Museum director Linda Duke led a Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) workshop at the EPSCoR Annual Wheat Symposium on May 30, 2019. Held at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, the symposium brought together the lead collaborators in a special research project. Funded by a $4 million dollar NSF grant, the project aims to boost crop yields and improve in-field management with the help of science and technology. The multidisciplinary, multi-institution research team is being led by Stephen Welch, professor of agronomy at K-State, in partnership with Phillip Alderman from OSU and Franklin Fondjo-Fotou of Langston University. Welch approached Duke about being a co-Principal Investigator on the venture and contributing VTS workshops to the grant’s Workforce Development activities, especially aimed at graduate students on the project. Her experience with using VTS in higher education settings is being tapped to help build participants’ skills in observation, evidence-based reasoning, and communication.
The VTS approach involves group discussions of carefully chosen images. Led by a facilitator, the group poses and considers varied theories and interpretations. This dialogue encourages brainstorming and team-building and produces valuable insights applicable to many fields. Symposium participants from all three universities had positive things to say about the experience. Visual Thinking Strategies will be an ongoing part of the NSF project as contributors strive to develop meaningful ways to communicate what they see and understand.