Harvard Graduate School of Education | Project Zero

Visible Thinking

For more information, please see the Visible Thinking website.

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. As the name suggests, the basic strategy is to make thinking visible in the context of learning.

One reason sophisticated thinking develops slowly is that thinking happens inside the head: Children do not readily 'see' their own cognitive moves, and most classroom practices do not engage students in substantive thinking around content very much at all, and certainly not in ways that make it visible across the classroom. Visible Thinking makes thinking an explicit and overt part of classroom discourse in a natural manageable way, setting the stage for internalization of powerful practices of thinking and learning. Visible Thinking is a systematic research-based approach to integrating the development of students' thinking with content learning across the subject matters. An extensive and adaptable collection of practices, Visible Thinking has a double goal: on the one hand, to deepen subject-matter learning and on the other to cultivate students' disposition toward thinking.

Visible Thinking includes a large number of classroom routines, easily and flexibly integrated with content learning, and representing areas of thinking such as understanding, truth and evidence, fairness and moral reasoning, creativity, self-management, and decision making. It also provides tools for integrating the arts with subject-matter content. Finally, it includes a practical framework for how to create "cultures of thinking" in individual classrooms and within an entire school. We have held two world-wide conference on Visible Thinking for schools who have joined us in our ongoing research efforts.

The following research projects all use the idea of Visible Thinking as an overarching construct in their work:

    Innovating with Intelligence
    Artful Thinking
    Cultures of Thinking
    Ongoing collaborations with members of the International Schools Consortium