Vee Diagram

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The Vee Diagram has been used in classrooms for over thirty years, with much success. It is best used with complex topics, multi-layered concepts, or problems that need to be broken down into component parts. Once the teacher learns to use this approach effectively and students become adept at it, it can be quite powerful. One reason it is quite powerful is that it uses an organized, structured approach to engage students meaningfully at the analysis and synthesis levels of Bloom's taxonomy.

With a Vee Diagram students can illustrate the connections between class discussions and lab activities, plan their open-ended inquiry projects, review research articles, and create lab report presentations. The resulting diagram depicts in a visual and meaningful way, the essential features involved in the construction of new knowledge.

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 Diagram. Gowin (1981) originally developed the Vee Diagram approach to guide science students in making explicit statements that he believed were essential to constructing new knowledge about a concept.

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 Diagram begins with a focusing question and then develops along doing and thinking pathways. Here is a description of the elements of our simplified version 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.



Developing a level of comfort with constructing Vee Diagrams requires practice and persistence. You will want to start by accessing the Internet links provided here and reading about it. Or conduct a web search. There is plenty of information on the Internet about its use.

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 or question?
  • 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 or implied?
  • What new findings did I make that were not present at the onset of the activity?

(Adapted from: Novak & Gowin, 1984, p. 73)

Classroom Management

Circulate throughout the room to make sure each individual is contributing equally to their pair’s discussion.


Interdisciplinary Connections

This procedure can be used in any discipline. Uses that have been made of Vee Diagrams include:

  • 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 or lab.

The Vee, though apropos for science and mathematics, is sufficiently versatile to be utilized in other disciplines, too, especially when doing so involves the manipulation of mathematical or empirical data.

  • In Art, students could discuss the differences and similarities, regarding hues, of either a painter’s works or between/ amongst various painters’ works.
  • In English, they could address the following topics: T-units, meter, and grammar.
  • In History, the Great Depression and WWII would be ideal topics.
  • In Psychology, for instance, students could use the Vee when dealing with brain research or drug addiction.
  • In Sociology, census data and surveys would be most applicable.
  • In Music, students could study the differences and similarities, regarding musical notes or patterns, of either a composer’s works or between/ amongst various composers’ works.



The Vee Diagram’s versatility also extends to yet another critical dimension: namely, educational level. Students enrolled in grades 7-16 are cognitively able to capitalize on the Vee’s intrinsic learning attributes, relative to, and proportionate to, their respective educational level.



  • It should be noted that the Vee Diagram is intrinsically suited for simultaneously incorporating collaborative problem solving, reading, and writing in the classroom. More specifically, students must read their traditional core text material, supplementary material, and electronic print in order to commence applying the strategy, itself.
  • Generally, students are able to write their research paper after having addressed all components of the Vee. The ability to evaluate research articles, in addition, is an integral component in the process of preparing minds for handling information at higher levels of complexity, especially in the 21st century.
  • Students can also be assigned to read, analyze, and critique research articles germane to the topic or chapter under discussion. In doing so, they are trained to use the Vee’s components to skillfully identify, analyze, and critique the various elements that should have been addressed by the article’s author(s).



Although the Vee Diagram has been applied primarily with students, it is also extremely useful for teachers as a pedagogical tool to hone their professional skills relative to the conveyance of information in the classroom for purposes of facilitating and increasing students’ comprehension and retention—the two foci of learning.

as a pedagogical tool to hone their professional skills relative to the conveyance of information in the classroom for purposes of facilitating and increasing students’ comprehension and retention—the two foci of learning.


Preparation time: 95 / Delivery time: 45

PDF icon Vee Diagram722.71 KB



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"

Polya, G. (1945) "How to solve it. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press"

Novak; J. & Gowin, B. 1984 "Learning how to learn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press"