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The Humanities Conference 2003

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“Visual Thinking Strategies: Teaching Tolerance through Multiple Perspectives”

Hilary Landorf.

One of the greatest challenges for educators is to guide children towards tolerance of others. Tolerance means more than letting go of egocentrism – it requires that children recognize the “other” as different from themselves, that they accept that others see the world differently than they do, and that they recognize that different points of view are as valid as one’s own. Housen and Yenawine (2000) have developed a structured method of learning to think and communicate through art called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). Through extensive research, they have shown that, by systematically using VTS, children can recognize and talk about perspective in a painting by the fourth grade.

In my research, I use Visual Thinking Strategies as the basis for guiding students towards tolerance, through an understanding of multiple perspectives in social studies. Children first observe and discuss two paintings – one from the Middle Ages, in which the artist makes little use of perspective, and one from the Renaissance, in which the artist uses perspective extensively. Once children master the art of observing perspective in a painting, they are guided to examine an accepted historical narrative, such as Christopher Columbus’ first journey to America, through multiple perspectives. They do this by first reading different books about Christopher Columbus. Then, like historians, the children find clues about the past and paste these clues together to create the most likely story about what happened. In this hands-on process, children discover that all points of view are not the same, that historical knowledge can be constructed from many perspectives, and that to truly understand the world, part of this process involves putting themselves in the place of the other.


Hilary Landorf  (United States)
Assistant Professor in Global Studies
Department Of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education
Florida International University

  • Visual Literacy
  • Multiple Perspectives
  • Social Studies

(Virtual Presentation, English)