Reflections on ‘Visible Thinking in the Mauritshuis’

By Lorna Cruickshanks I was recently lucky to have the opportunity to join the special edition two-day ‘Visible Thinking in the Museum' training led by Claire Bown of Thinking Museum with co-host Gundy van Dijk in the Mauritshuis. Having worked in audience participation for a number of UK museums over the years, the practice of facilitating and encouraging interactive and creative engagement with collections was not new to me, but the particular approach of Visible Thinking was. Visible Thinking is a research-based approach to teaching and learning developed within schools by Project Zero in the early 2000s, which Claire Bown has

Working with Families: Thinking Outside of the Box with Play

by Danielle Carter When we think of play in the museum setting, we often think of science museums where children can experiment with scientific concepts through play, or museums that are made specifically for children. With this perception, it seems that play has no role in the traditional art museum; how can we make play attractive for our younger visitors? How can we engage in play that’s appropriate for the museum environment? And how can we get  adults involved in play too? First of all, we need to break down our understanding of what play is and what it can be.

Visible Thinking in Archives

by Aniko Kovecsi A recent encounter with the concept of Visible Thinking (VT) inspired this brief piece about its applicability in an archival setting. I recently participated in a 2-day training organised by the Amsterdam based Thinking Museum (held at the Jewish Museum in London, April, 2017). The participants were mainly museum and education professionals, so I complemented the team profile as an education officer affiliated with a Cold War and human rights archive, Blinken OSA. The training proved to be very interesting and engaging, introducing participants to the concept and components of Visible Thinking - both in theory

A Guide to Participation in the Museum

By Danielle Carter As a museum educator, it can sometimes prove difficult to balance the limitless information held within the museum and its collections, and the constructivist museum approach that affirms the visitor’s contribution as valid. Recently, we wrote a post about why parental participation in family museum visits matters to the entire family’s museum and learning experience. In this post, we will focus more on how to encourage participation in general and why this is essential to the museum visitor experience. At Thinking Museum, all our museum educators and guides receive training in using Visible Thinking in the museum environment.

3 Golden Rules for Successful Family Tours

by Danielle Carter Working with family groups can be a challenge for museum educators, especially when striking the balance between engaging the children and the parents at the same time. There are, however, a few different tactics that can help educators encourage the whole family to participate fully. Set the tone at the start It is important to set the right tone at the beginning of the tour. Make sure that this is done during the introduction before entering the museum or embarking on the walking tour. Get to know the family by asking them a few questions about their trip

Information Overload: How much is too much?

by Claire Bown  I was reading 'Are You Teaching Content or Teaching Thought?' the other day and it really struck a chord with me. I first started out as a Tour Manager for Cosmos in the 1990s, trained to spill out as much information as possible over the microphone of a coach and during walking tours all over Europe. I was a 'one-way drone fest' (as Nina Simon hilariously puts it here ). I had a lot of fun researching the content to share with my visitors and injected humour and anecdotes where possible, but the possibilities of interactions and audience

For the Joy of Learning: Adults, Museums and Thinking Routines

When we talk of engagement in the museum, we are often referring to engaging young people, teenagers, non-traditional museum-goers and school groups. However, museums are missing a trick if they are not creating meaningful programming for their adult audiences too. In Adult Museum Programs: Designing Meaningful Experiences, a survey is provided for why adults attend learning programmes - the answers reflect an overwhelming desire to attend for the joy of learning (79%).  The same book also provides a useful summary of the important aspects of adult learning: Adults tend to learn best when new information builds on past knowledge and

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast…

Much has been written about the power of different forms of visual expression - art works, objects, artefacts - to inspire, provoke curiosity and interest. It is generally accepted that looking at objects stimulates critical thinking through comparing and contrasting, identifying and classifying, describing and summarising and son on. Indeed, museums are using objects and art increasingly to help individuals learn what Philip Yenawine, museum educator and VTS founder, calls 'viewing-skills'. This often happens quite naturally, although all too often the process is unstructured and messy. Looking is central to the museum experience as visitors are presented with an array of

More than a Strategy: Building a Culture of Thinking

I was recently talking to a fellow museum docent about how they were given a 10 minute training on how to use thinking routines (from Visible Thinking) in another museum. A few routines were enthusiastically explained to them and they were told that these routines could be inserted 'ad-hoc' into tours to inject a little more participation and conversation. Whilst this may provide a quick-fix for those moments when you want to enliven a tour, this is not how thinking routines are intended to be used nor how I personally envisage their use or potential for use in the museum. When

Teenage Kicks at the Stedelijk

www.stedelijk.nl Teenage Kicks at the Stedelijk In August I was asked to lead a private tour for a group of teenagers at the Stedelijk, a museum of modern and contemporary art and design in Amsterdam. This was to be a small group of participants aged between 11 and 18 years old. All of the group were German, but some lived in Amsterdam and went to a local international school, whilst others were visiting from Berlin where they attended a bi-lingual secondary school. The tour would be in English but all of the group were non-native English speakers. Two of the