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Visible Thinking Course Outline

Visible Thinking online course page

Course Outline

Visible Thinking is an approach to teaching thinking that was developed by Project Zero over a decade ago and is now used widely by educators in a range of settings around the world. Designed to be used in all subjects and all grades, Visible Thinking has two goals: to cultivate students' thinking dispositions, and to deepen content learning. This course explores three themes that are at the heart of Visible Thinking: thinking routines, thinking dispositions, and documentation of student thinking. The course sessions consist of a series of experiences in which educators try out practices related to these three themes--first among themselves in their learning group, and then in their classrooms, or learning environments, with their learners. Along the way, participants gain knowledge about research related to Visible Thinking, they are provided with support to help them integrate Visible Thinking practices into their curriculum, and they have opportunities to collaborate with their colleagues to assess student thinking.

Session 1: Orientation

Session 1: Orientation

This week, we will orient you to the Visible Thinking online course, acquaint you with our teaching team, program staff, and one another, and set your expectations for the next several weeks of learning together. The information in this orientation module will introduce you to the course platform as well as to your course colleagues. 

By the end of this session, you will:

  • Understand the roles of the instructor, coaches, and fellow learners in supporting your learning.
  • Understand the overarching goals for the course, participant responsibilities, and the course online environment.
  • Identify your own learning goals for the course and become acquainted with your instructor and fellow learners.
Session 2

Session 2: Thinking Routines: Diving In and Trying It Out

In this session, you will begin by using a reflection tool for teachers called MYST (MYST stands for Me, You, Space, Time). The tool will help you reflect on how you already make your own and your students’ thinking visible. You will also get acquainted with thinking routines, a basic tool of Visible Thinking, by using a thinking routine with your colleagues to explore a work of art. Thinking routines are short, easy-to-use mini-strategies that encourage learners to surface their own ideas and build on them to explore and understand complex topics. Thinking routines are designed to scaffold thinking as it unfolds. They are also designed so that they can be used without a lot of background knowledge about a subject or intensive instructional support by the teacher.

By the end of this session, you will:

  • Recognize that there are already things you do to make your own and your students’ thinking visible.
  • Appreciate that thinking routines are designed to "teach themselves." They can be used without prior preparation or experience.
  • Understand what it’s like to use a thinking routine with a work of art.
  • Appreciate that thinking routines can be used to encourage slow looking and deep learning.
Session 3

Session 3: Pair Up: Connecting Routines to your Curricular Goals

In Session 2, you tried out one thinking routine, See | Think | Wonder, with your colleagues, and made a plan to try it out with your students. In this session, you will follow through with your plan. Then you will begin to familiarize yourself with additional Visible Thinking resources and a procedure called Thinktrack for tracking your use of thinking routines. After that, you will work with a partner to try out two different routines yourselves, and to develop a plan for using at least one of these routines with your students in an upcoming lesson.

By the end of this session, you will:

  • Understand what it’s like to use a thinking routine with your students.
  • Familiarize yourself with Visible Thinking resources, especially the gallery of student work, the packet of core thinking routines, and the Thinktrack procedure for tracking your use of thinking routines.
  • Appreciate one piece of work in the gallery deeply, by looking at it closely.
  • Explore two new thinking routines by trying them out yourself with a partner.
Session 4

Session 4: Thinking Routines in Context: The Theory and Research Behind Thinking

In Session 3 you explored one thinking routine, Connect | Extend | Challenge more deeply in addition to looking at several other routines. In this session you will be introduced to research about thinking dispositions and continue to plan for thinking in your classroom with dispositions in mind. To aid you in your planning, you will try out THREE new thinking routines in this session (the first during Week 1 and two more during Week 2), so think ahead about your schedule and the opportunities to incorporate thinking routines.

By the end of this session, you will:

  • Learn about how the concept of thinking dispositions was developed through a long program of research at Project Zero.
  • Appreciate how 'sensitivity to thinking opportunity' is a key idea behind the Visible Thinking approach.
  • Understand how the Artful Thinking Palette offers one way of identifying thinking dispositions and the corresponding ‘sensitivities’ to cultivate in students.
Session 5

Session 5: Documentation: Making Learners' Thinking Visible

Session 4 focused on some of the research behind Visible Thinking, particularly the concept of thinking dispositions. In Session 5 you will continue to explore more thinking routines that support learners as they cultivate specific thinking dispositions. Additionally, this session will address the third theme of the course: documentation. You will continue to learn about how to make thinking visible while considering the forms of, and purposes for, documenting student learning. Finally, you will begin to develop a ‘VT Window,’ the final course project.

By the end of this session, you will:

  • Understand that a key part of Visible Thinking involves making students’ thinking visible by documenting their unfolding thought processes as they use thinking routines.
  • Explore one definition of documentation, “the practice of observing, recording, interpreting, and sharing through a variety of media the processes and products of learning in order to deepen and extend learning.”
  • Consider the various audiences, forms, and purposes for documentation.
Session 6

Session 6: Reflective Practice: Looking Closely at Student Thinking Together

Session 5 had a focus on documentation. In Session 6 you will continue to explore the power of documentation as you use a protocol to look at student thinking with your colleagues. Throughout the session, you will continue to use different thinking routines and determine what elements to include in your VT Window.

By the end of this session, you will:

  • Understand how protocols ensure that conversations stay focused on a particular goal – looking at student thinking.
  • Appreciate how evidence of understanding can often be found in looking at work associated with a thinking routine.
  • Trying to identify thinking in student work can be supported by ongoing practice with colleagues.
Session 7

Session 7: Looking Ahead and Reflecting Back

In Session 6 you had an opportunity to look at student work with your colleagues using a protocol. In this final session, you will have a chance to share and view the documentation you created in order to demonstrate your understanding of some aspect of the Visible Thinking Framework. Additionally, you will look ahead and plan to incorporate Visible Thinking strategies in the future, and look back to reflect on the throughlines of this course.

By the end of this session, you will:

  • Incorporating Visible Thinking into your practice is an ongoing endeavor that is enriched by time for teacher reflection and collaboration.
  • Understand that documentation can include teacher and student thinking and can take many forms.