"A further criterion for meaningful
learning to have taken place is that, individuals must relate the new
knowledge to the relevant concepts and propositions that they already
Novak & Gowin, 1984
In How to Solve It
, a renowned book about problem solving,
George Polya (1945) recommends that if you are having difficulty
understanding a problem, try drawing a picture. This strategy is the essence of a Vee
. Gowin ( originally developed the Vee Heuristic to guide science
students in making explicit statements that he believed were essential to
constructing new knowledge about a concept. Heuristic are tools,
methods, or procedures that help people to recognize relationships
and through this process reach higher levels of understanding about
complex events, objects, or phenomena.
A Vee Diagram, named because of its shape, is a visual representation
of a complex phenomenon. The diagram promotes understanding between what
is observable or known and what needs to be understood. Using a Vee
begins with a focusing question and then develops along doing and
thinking pathways. Here is a description of the elements of
of a Vee Diagram:
- The focus question drives the overall investigation.
- Objects or events that occur are described at the point of the Vee.
- The right arm of the Vee is the doing side.
- Data and Records include all tables, graphs, and observations.
- Analysis is where sense is made of the data and records.
- Knowledge Claims describe an individual’s new understandings
that arise from completing the task.
- The thinking component of the Vee is on the left.
- Concepts are the main ideas that are embedded in the learning activity.
- Principles are concepts that are synthesized and transformed into
broader unifying statements.
IMPLEMENTING THIS ACTIVITY
Developing a level of comfort with constructing Vee Diagrams requires
practice and persistence. The best way for teachers to
introduce Vee Diagram is incrementally. For example, initially
students might only be required to complete the “doing” side
of the Vee and be given considerable latitude in grading of the
work. As facility using the diagram improves, students
can be asked to identify the main concepts and unifying principles
found on the “thinking” side.
The best way to develop a Vee Diagram is to begin with the events
at the point of the Vee followed by the focus or research question(s).
The reason for such a progression is that events help to determining
the focusing question. This is what eventually drives the
learning experience and the subsequent interactions between the
doing and thinking sides of the Vee.
Providing the following guiding questions can help students to
successfully use Vee Diagrams to generate new knowledge.
- What do I want to find out about?
- What methods or approaches did I use to investigate the topic
- What are the objects and/or events that I observed or measured?
- What data/record or transformations accurately represent
what I observed?
- What relevant concepts or principles were directly mentioned
- What new findings did I make that were not present at the
onset of the activity?
(Adapted from: Novak & Gowin, 1984, p. 73)
After implementing the activity and moving forward with your lesson, ask students
to write a brief commentary as to whether or not their answer to the original
prompt has changed.
CONTENT AREA APPLICATIONS
This procedure can be used in any discipline. Among the uses that have been
made of Vee Diagrams are:
To keep records of an event that was investigated.
- To plan and complete a research project.
- To analyze an article.
- To make sense from data generated during an investigation.
Concept: an abstract or general thought or idea about an object or event derived
from specific instances or occurrences.
Heuristic: a method, often visual, or set of rules that focuses one's attention
on solving some sort of problem.
Metacognition: thinking about the processes and approaches used in one's own
MANAGING THIS ACTIVITY
Circulate throughout the room to make sure each individual is contributing
equally to their pair’s discussion.
► Gowin, B. & Alvarez,
M. C. (2005). The art of educating with
V diagrams, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
► Mintzes, J.J., Wandersee, J.H., and Novak, J. (Eds.) (2000). Assessing science
understanding: A human constructivist view.
San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
► Novak; J. & Gowin, B. 1984. Learning
how to learn. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
► Polya, G. (1945). How to solve
it. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University