Why Make Thinking Visible

The central idea of Visible Thinking is very simple: making thinking visible.

We learn best what we can see and hear ("visible thinking" means generally available to the senses, not just what you can see with your eyes). We watch, we listen, we imitate, we adapt what we find to our own styles and interests, we build from there. Now imagine learning to dance when the dancers around you are all invisible. Imagine learning a sport when the players who already know the game can't be seen.

Strange as it seems, something close to it happens all the time in one very important area of learning: learning to think, which includes learning to learn. Thinking is pretty much invisible. To be sure, sometimes people explain the thoughts behind a particular conclusion, but often they do not. Mostly, thinking happens under the hood, within the marvelous engine of our mind-brain.

Visible Thinking includes a number of ways of making students' thinking visible to themselves, to their peers, and to the teacher, so they get more engaged by it and come to manage it better for learning and other purposes.

When thinking is visible in classrooms, students are in a position to be more metacognitive, to think about their thinking. When thinking is visible, it becomes clear that school is not about memorizing content but exploring ideas. Teachers benefit when they can see students' thinking because misconceptions, prior knowledge, reasoning ability, and degrees of understanding are more likely to be uncovered. Teachers can then address these challenges and extend students' thinking by starting from where they are.