Visible Thinking

Visible Thinking is not a program; rather, it is a framework and philosophy for our teachers and staff to use when creating inquiry-based learning opportunities that engage students in higher-level thinking skills.

Visible Thinking:

Student With Lightbulb - Visible Thinking at Michigan's Bloomfield Hills Schools
  • Focuses on the individual student as well as the collective thinking and collaboration of the entire class.
  • Allows for natural differentiation by following students' interests throughout units of study.
  • Concentrates on teaching for understanding, rather than for the sake of memorizing and repeating, so that knowledge can be applied to scenarios outside of the classroom.
  • Requires active participation by all students and invites our learners' curiosities to help drive instruction.
  • Provides teachers with a tangible view of students' thinking. Misconceptions, prior knowledge, reasoning ability, and degrees of understanding are more likely to be uncovered.

Why Visible Thinking

While the state of Michigan controls the curriculum for all public schools, we control something much more important: our educational approach. Way Elementary and Eastover Elementary are highly progressive schools, from the teachers to the materials. After a great amount of research on what makes best practice in teaching, Way and Eastover Elementaries chose to implement the instructional initiative generated by Harvard University's Project Zero research team, known as Visible Thinking.

What Visible Thinking Looks Like in the Classroom

The pacing and delivery of lessons in the classroom looks different than in most schools. At Way Elementary and Eastover Elementary, time is purposely provided for deeper thinking and understanding.

Our teachers model strategies and share their own thinking right along with their students. Opportunities created in the classroom are intentional and connect to a year-long story of learning. Bulletin boards and walls throughout the room are filled with students' thoughts and questions. Classroom conversations promote rich dialogue and provide avenues for reflecting and making connections while strengthening respectful and collaborative relationships.

Picture of Practice

Thinking routines are the tools our teachers use to unearth each child's thoughts and interests with subject matter. There are over forty thinking routines that are used at all grade levels and across all areas of curriculum. Example of a Student Practicing Visible Thinking


"I already knew that lightning is static electricity. I also knew that electrons surround an atom."
The purposes of the connect component of this

thinking routine are to:
  • activate prior knowledge
  • inform the teacher
  • engage the learner
  • establish common ground from which to grow

"I didn't know that air is an insulator. I also didn't know that acid is a conductor."
The purpose of the extend component of this thinking routine is to: uncover evidence of new understandings, and for the teacher to look for extensions of learning as well as misconceptions or inaccuracies in their thinking.


"I wonder how nuclear energy produces electricity. In turbine engines, I wonder why they show the water tube higher than the steam tube?"
The purpose of the challenge component of this thinking routine is to uncover new questions and new puzzles that our learners might want to further investigate and explore. One of our goals is for students to help shape questions that might take a lifetime to investigate.


How does VT provide my child with life skills?

As we move into the conceptual age, no one can predict the job market of tomorrow. Therefore, our concentration is to provide students with a foundation in considering viewpoints, describing in detail what is there, reasoning with evidence, building explanations, making connections, forming conclusions, generating thoughtful questions, and uncovering complexities. These skills will serve them well in the future.

How will my student transition to an IB middle school?

The short answer is . . . with ease. The similarities between the two initiatives are many. Both promote global perspective, are inquiry-based, and learning is connected as opposed to isolated in nature.

Besides Bloomfield Schools where else is Visible Thinking being implemented?

Visible Thinking is a global phenomena, found on six continents.

Where can I learn more about VT?

Visit Harvard University's Visible Thinking website at

Way Principal
Adam Scher

Eastover Principal
Carey Crocker

Contact Us

Visible Thinking - Way Elementary
Adam Scher

Visible Thinking - Eastover Elementary
Carey Crocker