered how to make your guided tours more interactive? How you can encourage participation and keep visitors engaged? 

Today’s museum guides are expected to possess a wealth of information but are encouraged to avoid lecturing and using scripts. They should ideally have an interactive, conversational style using open-ended questions.

For guides who have been honing their craft for years with the same museum and who hold a wealth of information they wish to share, this is indeed a tall order.

New engagement techniques place extra demands on museum guides to develop suitable questioning techniques and facilitation skills, whilst also remembering content as and when deemed necessary.

All too often, training may cover some of the above techniques in detail, but not all. We approach training in a different way.

We teach museum guides and educators to use simple thinking routines in combination with key museum education practices to facilitate discussions about art and museum objects. The thinking routines are a flexible structure that helps the guide to ask the right questions to encourage visitors to make observations and interpretations.

This one day course  offers a solid introduction to working with the method of Visible Thinking in the Museum. You will gain an understanding of 5 key thinking routines (See, Think, Wonder; Step Inside; Looking TenTimesTwo; Headlines and Beginning/Middle/End) through activities and discussions. We will also learn the basics of how to be a good facilitator and how to facilitate lively discussions using art and museum objects. This will be followed by an afternoon of practice in your museum galleries.

We train participants in the 4 elements that have been key to the success of using this approach in museums:

  • Using thinking routines and open-ended questions.
  • Good facilitation skills.
  • Documenting the process.
  • Encouraging group and collaborative learning.

Day 1 of the ‘Visible Thinking in the Museum’ course is open to all and no prior experience is required to participate.

Participants will receive numerous resources for their reference and use with future groups.

Visible Thinking (VT) has been developed over a number of years by researchers at Project Zero (Harvard Graduate School of Education) in the United States. Visible Thinking is essentially a broad and flexible framework for enriching learning by fostering deep thinking and cultivating a deeper understanding of content.

This approach helps educators make thinking and, importantly, opportunities for thinking much more visible in classrooms and other learning environments. When this happens, opportunities for learning expand.

By making thinking visible, teachers can establish exactly what misconceptions or understanding exists on a specific topic. It reveals prior information to which teachers can link new information, thereby activating student engagement and curiosity. This “visible” element can provide a springboard to further discussion and lines of inquiry too.

At the heart of VT are several practices and resources that help achieve the goals of the approach – such as thinking routines, documentation and using the language of thinking – and encourage a shift in classroom culture towards what Ron Ritchhart calls a “culture of thinking”, where thinking is valued, visible and actively promoted.

Claire Bown from Thinking Museum successfully adapted elements of Visible Thinking were for use in museum programmes and developed the first museum programmes to use Visible Thinking in the Netherlands at the Tropenmuseum in 2011.
Since 2011 we have trained over 450 people from more than 20 countries in our 4-step method of using Visible Thinking in the Museum to create group discussions using art and museum objects.
Our workshops teach individuals and teams to use select elements of VT (thinking routines, documentation, language of thinking) with museum education practices to make sense of art and museum objects in a memorable and engaging way.
We offer 1, 2 and 3 day Visible Thinking in the Museum training courses in English and/or Dutch for your team.
Benefits for the Museum Guide

For the museum guide, thinking routines provide a loose structure around which to base the discussion of the artwork or object. The questions of the routine are carefully worded to allow for multiple interpretations and to open up discussions. Museum guides find that with frequent use they are able to use the routines flexibly and to combine or modify them as required. The wording of the questions in the routines also helps museum teachers format their own open-ended questions.

The routines also allow for the inclusion of contextual information at appropriate moments so that museum teachers can navigate the delicate balance between selective content inclusion and information overload. Thinking routines are short, easy to remember and easy to use with little training required.

Benefits for the Visitor

Using Visible Thinking in the museum helps visitors to make sense of artworks and objects in a memorable and engaging way. As learning is a social and collaborative endeavour, it makes sense to use Visible Thinking in spaces like museums where people get together to learn. Visitors can explore and discuss artworks using thinking routines from Visible Thinking as the structure to guide their thinking and to help them practise and develop certain skills, such as careful observation, thoughtful interpretation and understanding different viewpoints.

Using Visible Thinking in the museum allows visitors to slow down; to become absorbed, to scrutinise and investigate and to find out and construct meaning.

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