Last week I had the great pleasure of meeting a person who has made an enormous contribution to the field of art education.  The interaction with Philip Yenawine, former director of education at the Museum of Modern Art and co-founder of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), has left an indelible impression.  Yenawine is one of those rare individuals who is able to engage with a large group as if he were speaking with friends in the comfort of his own home.

The subject of his seven hour presentation last Friday, VTS as a Means to Meet Common Core State Standards, is also the topic of his most recent book, Visual Thinking Strategies: Using Art to Deepen Learning Across School Disciplines.  There were many times throughout the day, however, when Yenawine’s skills as a facilitator momentarily eclipsed the subject that he was there to discuss.  The audience witnessed him deftly handle some minor A/V issues and diffuse an unexpected disruption in the crowd with diplomacy, warmth and humor.  And, despite the cumulative toll of these and other nuisances, Yenawine maintained his masterful composure, with equal parts grace and patience, fielding the last of many questions from the audience with as much care as the first.

In fact, one member of the audience took time to publicly remark about Yenawine’s professionalism and his ability to remain entirely present.  Yenawine took that moment to underscore the importance of listening.  Which, he acknowledged, as a style of teaching, is as difficult as it gets.  

Although I have been aware of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) for some time, it was not until I took a closer look last week that I understood fully its great value.  There is a wealth of information on the VTS website, and the book is a distillation of what is most important for those who wish to apply VTS.  If you are interested in visual thinking, I highly recommend taking a look.  I plan to add both the book and website to the resource list that I have compiled for educators on my website.

Later that day, as I was enjoying dinner with a friend, our conversation veered to the topic of complexity and the need for well-developed critical thinking skills that can help us effectively respond to the type of ill-structured problems we increasingly face.

Recently, I have begun to focus more of my attention on the concept of visual solutions, and I look forward to exploring that in greater detail.  VTS demonstrates one way to engage with information, in order to arrive at solutions.  It’s one of many ways that paying closer attention to visual data can help us achieve our goals.

© 2013