The Improved Vee Heuristic

What is it?

An action research framework for planning, implementing and evaluating a course of action with the aim of improving a situation.

Background to development

The Vee heuristic in its basic form was developed by Gowin (e.g. Novak and Gowin 1984) and has been strongly improved by Åhlberg (1993, 1996, 1997a and 1997b).

In educational situations, both students and tutors are able to use Vee heuristics (Åhlberg and Ahoranta 1999a and 1999b, Alvarez and Risko 1987). Tutors can get useful knowledge about their student’s thinking and values and thus the Vee heuristic can be used to improve their teaching and help them better understand and help their students. Students’ metacognition clearly improves with use of the improved Vee heuristic (Åhlberg and Ahoranta 1999a and 1999b).

How it is used

An example of an improved Vee heuristic is given below. It contains ten theoretically justified steps to high quality learning and thinking. Working through a process like this is a hard job, and at first people often resist it. But after having done it they almost without exception think that it improves their learning and thinking.

The Improved Vee Heuristic

The improved Vee heuristic contains three basic phases of action research and three basic stages of continual quality improvement: planning, implementation and evaluation. The form of the Vee reminds us that we construct knowledge only by making an accurate question and trying to answer it. In order to construct relevant, deep knowledge of anything of importance, it is necessary to follow all ten steps. The left side of a Vee heuristic should be completed before a learning project and the right side after the project. Issues about values and thinking will be revealed that can subsequently form the basis of student-tutor or group discussion.

An example of use

The Vee heuristic below was produced by Vuokko Ahoranta, Principal of Kangaskylä School in Finland, following professional development work on education for sustainability. She asked what she had learnt from the professional development and how it could be applied to her school and her teaching.

Improved Vee Heuristic Example

Software counterpart

There is now software counterpart, but facilities in Microsoft Word may be sued to generate Vee heuristics.


Å hlberg, M. 1993. Concept maps, Vee diagrams and Rhetorical Argumentation Analysis (RAA): Three educational theory based tools to facilitate meaningful learning, in Novak, J. & Abrams, R. (eds.) Proceedings of the Third International Seminar on Misconceptions and Educational Strategies in Science and Mathematics. Cornell University, Published Electronically.

Åhlberg, M. 1996. Tutor-researchers ought to construct her/his own theory and to test it in practice (in Finnish), pp. 91-106 in Ojanen, S. (ed.) Tutkiva opettaja. University of Helsinki, Lahti Research and Further Education Centre.

Åhlberg, M. 1997a. Improvement of environmental education as a tool for high quality lifelong learning, pp. 135-148 in Leal Filho (ed.). Lifelong Learning and Environmental Education. Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang.

Åhlberg, M. 1997b. Continual quality improvement as high quality learning (in Finnish). University of Joensuu, Research Reports of the Faculty of Education. No. 68.

Åhlberg, M. & Ahoranta, V. 1999a. Improved qualitative ways to monitor and promote high quality learning. Paper presented at the 8th European Conference for Research in Learning and Instruction, Göteborg, Sweden.

Åhlberg, M. & Ahoranta, V. 1999b. A theory of high quality learning and two quality tools to constructively evaluate and promote it. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, Lahti, Finland.

Alvarez, M. & Risko, V. 1987. Using Vee diagrams to clarify third-grade student’s misconceptions during a science experiment. Proceedings of the Second International Seminar on Misconceptions and Educational Strategies in Science and Mathematics, Cornell University, NY, USA, 6-14.

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