Thinking Museum

Each week on the Art Engager I share a variety of easy-to-learn flexible techniques and tools to help you create participant-centred experiences that bring art and ideas to life. The Art Engager podcast helps educators, guides and creatives engage their audiences with art, objects and ideas.

Pictures of Practice with Elisa Mosele

EPISODE 54 – Pictures of Practice with Elisa Mosele

Today I’m delighted to be talking to Elisa Mosele about her work. Elisa is an English language teacher and an art facilitator.  She currently collaborates with the Verona Minor Hierusalem Foundation .

We’re talking all how she uses thinking routines to overcome the fear of speaking a language and encourage all her students to participate. We’re also talking about how she combines slow looking, church art and spirituality in her work as an art facilitator.

Elisa introduced the concepts of VTM and thinking routines to the Verona Minor Hierusalem Foundation and in 2020 initiated their first virtual sessions looking slowly and carefully at artworks from local churches. This year she took part in Slow Art Day for the second time.

Elisa wrote a blog for me in 2020 about her very first experience facilitating with thinking routines virtually and it was great to hear in our chat about how she is now facilitating sessions in person too.

In today’s chat we talk about how Elisa uses thinking routines to develop vocabulary and how she combines Visible Thinking with spirituality in her work at the foundation.

how to define your personal facilitator style

EPISODE 53 – Bitesize: How to Define your Personal Facilitator Style

Today I’m starting something new.

I know we are all extremely busy right now.

Sometimes it can be hard to find the time to listen to a full length podcast episode.

So, once a month, I’ll now be sharing a ‘bite-sized‘ episode that will give you a quick win or something to think about.

All in less than 10 mins.

Today I’m sharing a minisode (is that a thing?) that will help you to start defining your personal facilitator style – what makes you, uniquely, you?

We’ll look at what we mean by personal facilitator style and why it’s super-important.

Then I’ll take you through an exercise to help you to define your personal facilitation style.

From Good to Great: Personal Growth & Development for Museum Educators

EPISODE 52 – From Good to Great: Personal Growth and Development for Museum Educators

A willingness to continue growing and developing is at the heart of our practice as museum educators, teachers and guides. 

We are never ‘done’ with learning. 

There is always a strong desire to keep honing our craft.

Personal development keeps us motivated and pushes us out of our comfort zone. 

It helps us to keep innovating, experimenting and being creative. 

But, what are the best ways that we can grow and develop personally? 

Today in Episode 52 I’m sharing 8 different ways to go from good to great…and reach your full potential!

what is visible thinking in the museum

EPISODE 51 – What is Visible Thinking in the Museum (and how can it help me to engage my audience?)

Way back in 2011, I discovered the magic of thinking routines and Visible Thinking whilst working at a museum in Amsterdam.

It was at this point that I started developing a new approach for educators, what became Visible Thinking in the Museum or VTM for short.

Visible Thinking in the Museum is an easy-to-follow method that allows educators like you to confidently design and lead engaging inquiry-led sessions with art, objects and ideas for any audience.

But what’s it all about? And why should you use it? Today we’re talking about the foundations, principles and practices of the VTM method and I’m sharing 8 different ways it can help you to engage your audiences.

Pictures of Practice with Gabrielle Grime


Today on our 50th episode, I’m launching a new series of episodes all about ‘pictures of practice’. I’m really interested is in finding out how other museum educators around the world engage their audiences with art and objects. What are some of the practices that are really important to them? How might they use thinking routines, or slow looking, questioning or facilitation?
For our very first Pictures of Practice, I’m talking today to Gabrielle Grime is a Heritage Education Officer at Wanneroo Regional Museum in Australia. She believes museums can be places of sanctuary which foster wellbeing, as well as sparking creativity, wonder and connection.
Gabrielle read about the Peel the Fruit thinking routine on my blog and decided to give it a go with a group of primary school children. She speaks about this powerful experience in today’s chat and how it moved some people in the group to tears. She then followed my VTMO course last year and is now a member of my community of practice The Thinking Museum Membership. Gabrielle shares how she is applying a number of ideas from the course and the continuing membership classes in her work.
In this chat we talk about what values inform her practice, how she’s going to use slow looking with Front of House staff in a pilot programme and what thinking routines she loves to use. Gabrielle also shares why she stays up until 11pm or midnight to attend classes!
We talk about questioning, facilitation and being part of a community of educators learning, exploring and sharing together.
I know you’re going to love listening to Gabrielle – and hope her enthusiasm inspires you as much as it did me – enjoy!
Inspire your Creative Writing through Art


Today I’m delighted to be talking to playwright, theatre director, teaching artist and museum educator Mary Hall Surface about her work. We’re talking all things creative and reflective writing through art. 
As a museum educator, Mary Hall uses both theatre and creative writing to expand perspective, uncover complexity, and deepen understanding.
She is the founding instructor of National Gallery of Art’s Writing Salon in Washington DC, and a six-summer faculty member of Harvard’s Project Zero Classroom.  
Mary Hall and I have a lot in common and in today’s chat we talk about our love of close looking, thinking routines and how you can use artworks to inspire writing.
We talk about a variety of projects that Mary Hall has been involved in at the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the different types of online workshops that she teaches. 
Mary Hall shares 4 wonderful tips for how you can improve your writing through art – so make sure you don’t miss those.
We really could’ve talked for hours and I loved our chat. So, here it is – enjoy!
10 types of questions you should avoid

EPISODE 48 – ‘Bad’ questions: 10 types of questions you should never ask

I’m back with a new episode today all about my favourite subject .
I’m talking about ‘bad’ questions, and specifically, 10 types of questions you should never ask (or at least try to avoid!).
Good questions can be many things: clear, simple and purposeful, but also relevant, concise and perhaps, even powerful.
But is there such a thing as a ‘bad’ question?
And if so, what types of questions are ‘bad’? Why types of questions should we be avoiding on our museum tours and programmes?
To find out the 10 types of questions I chose, listen in to today’s show!
Throwback Thursday: 4 thinking routines for perspective-taking

EPISODE 47 – Throwback Thursday: 4 thinking routines for perspective-taking

As you may or may not know, I’ve recently had Covid (and you can probably hear it in my voice) I’m taking some time to recover.
So as we’re approaching 50 episodes, I thought I would take the time today to revisit an episode from the back catalogue.
Today we’re revisiting an episode all about thinking routines that you can use for perspective-taking. This episode first aired in July 2021.
It takes a deep dive into what perspective-taking is, and why it matters.
Then I look at 4 essential perspective-taking thinking routines that you can use in your programmes – from the ever-so-useful Step Inside (one of my all-time faves), to new thinking routine Step In Step Out Step Back, via Circle of Viewpoints and little-known thinking routine Point of View.
If you are leading any type of programme with groups then you need to have a perspective-taking thinking routine in your repertoire.
As I say in this episode, perspective-taking is a crucial skill for all types of relationships – both professional and personal.
And I believe we have a responsibility to encourage perspective-taking – In doing so, we might not only serve our audiences better, but also model a kinder society.
Don’t forget to check out the free perspective-taking resources on my website too.
What is Slow Art Day?

EPISODE 46 – What is Slow Art Day?

Slow Art Day is an international event celebrating looking at art in a different way. This year Slow Art Day is taking place on Saturday 2 April 2022 in nearly 150 venues around the world (and counting…).
So, what is Slow Art Day all about? Today I’m talking about how Slow Art Day got started, how it works and how you can take part. I’ll share some examples from past Slow Art Day events and explain why Slow Art Day is important to me.

EPISODE 45 – What we can learn from improv with guest Samantha Boffin

You may remember Samantha Boffin as she was my first guest on the show (Episode 21) and now she is the first guest to come back for a second episode. Besides being a voiceover artist, Sam is also an actor.
Sam also does an improv class every week and believes that we are all expert improvisers – we just don’t realise we are. In this episode, Sam is sharing what improv is and how it can help us as educators in our own practice and when we’re with our groups leading programmes about art.
We also talk about how improv makes you a better listener, how it makes you more confident and flexible and to not be afraid of failure.
We discuss how we might be able to use improv techniques and games with our groups – from Yes, and…, Narrative, Colour, Emotion and line-by-line stories via Humpty Dumpty and Brian the washing machine repair man. We discuss how you can make your audience feel safe and comfortable using improv techniques.
We had a really lovely chat and I hope you enjoy it. Here it is!

EPISODE 44 – The 4 Elements of a Great Introduction

A good introduction is essential to foster a great group dynamic.
An introduction is crucial on any type of programme – whether you’re leading a guided tour, an educational programme, a 15 minute in-gallery conversation or an online session.
At this stage, group participants are learning what to do, how the tour or programme is going to operate, what is expected and what is acceptable.
It’s your role to give them the orientation they need.
And more than that, a good introduction is about about placing connection before content – you’re establishing trust, forming connections, and building rapport.
Today I’m talking about introductions – why they’re important and the 4 elements of a great introduction.

EPISODE 43 – Tips for Facilitating Meaningful Discussions around Sensitive Subjects

In the light of recent world events and the troubled times we live in, in today’s episode I’m going to share some thoughts about facilitating meaningful discussions with artworks and objects around sensitive subjects in difficult times.
Some programmes, tours or sessions specifically involve sharing difficult narratives and directly addressing challenging subjects.
Other types of programmes might touch on subjects that can be contentious and/or sensitive.
Or you may visit artworks or objects that can surface and bring up emotions, feelings and more.
Particularly now with the devastation occurring in Ukraine, it’s important to be aware of and sensitive to these emotions and to be thoughtful when asking participants to share their personal connections around a subject.
So today I’m sharing some advice that may be beneficial to you when facilitating an art discussion around a sensitive topic. I’m also going to touch on how you can look after yourself and manage your own emotions too.
How to Read a Group

EPISODE 42 – How to Read a Group

What does it mean to ‘read a group’? It’s the ability to understand the mood in the room and how receptive people are.
When you’re working with groups in the museum or online, it’s extremely helpful to be able to know how to ‘read the room’. Paying attention to others and listening for clues can pay dividends.
Being able to read a group and see how engaged they are, whether they are enjoying the programme, following along or even whether they are listening is extremely important.
It’s important to be able to pick up on clues not only from the discussions taking place, but also from the underlying reactions and things that are left unsaid from those in the room as well.
These subtle cues aren’t always easy to pick up on, but you can train yourself to not only be aware of them, but to influence group dynamics, by paying more attention. So, in today’s episode here are a few easy ways to read a group.
12 Reasons to Get Started with Slow Looking

EPISODE 41 – 12 Reasons to Get Started with Slow Looking

Slow looking is simply the art of learning through observation. I’ve been working in this way for the last 10+ years and can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone – both as an individual practice and as a way of working with and connecting your participants to art and objects.
But don’t just take my word for it.  But, why would you want to slow down and spend time with just one artwork or object? Why is it important to practise paying attention and noticing more details?
Looking at something slowly and carefully is in itself a rewarding process – the object or art work becomes more interesting the longer you look at it. But more than this, there are known benefits of slow looking and in this post, I’m going to take you through 12 reasons why you, yes, you, should get started with slow looking.

EPISODE 40 – 5 New Thinking Routines to Try in 2022

Have you been using the same thinking routines for a while now? 
Maybe you’ve got a few core routines that you’re comfortable with and now you’re looking for some new routines to add to your repertoire?
I’m always looking for new ways to engage with our audiences and love trying out new routines in my membership monthly thinking routine classes. I really enjoy seeing all the possibilities of how this thinking routine might pair with different artworks, themes and situations.
I’ve tried and tested these 5 routines extensively and they all work both online and offline with a variety of materials – artworks and museum objects, written texts, quotes and videos. Which 5 thinking routines did I choose? Listen in to find out!
You can find in-depth classes about each of these thinking routines in the library of my membership programme. 

EPISODE 39 – How to Stay Curious in your Practice

As we get older, we ask fewer questions. We wonder less. We are less curious.
We don’t lose the ability to be curious, we just don’t use or ‘exercise’ it as much. Further on in life people tend to expect answers rather than questions.
Staying curious and wondering keeps your mind active and strong, makes you more receptive to new ideas, opens up new worlds and possibilities and brings excitement into your life.
Likewise in our work as educators, guides, teachers and creatives, we need to keep curious ourselves in order to keep creating imaginative and lively guided tours, guided discussions and educational programmes. 
Today is the second part in our curiosity double-bill. Last week I talked about how to foster curiosity with your groups and gave you 3 ways to think about how you can cultivate more curiosity amongst participants. So in today’s episode, part 2, I’m talking about how we can stay curious ourselves in our practice.

EPISODE 38 – 3 Key Ways to Foster Curiosity in your Programmes

So in today’s episode is the first of 2 episodes devoted to a subject close to my heart: curiosity.
This week I’ll be exploring what curiosity is and sharing 3 key ways you can provoke curiosity and wonder with your audiences on your tours and programmes. Next week, I’ll be discussing how we can stay curious ourselves as educators, guides and teachers.
Curiosity is notoriously difficult to define and it’s even harder to work out how to harness and foster it. It could be defined as an eagerness to encounter what is new or unfamiliar and the desire to learn, to understand new things and to know how they work.
We know that artworks, objects and artefacts have the power to inspire, provoke curiosity and interest. So how can we really ensure that we are harnessing that power and doing all we can to provoke curiosity and wonder amongst the participants on our tours and programmes?
How looking at art can improve your mental health

EPISODE 37 – How looking at art can improve your mental health

This week on the podcast: I’m delighted to be talking to Yaël van Loosbroek – Speck about art and mental health
Yaël believes, like me, that everyone can engage with art, and that it all starts with looking – hence the name of her company, ArtSee.
About ten years ago Yaël herself suffered from depression and severe anxiety disorder. The only place she could find peace of mind was in front of an artwork. This experience motivated her to create Art as Perspective for people going through the same mental issues as she did.
In today’s chat we discuss what Art as Perspective is and how it works. We talk about how to design art programmes for people living with depression & anxiety, the frameworks she uses and the questions she asks.
We also talk about how art discussions help people living with depression, anxiety and negative thoughts and the mental health benefits of looking at and discussing art. Yaël also shares some really helpful tips for creating art programmes that have a positive impact on mental health.

EPISODE 36 – Quick ways to improve your questioning technique

The ability to ask powerful, relevant and incisive questions is one of the most useful skills you can have.
With a good questioning technique you can instantly engage people, provoke their curiosity, find out what they already know and make your programmes more interactive.
Questioning is not an innate talent for most of us – we have to work hard at developing a good questioning technique.
It’s a skill and, like all skills, we need to actively work on it to improve it.
So, how exactly can you get better at asking questions? Here are some quick ways to improve your technique.
9 Ways Art Can Make you a Better Writer

EPISODE 35 – 9 Ways Art Can Make you a Better Writer

Today we’re exploring 9 different ways that art can make you a better writer.
Throughout the ages, looking at art has been a unique way of finding inspiration and creativity. If you go as far back as the Greeks, you can find examples of writing inspired by art, called ekphrasis, which means “a literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art”
Art is a frequent source of inspiration for many writers and poets over the centuries. John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is a famous example and William Blake said that poetry and art are ‘ways to converse with paradise’.
But how does this work for us, mere mortals with a keen interest in improving our creative or reflective writing? In this week’s episode I’m exploring 9 ways looking at and discussing art can make you a better writer.
3 slow looking activities for the holidays


For our last episode of the year, I’m sharing 3 slow looking activities for over the holidays.
It’s a busy time of year and we’re all rushed off our feet. There’s also still a huge amount of uncertainty around right now just to add to the levels of stress and anxiety.
Slow looking is a wonderful antidote to life in the fast line.
Looking at something slowly and carefully is in itself a rewarding process. More than that, slow looking improves your observational skills, helps us to become less distracted and more focused and develop more patience.
Ultimately, slow looking is GOOD FOR THE SOUL.
I recommend choosing one or all of these activities to do during winter – it will give you time out, time to slow down and time to notice the wood for the trees.
Listening with Full Attention with Claire Bradshaw

EPISODE 33 – Listening with Full Attention with Claire Bradshaw

This week I’m delighted to be talking to Claire Bradshaw.
Claire is an experienced coach, trainer and facilitator who brings a lot of positive energy and curiosity to her work.
In today’s chat we talk about the values that drive her work, listening with full attention, the power of questions, and her passion for outdoor coaching.
We talk about the similarities between her work and the work we do facilitating discussions around artworks with participants.
We discuss the importance of listening skills and what good listening is. Claire shares a variety of tips for how you can develop your listening skills – including some practical exercises too!
6 Ways to Create Awe-Inspiring Experiences with Art and Objects

EPISODE 32 – 6 Ways to Create Awe-Inspiring Experiences with Art and Objects

Awe is an emotion that can be triggered by being around something larger than yourself, that’s not immediately understandable.
It’s that feeling you get when you look up and see millions of stars in the night sky; witness a beautiful landscape or set eyes on an artwork for the first time.
Museums and galleries, historic settings and buildings can all provoke awe. And you can foster more of it in your programmes by thinking carefully about the artworks & objects you include, the questions you ask and the information you share.
So today, I’m talking about what awe is, why it’s important and sharing 6 ways you can create awe-inspiring experiences with art and objects.
At the end I’ll be sharing 3 things to look for to check you’ve succeeded in inspiring awe in your audience.
How to Teach with Objects with Jo-Anne Sunderland Bowe

EPISODE 31 – How to use slow listening to engage the senses and make connections with objects

This week on the podcast: I’m delighted to be talking to Jo-Anne Sunderland Bowe.
Jo-Anne is director of Heritec Limited, a UK-based heritage education consultancy which works on European collaborative projects. Jo-Anne has a keen interest in object-based learning and creative and critical thinking.
in today’s chat we talk about the values that drive her work and her passion for object-based learning and teaching.
We talk about what object-based learning means and dive into the processes around it – collective thinking, collaborative action, inquiry dialogue and the acts of wondering. Jo-Anne discusses the many benefits of working with objects and shares her tips for how you can better engage your audience with objects.
I hope our chat inspires you to think about how you might use objects of any kind to engage your audiences.
ART AND DEMENTIA with Catherine Chastney

EPISODE 30 – Art and Dementia with Catherine Chastney

For our thirtieth episode, I’m delighted to be talking to Catherine Chastney.

Catherine is an art educator and owner of social enterprise I Picture This. Catherine’s work focuses on bringing art and the joy of discussing art to older people, from creating conversations in care homes, to creating art cards during lockdown and working with people living with dementia.

In this chat we explore the strong values that guide Catherine’s work – she is passionate about that anyone can look at and discuss art, she loves using art to bring people together and to improve wellbeing

We talk to about the toolkit she has just published with the Wallace Collection for Looking at Art  designed for anyone working or volunteering in care settings and, of course, her work with people living with dementia.

Catherine shares some wonderful tips for discussing art with people with dementia – from creating trust seeking permission, active listening and creating space.

This conversation will inspire you to think about how you might use art to bring people together, create conversations, forge connections and ultimately improve wellbeing.

How to Develop a Reflective Practice

EPISODE 29 – How to Develop a Reflective Practice

Today I’m talking about how to develop a reflective practice in your work.
A reflective practice is simply the art of thinking about or reflecting on what you do.
It is a way of recognisingcapturing and articulating what we’re learning on a moment by moment basis.
By following any of the suggestions here, you will develop a questioning approach to your work. You will stop and pause to think about why things are as they are and how they might be in the future. You will consider the strengths and areas of development in your own practice and consider how to develop your skills.
First I’ll share more about what reflective practice is and the benefits of introducing reflection as a practice into your work.
Then I’m going to share 7 different ways you can use to develop your reflective practice and 3 tips to get you started.
How to Engage your Audience with Colour in Art Discussions

EPISODE 28 – How to Engage your Audience with Colour in Art Discussions

Today I’m focusing on colour. Colour is one of the 7 elements of art along with shape, line, form, texture, value and space. It’s a vast subject – but today I don’t want to focus on colour theory or the science of colour.
Instead, I want to get you thinking about how you approach colour with your audience during an art discussion.
I’m going to look at different ways you can create discussion about colour with your groups to get them engaged in artworks.
Colour is important because it can make you feel something, even if the painting itself doesn’t at first glance. Colour is the hook to get audiences curious about artworks and wanting to know more.
So, listen in for some different ways that you can engage your audience – any audience – in discussion about colour.
Slow Looking and Empathy

EPISODE 27 – Slow Looking & Empathy with Kenia Santos

Today I’m delighted to be talking to Kenia Santos – an educator based in Brazil with specialisations and interests in art history, philosophical inquiry, social and emotional learning, thinking routines and slow looking.
We discuss how she uses thinking routines in her work to encourage and develop slow looking, how she keeps her teenage students engaged for 3 hours in her art classes and how we can develop empathy through slow looking.
Kenia is a passionate educator, slow looking enthusiast and a self-described art history nerd; a cat lover, free spirit and a friendly soul. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did!
10 Easy Ways to Make your Guided Tours More Interactive

EPISODE 26 – 10 Easy Ways to Make your Guided Tours More Interactive

The traditional lecture-style guided tour is dead, long live the interactive tour!

Well, it’s not actually, it’s still alive and kicking in some quarters but in my opinion it shouldn’t be. 
Traditional lecture-style ‘walk and talk ‘ guided tours with an expert guide are still fairly common and in some places are still a standard way of ‘presenting’ an historic site, a city or a museum to the public.
Things have definitely changed in the last 10 years since I started this journey of teaching others how to transition to a more discussion-based approach, but there is still work to be done.
If you feel you talk too much on your tours or you overshare information, this podcast episode is for you. If you would like to have more interaction with your participants then today I’m sharing 10 easy ways you can implement NOW to make your tours more interactive – that means more of a two-way conversation rather than a one-way lecture.
So, here are 10 easy ways to make your guided tours more interactive.

EPISODE 25 – 3 Thinking Routines for Slow Looking and Drawing

This week’s episode is inspired by recent classes in the Visible Thinking Membership where we’ve been exploring the concept of using drawing and sketching for slow looking and observation.
When people are learning how to draw, they actually learn how to observe first. And being a sketcher makes you a better observer – it’s as though you are seeing something for the first time when you’re trying to draw it.
Today I’m talking about using drawing as an observational exercise. It’s not a test of how good your drawing skills are, it’s a test of how to use your eyes. 👀
 Using drawing as a tool for slow looking enriches and enhances what you see.
So here are 3 thinking routines that you can use for slow looking, extended observation and drawing.
And at the end of this episode I’ll be sharing some ways to get over drawing apprehension – that feeling of nerves when someone asks you to draw. How can you help your group to feel comfortable and enjoy drawing with you? So do stick around to the end for those ideas too!
Using art and objects to learn wellbeing skills and improve mental health

EPISODE 24 – Using art and objects to learn wellbeing skills & improve mental health with Louise Thompson

Today I’m really excited to be chatting to Louise Thompson – a museums and wellbeing consultant as well as the health and wellbeing manager at Manchester Art Gallery for the past 9 years. We’re talking how about art and objects can be used to learn wellbeing skills and improve mental health.
Louise has over 12 years experience of arts and health practice and is hugely passionate about using culture and creativity to improve people’s wellbeing.
In this chat we talk about Louise’s work and some of the wonderful projects she’s worked on recently – the Becoming a Mum art therapy project during lockdown and the pioneering Mindful Museum at Manchester Art Gallery.
We talk about how artworks can create a sense of community and how art and cultural collections can make us feel less alone and more connected.
We discuss mindfulness and the particular type of mindfulness that informs Louise’s work – trauma-sensitive mindfulness. We discuss what it is and how cultural institutions are brilliantly placed to teach mindfulness in a trauma-sensitive way.
Louise shares so much value in our chat – make sure you listen to the whole episode to catch it all!

EPISODE 23 – How to get over a ‘tumbleweed moment’ (and avoid one in the future)

Have you ever asked a question that was greeted with nothing but silence? You look around and all you can see are blank faces.
The silence is scary because you don’t know what people are thinking. You wait a little longer and still nothing happens. Just the sound of tumbleweed rustling by….
You’ve just experienced a ‘tumbleweed moment’ – a period of dead air or silence.
And it’s awkward and uncomfortable – not just for you but also for your participants too. You don’t know what people are thinking and your mind races to think of something to fill the silence.
But what if you had some steps to work though to help you get over this moment? Well, help is at hand. Today I’m sharing some practical ways to get over a tumbleweed moment.
And at the end I’ll be sharing some advice about avoiding these moments in the first place – so stick around and together we’ll make sure you never have to hear the terrifying sound of silence again!
13 Tips for Getting Started with Thinking Routines

EPISODE 22 – 13 Tips for Getting Started with Thinking Routines

In the past week I’ve just started teaching my Visible Thinking in the Museum Online course (VTMO) to a group of international educators excited to start confidently leading discussions around art and objects.
There’s always a buzz when we get going and an enthusiasm to learn as much as you can as quickly as possible.
But I always try to slow down participants, so that they can take it one step at a time and build up their practice (and confidence) slowly.
So this week’s episode is for all the new VTMO-ers and for anyone who has just started out using thinking routines to engage their audiences with art. Here are my top 13 tips for getting started!
How to Use your Voice to Engage your Audience

EPISODE 21 – How to use your voice to engage your audience

Today I’m really excited to be introducing our first guest chat on the podcast. Today I’m talking to voice actor Samantha Boffin – we are exploring tools and techniques that will help you develop a more reliable and consistent voice.
Sam shares some wonderful tips and techniques that we can all use to make the most of our voice and use it in the best way possible. We discuss:
  • Why your voice is important, and tips / techniques for optimising your voice before you start a session (e.g an art discussion or a guided tour or a classroom lesson for teachers)
  • How to use your voice to ENGAGE your audience. How the voice can be a tool in your educator toolbox to keep your audience tuned in, curious and eager to participate
Sam is very generous with her advice and shares lots of gold here – so you might need to make notes!
The 6 Core Elements of my VTMO (and why they're important)

EPISODE 20 – The 6 core elements of my VTMO course (and why they’re important)

Today I’m talking about the 6 core elements in my popular Visible Thinking in the Museum Online (VTMO) course – elements that you should also have in your educator repertoire to connect with your audience and engage them with art and objects.
I’m sharing with you:
  • How the course came about during the start of the pandemic in 2020
  • How it was designed and why
  • The 6 core elements of the course and why they’re important to you
  • What you will get out of VTMO
Next week,  I’m teaching VTMO for the final time in the Visible Thinking membership. We start on 20 September!
What to Expect from The Art of Engagement Challenge

BONUS EPISODE – What to expect from The Art of Engagement Challenge

Today I’m sharing some thoughts about how you can successfully design and lead engaging discussion-based programmes around art and objects.

I’ll be talking briefly about the difference between conversations, discussions and dialogue, before moving into 11 tips for success in creating conversations around art and objects.

Success Factors for Leading Discussion-Based Programmes Around Art

Episode 19 – Success-Factors for Discussion-Based Programmes Around Art

Today I’m sharing some thoughts about how you can successfully design and lead engaging discussion-based programmes around art and objects.

I’ll be talking briefly about the difference between conversations, discussions and dialogue, before moving into 11 tips for success in creating conversations around art and objects.

Episode 18 – Common Fears Around Leading Discussion-Based Programmes (and How to Deal with Them)

Leading tours and educational programmes that are based on discussion, inquiry and interaction can be a scary business. Both for you and for your participants.

And if you’re about to take your first steps, it might seem really daunting. However, do remember that any concerns you have are perfectly normal and you’re not alone (we’ve all been there and had to start somewhere). Take it one step at a time and with time, practice and guidance, it will get easier (I promise!).

In this podcast episode, I’m going to summarise the most common fears and concerns about leading discussion-based programmes that I’ve heard over the last 20 years, along with suggestions for ways to overcome them.

13 Ways to Make your Online Experiences More Engaging and Interactive

Episode 17 – 13 Ways to Make your Online Experiences More Engaging and Interactive

Over the past year, I’ve attended some fantastic interactive online sessions and I’ve led hundreds of my own.⁠

I’ve also attended some pretty dull one-way presentations and long lectures.

No matter what type of session you are leading – be it a virtual tour, an online art discussion, an online class or course – you need to keep your session interactive to stop participants from tuning out.

You need to find a variety of ways to engage people throughout the session.

Online experiences that emphasise personalisation, active learning, interaction and engagement will be here to stay.

If you haven’t levelled up your skills yet, it’s time you took some action

When it’s done right, online sessions are JUST as (and in some cases MORE) rewarding and engaging online. ⁠

But how do you make it interactive and keep everyone fully engaged? Here are my 13 ways to get you started…

How to Use See Think Wonder in your Art Discussions

Episode 16 – How to Use See Think Wonder in your Art Discussions

Today I’m doing a deep dive on the most famous and well-known thinking routine of them all – See Think Wonder.

I’m going to share with you how you can use this thinking routine in your art discussions and why it’s one of the best routines for getting started with Visible Thinking in the Museum – my method for engaging and connecting with audiences, art and ideas.

It’s actually the first thinking routine that I teach when I do a training with teams of educators or guides in a museum and the first routine that I teach on my popular VTMO course.

STW is a GREAT thinking routine to use when you are new to Visible Thinking and a really good one to use at the beginning of a guided tour or museum programme.

But what is it, how can you use it and, importantly, what’s so special about it? All will be revealed today in episode 16!

How to Use Artworks to Improve your Questioning Skills

Episode 15 – How to Use Artworks to Improve your Questioning Skills

I’ve been using artworks for years to help me to brainstorm, re-word and improve my questioning skills.

I’m not an ‘expert questioner’ by any means and have found that this is a skill that I have had to consistently work at to improve.

But by using artworks, I really enjoy the process too.

Artworks (and objects) provide an engaging and focused way to work on your questioning skills. In today’s episode I’m going to share with you some practical ways you can use art as a tool to become a better questioner!

5 Simple Slow Looking Activities for Summer

Episode 14 – 5 Simple Slow Looking Activities for Summer

Today I’m sharing 5 simple slow looking ideas for the summer #summerslowlooking

Slow looking is a wonderful alternative to life in the fast lane. The 5 activities I’ll be sharing here are simple, effective ways to slow down, improve your observational skills and focus and notice more details around you.

You can use these slow looking activities throughout the summer – either on your own or with friends and family and children. All of the activities are designed to help you develop your ability to see – and in doing so, spark creativity, curiosity and improve focus.

How to Use Unveiling Stories to Investigate Muliple Layers of Meaning in a Photograph

Episode 13 – How to use ‘Unveiling Stories’ thinking routine to Investigate Multiple Layers of Meaning in a Photograph

Today I’m talking all about how to use the ‘Unveiling Stories’ thinking routine to investigate multiple layers of meaning with a photograph.

This is part of a new series of episodes on the podcast where I share a thinking routine with you and all the insights for how you might be able to use it with an artwork or object with groups – either in-person or online.

Unveiling Stories was our ‘thinking routine of the month’ for June in the Visible Thinking Membership. Every month we have a specialist thinking routine online class that gives us the opportunity to discover a new thinking routine or to dig a bit deeper into one we already know.


Episode 12 – 6 Best Practices For Sharing Information in your Art Discussions

Many of us are experts in our field – possibly art historians, historians or archaeologists – and want to share that incredible knowledge with the groups we lead in our programmes.

But knowing what information to share, how to share it and when to share it is often tricky – especially on interactive, discussion-based programmes. And what happens when you add too much information? And how much is too much?

Sharing information that is engaging and memorable (without overloading your participants) is a great skill to master.

In this week’s episode I’m sharing some thoughts on information delivery and 6 best practices for how to share your knowledge AND keep your audience engaged and curious.

Make your knowledge work for you. Learn how to use information as a tool to create curiosity and engagement in episode 12!

Step Inside Thinking Routines to Foster Perspective-Taking

Episode 11 – Step Inside: Thinking Routines to Foster Perspective-Taking

Perspective-taking is about seeing a situation or understanding a concept from an alternative view point, such as that of someone else. It is a skill that needs to be encouraged – particularly in children.

Your brain has to work quite hard to get good at perspective-taking. And in the opposite direction of what it is hard-wired to do – which is to place YOU at the centre of everything.
Engaging in perspective-taking means moving away from this starting point in order to understand others.

THE GOOD NEWS is that like most things, it gets easier with practice and our perspective-taking skills do improve.  In today’s episode I’m going to introduce you to 4 thinking routines that are specifically designed to foster this disposition. You can  use these thinking routines with artworks to create discussions that consider multiple solutions to a problem and look at situations or people from multiple perspectives.

10 common mistakes to avoid when asking questions

Episode 10 – 10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Asking Questions

For some people questioning comes easily. But for the majority of us, we are not asking enough questions AND we’re not phrasing them in the best way. The good news is that we can all become better questioners with time and practice.

To become a better questioner, it’s really important first all to avoid the 10 common mistakes I talk about in this episode. Which ones of these are you guilty of? I’ve certainly done a few of these in the past! And stay tuned until the end where I’m sharing a follow-up exercise you can do to work on your own questioning skills!


Episode 9 – Creating a Great Group Dynamic in the ‘New Now’

Today I’m talking about building rapport and creating a great group dynamic in the ‘new now’. Creating a great group dynamic is even MORE important now after the last year or so. In this episode I’m talking about :

  • what group dynamics are
  • the different types of groups you might come across
  • the roles people play in groups
  • the size of groups
  • how to use space

I’ll end by talking about how to still create a great group dynamic even when you’re wearing a face mask, so stay tuned for that at the end of this episode.

How to Use See Think Me We Thinking Routine with Artworks

Episode 8 – How to Use ‘See Think Me We’ Thinking Routine with Artworks

Today, I’m talking all about how to use the ‘See Think Me We’ thinking routine with artworks.

This is part of a new series of episodes on the podcast where I share a thinking routine with you and all the insights for how you might be able to use it with an artwork or object with groups – either in-person or online.

See Think Me We was our ‘thinking routine of the month’ recently in the Visible Thinking Membership. Here’s how we used See Think Me We thinking routine to discuss Kerry James Marshall’s ‘SOB, SOB’ (2003).

Developing a Daily Slow Looking Practice

Episode 7 – How to Develop a Daily Slow Looking Practice

Developing a daily slow looking practice will enable you to improve your observational skills and start noticing more details.

And if we are better at this ourselves, as educators, then we are in a far better position to guide others through the process of slow looking too.

So, here are 6 ways you can start to develop your own daily slow looking practice – I’ve included a number of ideas, some outside, some inside, some to do with art, some not. The idea is that you pick one of these activities and you do it every day for a few days and see what happens. After a few days you should start to notice a difference!

6 Essential Thinking Routines you Need in your Repertoire

Episode 6 – 6 Essential Thinking routines you Need in your Repertoire

In this episode, I’m discussing 6 essential thinking routines you should have in your educator repertoire.

These are thinking routines that you can use to create engaging discussions with art or artefacts or routines that will help you develop and grow in your work as an educator.

I’ve found it really hard to select just 6 thinking routines out of the 100+ routines out there, but I’ve come up with a list that every educator should have in their repertoire to draw upon where necessary.

To find out which 6 thinking routines I chose, listen to this week’s episode!

The Art of Facilitation

Episode 5 – The Art of Facilitation

Facilitation is a key part of creating engaging and interactive discussions around art and museum objects.

But developing the skills of a good facilitator is an art form in itself – it requires practice, patience and the best facilitators MAKE IT LOOK SO EASY.

In this week’s episode, I’m talking about facilitation – how can you develop the skills of a good facilitator (and make it look like you were born to do it), and what are the different roles you will be expected to play?

The 5 Golden Rules for Asking Brilliant Questions

Episode 4 – The 5 Golden Rules for Asking Brilliant Questions

In this week’s episode, I’m sharing my 5 golden rules for asking brilliant questions.  But what is a brilliant question? Asking more questions is one way to get more interaction and engagement in your programmes. But asking the wrong types of questions can actually shut down the discussion and stop people participating at all. So, in this episode, I’m sharing 5 rules that will help you to ask questions that create interaction and engagement, open up discussions and encourage everyone to participate fully!

The Magic of Thinking Routines

Episode 3 – The Magic of Thinking Routines

Thinking routines are an essential part of the Visible Thinking in the Museum method.

They have been a magical ingredient in helping me to confidently create engaging discussions around objects and artworks over the past 10 years.

They’ve also been a great way to engage audiences to get them really interested in art and objects, making them curious and asking questions and, of course, getting them thinking.

But what are thinking routines and how can you use them? And where does the magic happen? That’s what we’re discovering in this week’s episode.

What is Slow Looking and How Can I Get Started?

Episode 2 – What is slow looking and how can I get started?

I believe engagement starts with slow looking. I’ve been practising the art of slow looking for the last 10 years as a personal practice and with groups of all ages with a variety of objects, artworks, situations and places. Slow looking has played a pivotal role in the most engaging discussions I’ve led over the last 10 years. Slow looking has played a pivotal role in the most engaging discussions I’ve led over the last 10 years.

In this podcast I’m going to take you right back to the basics and walk you through an introduction to slow looking – what it is, why it matters and how you can get started – and I’ll be sharing lots of practical tips and suggestions too!

The moment when I first heard the words ‘Visible Thinking’

Episode 1 – The moment when I first heard the words ‘Visible Thinking’

In this first episode, I’m going to be talking about the main method I use to engage audiences with art and ideas – that’s my Visible Thinking in the Museum method which I started developing 10 years ago this year.

I didn’t know it at the time, but hearing the words ‘Visible Thinking’ was about to change everything. This method has influenced everything I’ve done in the past 10 years and has completely revolutionised the way I work.

So, what is this Visible Thinking? How did I hear about it and how did I start to use it in my method?

Introducing the Art Engager Podcast

Introducing The Art Engager Podcast

Welcome to The Art Engager podcast! This podcast is here to help educators, guides and creatives engage their audiences with art, objects and ideas. Each week I’ll be sharing a variety of strategies, ideas and inspiration to help you to engage and connect with your audiences and confidently lead lively art and artefact discussions.

Show highlights:

  • What The Art Engager podcast is all about
  • How and why creating real engagement with art and museum objects can be tricky
  • What is Visible Thinking in the Museum?
  • What we’re going to be talking about on this podcast