Steve Paget explains how logovisual thinking (LVT) can stimulate higher-order thinking

Logovisual thinking (LVT) is a method that  stimulates high quality thinking and talking.

Visibly expressing our understanding
Logovisual thinking (LVT) makes meaning by exploring connections and revealing patterns – looking for similarities and differences, establishing causes and effects and so on. If the constituent parts – information, problems or ideas – are made visible and movable, we increase our capacity to make sense from them. Visibly expressing our understanding helps us to review and refine it through discussion with others. The five stages of logovisual thinking, stimulate the process:

  • Focus: selecting an area of study or a guiding question.
  • Gather: generating the raw material and making it visible.
  • Organise: experimenting with, and forming, the sense that can be made from the material.
  • Understand: articulating the insights revealed.
  • Apply: transferring the sense derived to the intended outcome, whether it be through writing a text, organising an event or making a decision.

The process of gathering, organising and reorganising ideas can be achieved in a variety of ways: sticky notes can be used on a tabletop or on a large sheet of paper. On the other hand a more attractive, tactile and reusable system called ‘MagNotes’ is available for sale. This includes sets of magnetic dry-wipeable notes and portable magnetic whiteboards (Magboards). The hexagon-shaped notes facilitate the clustering of ideas and the whiteboards allow for titles, arrows and notes to be written and refined, and for small groups to cross-present their thinking.

Teaching and learning styles
We are familiar with the cognitive learning domains from Bloom’s taxonomy; we are only too familiar with the difficulty that frequently attends our efforts to move our pupils from the basement of recall, through the ground floor of comprehension and application into the penthouse of analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

Each stage of LVT corresponds to what Adey and Shayer call the cognitive intervention model (CIM) of teaching (Really Raising Standards, 1994), and the achievement of higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) in our pupils.

We know that organised thinking is the most effective thinking and leads to successful learning; LVT provides the pupils with the opportunity to see what thinking looks like and what it sounds like; this feeds directly into the principles of assessment for learning. We know that if we use visual tools to help learners to become organised thinkers, the attainment of the learners is raised.

LVT in the classroom
My arrival at the school caused a stir. I had: one leopard gecko, two fire-bellied toads, and two rather anti-social baboon spiders. We were the guests of the English department and these creatures were the stimulus for a discussion about the issues surrounding the keeping of exotic animals as pets. I wanted to see how quality thinking could be generated leading into, and coming out of, quality talk and then on to effective planning and writing; all this with a G&T group of 15 boys and girls.

Constructive talk
Central to thinking is the opportunity to talk in a constructive and creative way. Give pupils the opportunity to make their own meanings and their own sense through talk. Where we generate talk, we generate thinking. Just as you cannot be a writer without being a reader, you cannot be either without being a thinker. LVT shows pupils the relationship between thinking, talking and crafting the desired outcome.

Creative articulation
The open-ended nature of LVT demands and supports a high degree of creativity. It makes linguistic demands on pupils that are translated into a deeper understanding of the topic and a clearer expression of this understanding, both spoken and written.

Collaborative meaning-making
What gives LVT the edge is the support given in the meaning-making journey.

In the lesson mentioned above, pupils were asked to think about issues that they may not have considered; they were deliberately taken out of their comfort zone – and their assumptions about the responsibility of keeping pets were challenged. LVT enabled them to see that their ideas were valid and could be added to those of their colleagues to make more sense and create a greater depth of meaning, moving them on into higher-order thinking and helping them to see new relationships.

Social skills
Each LVT stage is distinct and presents a different cognitive challenge to the pupils, appealing to different learning styles. This creates a dynamic that fosters mutual appreciation and support, and a safe environment in which to develop leadership skills. The inherent reliance on talk and the cross-presentation of small group work promotes speaking, listening and presentation skills.

Visible thinking
LVT provides pupils with a visual medium in which all this can happen. This draws them in because it is inherently interesting and stimulating, attractive and tactile. It supports the cognitive process by providing a mirror on what is evolving in the collective mind. It also allows the teacher/observer to assess the flexibility and sophistication of the pupils’ thinking, vital to future lesson planning.

Planning as learning
The desired end product was a piece of non-fiction writing from each pupil. This demonstrated the effect of LVT on the pupils’ understanding and thoughts as well as the way they were able to plan their responses more effectively. Teachers know how critical planning is and also how difficult it is to make pupils share this view. Here, where the pupils make their own plan and don’t have one imposed, they not only create coherent plans but, having ownership of them, they use them.

Cross-curricular application
When using LVT, I deliberately take topics that have a cross-curricular angle. I feel that this is important for two reasons:

  • The flexibility of LVT becomes apparent to the teacher and they see how they can apply, adapt or extend the process in relation to their subject and desired learning objectives.
  • It demonstrates to the pupils that thinking and learning transcend subject boundaries.

Further information

  • Adey and Shayer (1994), Really Raising Standards, Routledge, London
  • Best, B (2004), ‘What can able students tell us about improving their lessons?’ G&T Update 20, p3-5

Case study: Prescot School

Prescot School, Specialist Language College (MFL) is an 11-16 mixed comprehensive school in Prescot, Merseyside, in the Knowsley metropolitan borough. There are approximately 900 pupils on roll. The strength of the organisation and provision for G&T pupils in Prescot School is characterised by the energy and commitment of John Rowlands, who coordinates provision for the strand and has a very active system for monitoring the week-by-week progress of each member of the cohort. The school has taken on the challenges of the Excellence in Cities initiative for the greater enhancement of the pupils’ learning experience and the broader success of the school.

Events and activities designed to provide stimulation and set challenges are incorporated into the school’s life. In Year 7, pupils have opportunities such as a Young Leaders course, and an Australian Link Project in six-week blocks. Fast-track French is taught by the director of languages to a cohort of pupils that have been pre-identified by their primary schools.

Within the usual matrix of visitors into school – actors, writers, journalists, theatre companies and the like – there are opportunities for pupils to take part in initiatives such as masterclasses, GetSET and BetSET, and the Eurotech Space programme, Edge Hill University’s Space Camp, and Stock Market Challenge. Twenty-one pupils are members of NAGTY. Early entry for GCSE allows space in Year 11 for a weekly enrichment day. One of the key components of this is the A/S critical thinking course.

All pupils are helped to find out their preferred learning style and are printed on the front of the pupils’ books. A glance across departments shows that a variety of techniques are used to actively promote the development of higher-order thinking skills. Many teachers use mind-mapping techniques. Teachers in the music and drama areas are enthusiastic about the use of brain gyms especially those exercises that show the contrast between the left and right sides of the brain; spidergrams are used widely as a planning aid and the English department has boards that are used for groups or individuals to plan visually.

Using LVT to study Jane Eyre
During my visit to the English department, I worked with some Year 10 pupils on issues surrounding the social and historical context of Jane Eyre using LVT.

We used a variation of Edward de Bono’s ‘Think-Links’ cards. Here, sets of cards are made, one for each group of between three and five pupils. I call these ‘LitLinks’ and on each card (there are 40), is a word, a phrase, a quotation from the text, the name of a character, an idea. Pupils take turns to pick up two cards and explain the link between them to their colleagues. This helps to emphasise that there are frequently a variety of links that can be made with each card.

We moved onto a discussion about what was meant by higher-order thinking and what the relationship was between this and the higher grades at GCSE. Our two-hour session showed how the pupils benefited from the liberating and democratic effects of LVT on their thoughts, level of discussion and cooperation. The key question was ‘How does Charlotte Brontë show the hardships of life at Lowood?’ The outcome was a plan for a written piece that was to be worked up into a GCSE assignment.

Steve Padget is a freelance English teacher with wide experience as head of department, adviser, teacher trainer and in-service course leader. He has spent the past three years working in partnership with schools to develop the uses of LVT with G&T pupils in Liverpool and the North West, as an accredited LVT practitioner.