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How Visual Thinking Strategies can support graduates to thrive in ambiguous situations and future careers

Thursday 4 July: Conference day two, 2:15pm – 3:45pm parallel mini-workshop



Room 7 – 301-G053 Med Chem



Dr Trudi Aspden
School of Pharmacy, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Lynne Petersen
School of Pharmacy, University of Auckland, New Zealand



To thrive and achieve success, future tertiary graduates require a range of transferrable capabilities. The challenge for educators is how to meaningfully achieve this within crowded curricula. Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS)1 is a method we have been using in our programme to assist with developing some of these capabilities. This workshop will be experiential and interactive and will explore the affordances of VTS for facilitating well-being and success in future graduates, learning in different places and spaces, and other subtheme topics.


Target audience

We invite and seek to enthuse teachers, teaching fellows, academic and professional staff involved in front-line teaching as well as those involved in content and curriculum design and development. This session should appeal to anyone who is involved in the alignment of curriculum and learner achievement to future-focused graduate outcomes as well as for those looking for ‘outside the box’ teaching methods.


Intended outcomes for participants

Attendees will:

  • Receive an overview of the VTS method and the rational for its use to support development of graduates who can adapt and thrive in rapidly changing future environments.
  • Experience two facilitated VTS sessions including debrief opportunities.
  • Explore notions of learning places and spaces including consideration of where and how learning occurs in tertiary settings based on students’ feedback about their learning.
  • Discuss and debate the importance, advantages and challenges of creating learning opportunities that balance structure with uncertainty within tightly prescribed curricula.


Outline of activities

The workshop will be highly interactive. Attendees will:

  • Learn about the origins and method of VTS.
  • Hear about our teachers’ and students’ experiences of using VTS in our undergraduate pharmacy programme.
  • Experience two VTS image analysis sessions and debriefs.
  • Participate in a facilitated discussion about challenges and opportunities of applying VTS in tertiary education.


Students – Future Graduates

Success in globalised and transformed future roles will require graduates with a range of transferrable capabilities including communication, collaboration and leadership, and attitudes such as an appreciation of uncertainty and valuing diversity.  Crowded, highly structured curricula make these attributes challenging to nurture and develop in students.

Since 2016 we have been using art and Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) within some first year Bachelor of Pharmacy tutorials to support the development of transferrable capabilities, including those mentioned above 2.

During VTS sessions a facilitator poses structured questions about a carefully selected image and learners work collaboratively to consider multiple possibilities and build meanings about the image.

Our workshop will outline the rationale for incorporating VTS into our refreshed programme, and students’ perceptions of competencies gained through this method. Our cross-sectional study indicates that the majority of participating students perceived improvements in their active listening skills and tolerance of uncertainty. They also described other benefits that will be discussed in the workshop. 

Participants will experience two VTS sessions and debrief on the method to explore how such innovative methods may become essential components of all undergraduate curricula to ensure future graduates can navigate in ambiguous times to achieve success. 



Housen A. The eye of the beholder: Measuring aesthetic development; 1983.
Yenawine P. Visual Thinking Strategies: Using art to deepen learning across school disciplines. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Education Press; 2013.


Presentation topic

Mini-workshop 11

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