Visual Thinking Strategies in Medical Education – Benefits for Teachers

Maher, Bridget, Bennett, Deirdre, McCarthy, Nora, Ryan, Anthony, Duggan, Eileen and O'Flynn, Siun (2014) Visual Thinking Strategies in Medical Education – Benefits for Teachers. In: Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE), Excellence in Education - the 21st Century Teacher, 30 August - 3 September 2014, Milan, Italy.


Background : Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is a teaching method based on highly-structured discussions of visual art of increasing complexity. VTS is thought to enhance critical thinking and observation skills and to help students understand ambiguity and difference of opinion. University College Cork (UCC) is the first European University to introduce VTS into the healthcare curriculum (across all disciplines). There has been no research into the benefits of VTS facilitation for the VTS teachers themselves. Summary of Work: The aim of this study was to identify potential benefits of VTS facilitation for teachers. Faculty from all healthcare disciplines facilitated a six-week VTS programme for medical students. Teachers’ opinions and attitudes were assessed using semi-structured interviews and written response analysis. Summary of Results: VTS provided a unique opportunity to teach across all disciplines and to observe group dynamics. Key themes included potential benefits of VTS for facilitators’ listening, observation, and facilitation skills. Facilitators enjoyed teaching VTS and found that medical students engaged well with VTS. VTS fostered conversation among students from different cultural Background s. Discussion and Conclusions: VTS has potential benefits for VTS teachers including development of skills in attentive listening, focused observation, expert facilitation and managing group dynamics. Take-home messages: In addition to benefits for students, VTS may also have important benefits for teachers.

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