Critical Viewing and why it is critical…

When I read the National Core Arts Standards I realized how important critical viewing is: as consumers, problem solvers, and creators. Critical viewing is looking at something as it is (what it is made of and why it was made), what it could be (how it can inform one’s work), and the context that surrounds it (what influenced the work). Noticing these elements empowers us all. Gives us the understanding to dig deeper, ask questions, consider each piece and it’s function, make improvements, dismantle, tinker, and even explore the artifact outside of its context.

Maybe this is why it comes up time and time again across learning standards.


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.


ISTE Student Standards:

3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.

3c: Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.


Mathematical Practice 7. Look for and make use of structure.


National Core Art Anchor Standard #7. Perceive and analyze artistic work.

National Core Art Anchor Standard #8. Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

Observing systems thinking empowers students by allowing them to examine systems at work, observing patterns across systems, and perhaps even generalizing these patterns to their own work. When students understand the structures that exist underneath technologies, social systems, and artifacts that they encounter daily, they can use the structure to create models and organize their own work within these systems. It also allows students to become more attuned to design choices that exist by comparing different systems or artifacts.

Critical viewing encourages students to ask questions, synthesize information, and brainstorm. Students learn to ask questions like, “What other places have I seen this type of system and how can that inform my work?”, “What are the critical components of this system?”, “What variations did I observe during my investigations?”, “Why might one variation work better in this circumstance than another?”.

Synthesis of information occurs when students begin to understand and model how each part fits together to meet the overall function of the design. Even further, students can notice patterns across systems and use that information to synthesize what is most important, and abandon extraneous information or elements.

Students may also begin using critical viewing to make a plan of how a personal project might be implemented. Students can use other systems to list materials, brainstorm component parts, and plan steps toward creation. This planning through critical viewing leads directly to innovation and creation.

Critical viewing also enables one to look at the context, and consider constraints, empathize, and articulate a need or problem. Critical viewing essentially creates a foundation that supports creation and innovation.