When children enter the educational system, typically they go through some standard form of screening. It generally takes twenty minutes or less. The screening protocol usually looks at areas such as:

- Drawing and Copying – Hand preference, approach to task, comfort level and fine motor/grip.
- Remembering – Visual and auditory, remembering what is seen and heard.
- Building With Blocks – Perception, fine motor/dexterity and eye-hand coordination.
- Using Language – To describe and to reason.
- Coordinating Body Movements – Balancing, hopping and skipping.

Unless specific problems arise during the screening, it is assumed the child is ready to learn. After the kindergarten curriculum is covered, the child moves to the first grade and repeats this gradual yearly process until they have completed the twelfth grade. The one critical mistake in our educational system is that we never teach the students “how” to learn. We teach them “what” to learn. By teaching them “how” to learn, they will develop critical visual thinking skills. Students come without training in it, while teachers tend to take it for granted as an instinctive consequence of their teaching. Yet without critical visual thinking structurally integrated into instruction, learning may be temporary and perfunctory.

Critical visual thinking is the identification and evaluation of visual evidence, thinking in pictures, creating imagery in the mind’s eye and the ability to formulate that imagery into a visual language to guide decision-making. Critical visual thinking involves logical thinking and reasoning including skills such as comparison, classification, sequencing, cause/effect, patterning, webbing, analogies, deductive and inductive reasoning, forecasting, planning, hypothesizing, and critiquing. It involves creating something new or original. It involves the skills of flexibility, originality, fluency, elaboration, brainstorming, modification, imagery, associative thinking, attribute listing, metaphorical thinking, and forced relationships. The aim of critical visual thinking is to stimulate curiosity and promote divergence. It is divided into six psychological guidelines.

Guideline I: Lucidity – Students seek elaboration, examples and illustrations of meaning. “What can we do about global warming?” A critical visual thinker would deem this question unclear. An explicit alternative to the question would be, “What can humans do to establish individual goals and task forces to begin an immediate implementation of the mandated steps needed in the war against global warming?”

Guideline II: Veracity – Students question the truthfulness of the information and request paths to follow to personally check on its validity. “When it rains the sidewalks will get wet.” A critical visual thinker would initially regard this statement to be true by using inductive reasoning. They envision the last time it rained and see wet sidewalks. However, this guideline requires the addition of deductive reasoning. Visualize an awning built over the sidewalk since the last time it rained. Visualize two people standing side-by-side on the sidewalk, each holing a large umbrella.

Guideline III: Purpose – Students question the relevance of the information seeking to find a solid connection to the question at hand. “When two laborers work the same number of hours, they should receive the same amount of pay.” A critical visual thinking would question the relevance of the hours spent working and visualize the amount of productivity between the workers.

Guideline IV: Intensity – Students magnify the information for its complexities, while continuing to examine its relevance. “He’s a good guy.” A critical visual thinker would want the word “good” defined. The statement may be accurate, however it remains vague. Is he a good guy because he hasn’t broken the law? He is a good guy compared to whom? This guideline requires a deeper probe into the information.

Guideline V: Dimension – Students begin to shift focus to alternative viewpoints. “Democrats are more productive than Republicans.” Although this statement is concise, the critical visual thinker would not find it insightful and thereby look at all issues in both political parties that would make the statement true or false.

Guideline VI: - Coherence – Students track their thinking and create a visual flowchart ensuring that there is a definitive beginning, middle and end. The critical visual thinker would look for sensible sequence, thereby deeming the information logical. However, any trace of ambiguity or contradictions would illustrate the overall piece of information illogical.

The ideal critical visual thinker is always curious, well-informed, confident, flexible, virtuous in facing personal biases, sensible in making judgments, willing to reexamine, explicit about issues, orderly in complex matters, assiduous in seeking pertinent information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, inquisitive, and determined in seeking consequences which are as accurate as the subject and the conditions of inquiry permits.

An excerpt from "Visual Impact, Visual Teaching" - Timothy Gangwer
© 2009 Corwin Press

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