As a VTS Trainer working with classroom teachers, one of the questions I frequently encounter is how to leverage the kinds of critical thinking that VTS supports into other subject areas. How might VTS support mathematical thinking, for instance? While this question comes up at nearly every grade level, it seems especially true in secondary and post-secondary education as subjects become increasingly differentiated. In this edition of Site Specific, Jessica Hunter-Larsen gives concrete examples of how VTS can be used to support critical thinking in higher education as well as the research-based, theoretical underpinnings for how it supports student’s social-emotional needs, especially in regard to risk-taking. For Hunter-Larsen, VTS’s “prolonged states of not-knowing” give students ample opportunity to become comfortable with both ambiguity and creative problem solving. Hunter-Larsen describes the positive effects on individual students, but also on classroom culture as a whole. For to facilitate well, teachers and students both must be able to lean into their discomfort, take risks, and be vulnerable with one another. One thing worth underlining is that, in this essay, VTS is but one part of the equation: establishing and maintaining a healthy classroom culture supportive of student’s emotional needs, especially when dealing with potentially traumatic materials, is also essential. With care, humility, and trust, students and teachers can help one another to take creative, intellectual risks in a supportive environment. –Madison Brookshire
Special thanks to Kris Grey, peer reviewer for this edition; Kabir Singh, co-editor; Dr. Jim Ninomiya for permission to use his family’s photograph; and Sonja Sekely-Rowland for her research and support.
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