P4C in Primary Schools


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P4C in Primary Schools

  1. 1. Introduction  to  P4C  with  Young  Children   Introduction to P4C with Young C hildren Dialogue, inquiry, philosophy The basics of Philosophy for Children are straightforward. Children share some reading, listening or viewing with their teacher. The children take some thinking time to devise their own questions. They choose a question that interests them and, with the teacher's help, discuss it together. The teacher is concerned with getting children to welcome the diversity of each others' initial views and to use those as the start of a process of that involves the children developing opinions with supporting reasons, analysing significant concepts and generally applying the best reasoning and judgement they are capable of to the question they have chosen. In the longer term, the teacher aims to build the children's skills and concepts through appropriate follow-up activities, thinking games and the orchestration of connections between philosophical discussions, life and the rest of the nursery/school curriculum. T he Community of Inquiry A central concept of Philosophy for C may be defined as a reflective approach to classroom discussion built up over time with a single group of learners. -operation, care, r understanding, meaning, truth and values supported by reasons. As a community of inquiry develops over time, the children's questions get deeper and more thoughtful. Their discussions are disciplined and focused, yet, at the same time imaginative. They care about what others say but don't accept easy answers. A community of inquiry combines critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinking. A brief history of Philosophy for C hildren Philosophy for Children, or P4C for short, was the title Professor Matthew Lipman gave to his project of using the discipline of philosophy as resource to help children become more intellectually energetic, curious, critical, creative and reasonable. He conceived the project in the late sixties when he was teaching philosophy at Columbia University, New York. It was a time of social conflict when reasonableness in all senses of the word seemed in short supply. At that time, there was a growing interest in education programmes to develop 'thinking skills' and a feeling that people ought to be able to 'think for themselves' in the face of competing values, authorities and 'solutions'. Educationalists, then as now, were concerned that schools were making pupils into passive learners who expected to be told what to think. They feared that the school system was providing poor preparation for further learning and for life itself. W hy philosophy? A crucial question is: 'Why was Lipman so convinced that philosophy was, potentially, such a rich resource for education and for self-sustainable thinking and learning?' Here, in summary are the kinds of responses he has given in books and articles. Page  |  1     Copyright:  p4c.com    
  2. 2. Introduction  to  P4C  with  Young  Children   If teachers want to teach 'thinking skills', then why start from scratch with a couple of days spent brainstorming a curriculum or buying a package from one of the many educational entrepreneurs? Why not start with a discipline, philosophy, that has been developed over centuries and in which questioning and critical thinking are central concerns? Philosophers have developed tools of logic and argument that are necessary for critical thinking. Philosophy promotes questioning, open mindedness, clarity in language and precision in thinking. Philosophy provides a means to explore and link the conceptual foundations and assumptions of all subjects. Philosophy enables thinking about the relationships between facts and values; means and ends. It sets learning in the context of experience as a whole and against a horizon of questions that matter -- questions about central human concerns such as fairness, justice, truth, freedom, responsibility, right and wrong. Philosophy has developed the practice of dialogue as a method of inquiry that sharpens thinking and social skills, draws on diverse perspectives, and makes individual thinking accountable to a community of peers. C hildren's capabilities Lipman also had a strong conviction that children were not only capable of talking about matters of significance but also that they were naturally disposed to question and wonder. They were hungry for nourishing intellectual food. While serving in France during World War 2, he noticed 'greater intellectual camaraderie' between adults and children in sharing and discussing literature through 'thoughtful dialogue'. He decided to devote himself to making the resources of philosophy accessible to children through thoughtful dialogue stimulated by the sharing of literature. He was inspired by writers of dialogues such as Plato and Diderot (and by the 'Charlie Brown' cartoons) to create philosophical dialogues (Lipman calls them novels) in which reasoning, questioning and conceptual exploration were revealed to be important in the lives of a group of pupils, friends and teachers. His first philosophical novel for was completed in 1969. Others followed and today the IAPC has a collection of novels and manuals catering for pupils aged from 4-16 years. Support for teachers Lipman realised that teachers and philosophers who were to discuss the novels with children needed some induction into the aims of the project, the connections with the discipline of philosophy and the means by which adults and children would be able to have thoughtful dialogues together. Influenced by the American pragmatist philosophers Pierce and Dewey, he envisaged the 'Community of Inquiry' a caring yet critical and creative group of collaborators in dialogue. Together, in their community of inquiry, adults and children would raise questions and carefully examine suggestions for answers. As the Lipman curriculum was put into practice and evaluated, it became clear that it was a significant educational intervention. Controlled studies showed that it had a positive impact on young people's reading and reasoning skills, and on their interpersonal relationships. Not surprisingly, therefore, Page  |  2     Copyright:  p4c.com    
  3. 3. Introduction  to  P4C  with  Young  Children   early on, the IAPC welcomed teachers and philosophy professors from around the world to its courses and workshops, and began offering workshops beyond the USA. The IAPC curriculum was translated and adapted, culturally, in scores of countries and is now a practice of thoughtful dialogue in over 60 countries. W idening the range of materials As the value of philosophical thinking in communities of inquiry became apparent and a wider range of people started to experiment with the approach, some found that other materials, apart from Lipman's original novels, were also effective at stimulating children's interest in philosophical problems and concepts. For example, almost simultaneously in the late eighties, Karin Murris in the UK and Tim Sprod in Australia produced materials (and arguments) that supported the use of picture books to this end. Also in Australia, Philip Cam edited a series of books called 'Thinking Stories', including purpose-written materials from several countries. Indeed, educators in many countries have tried to develop curriculum materials to suit their own national cultures, or at least educational systems. These range from Per Jespersen, who has built on the tradition of story-telling in Denmark, to Catherine McCall, who prefers a particular approach, partly inspired by Scottish Enlightenment thinking, that she characterises as PI (Philosophical Inquiry). Other remarkable projects in Europe have been based on art and museum visits, and on the theme of ecology, which resulted in a CD funded by the European Union called 'Ecodialogo'. Vigorous movements of P4C have also developed in Canada, both French-speaking and English- speaking, and in Latin American countries, not least (in rough order of development) Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela. And, after quite early 'take-up' in Taiwan, there have also been proponents of P4C in other Asian countries, such as the Philippines, Singapore, and S. Korea, where the practice is being thoughtfully influenced by traditions of Eastern philosophy. Principles of P4C Some of the principles that underlie Philosophy for Children include: Good thinking is learned from dialogue with others Children need to take part in dialogues that provide examples and models of good thinking The wellspring of knowledge and intellectual excitement is questioning Claims should be tested in argument. Argument is seen not as a quarrel but as a collaborative search for the best answer to a question To think well is to be creative as well as critical. Creative thinkers make connections, speculate and explore alternatives Good thinking depends on attitudes as well as abilities. Children should be encouraged to be reasonable in the fullest sense of the word People make sense of the the world though a web of concepts. We should talk with children about significant concepts. It is good for children and adults to talk together about philosophical questions -- questions that matter and that link thinking about one area of experience to thinking about experience as a whole. Page  |  3     Copyright:  p4c.com    
  4. 4. Introduction  to  P4C  with  Young  Children   P4C in Practice Practice 1: E ncourage questioning a) Encourage pupils to ask questions by structuring a question-creation session into some of your lessons. Allow children to talk to a partner before coming up with their question. b) Collect pupils' questions and study them with the children. Discuss the kinds of questions they are and how they could be answered. Display the questions and write them up in 'question book collections' or display them on the walls. c) Make space and time in your lessons to discuss pupils' questions with them. Help them to spot assumptions and and significant (or juicy) concepts contained in their questions. d) Help pupils discriminate between those parts of questions that require information and those that requite considered judgement. Practice 2: Develop concepts Pick out some significant concepts and make some time to discuss them with pupils. Stimulate discussion by introducing some 'borderline cases', that is scenarios or questions involving the chosen concept that allow pupils to explore their understanding and lead the discussion to deeper levels. Here are some concepts that could come up with young children: i. Beauty what makes something nice or ugly to look at? ii. D reams do we only dream at night, in pictures, in colour? iii. F airness is it possible to be fair to everyone? iv. F riends should we try to be friends with everyone? v. Game vi. Good/B ad vii. G rowth do all things grow? viii. H appiness how do we know when we are happy? ix. Identity what makes you, you? x. Imagination ence between imagining and thinking? xi. Love do we love chocolate in the same way as we love our pets/parents/friends? xii. Names if you had a different name, would you be a different person? xiii. Stories are all stories make-believe? xiv. T ruth/L ies should we always tell the truth? How can you tell if someone is lying? xv. Toys can a stick, a photograph or indeed anything at all be a toy? Page  |  4     Copyright:  p4c.com    
  5. 5. Introduction  to  P4C  with  Young  Children   Practice 3: E ncourage dialogue and argument a) Here are some steps you can take to encourage dialogue with your class: b) Have the children sit in a circle so they can see each other and listen in a more focused way c) Establish some ground rules for good dialogue and help put them into practice d) Encourage children to agree and disagree with each other without rancour by testing claims and reasons in a spirit of collaborative argument e) Give pupils thinking time allow short 'breakouts' where they can converse with a partner to gather their thoughts or rehearse their arguments/thoughts f) Give children examples of the sorts of moves they can make to keep a dialogue moving forward. These would include: thinking of alternative points of view and speculating about the consequences of different of each on giving examples noticing similarities and differences examining reasons and establishing whether statements about people and things apply to 'all', 'many', 'some' and or 'none' Practice 4: Wor k for reasonableness If you have done all the other things above, then your children should be well on the way to becoming reasonable in all senses of the word, they are open to new ideas and alternative points of view, they don't prematurely judge the opinions of others and they value arguments that are supported by reasons. If you value reasonableness and draw attention to its various aspects, then perhaps children will come to value it too. T he Community of Inquiry A Community of Inquiry may be defined as a collaborative and reflective approach to discussion built up over time with the same group of learners. It aims to achieve: Community: cooperation, care, respect and safety Inquiry: a search for understanding, meaning, truth and values supported by reasons The community of inquiry can play a positive role in combating what is perceived to be a drift in children can come to expect reasons to support claims. The Community of Inquiry is not a mere exchange of opinions where anything goes. On the contrary, it is a context for discussion wherein people are challenged to justify their opinions regularly. At the same time, the Community of Inquiry contrasts with classroom debate with its emphasis on winning the argument rather than understanding the issues in question or the beliefs of other participants. Argument is seen as a collaborative effort to come to the best answer to a question. Teachers develop their class towards being a Community of Inquiry by following the practices described above. For P4C, those practices are usually embedded in a regularly repeated sequence of activities summarised below. There are many variations on the sequence but the basic structure remains. Page  |  5     Copyright:  p4c.com    
  6. 6. Introduction  to  P4C  with  Young  Children   P4C sequences Preparing the context It is important for the group to sit in a circle or horseshoe, not only as an aid to good listening but also to indicate that everybody's participation is equally valued. Before beginning the first p4c session, the group should spend time deciding a set of guidelines for good discussion. These can be developed over time as groups gain experience. In nursery settings, the group would normally consist of no more than 6 children. In reception classes and key stage 1, the group size would be anything between 6 children and the whole class. Sharing the stimulus Inquiry seems to work best with young children when dialogue is focused on shared experience such as any the following or a combination of them: Reading a story or picture book together Taking part in stories Watching puppets or actors perform Looking at photographs and/or pictures and guessing or creating the story they represent Whatever stimulus the teacher has chosen, it is shared in an appropriate way so that children are able to share thoughts about anything that interests them or puzzles them. The teacher will provide time and sometimes a structure for this initial reaction For example she might: Give pupils some thinking time in pairs to identify what they liked the most Present pupils with a couple of images and ask them what they think are some significant similarities and differences Present children with words and pictures and ask them what they think the connections are between the two Notes Page  |  6     Copyright:  p4c.com    
  7. 7. Introduction  to  P4C  with  Young  Children   C reating and choosing questions Following the sharing of the stimulus, children are asked to create questions that are based on what they are curious about or interested in. The extent of the teacher's involvement in creating the questions will depend on the age and abilities of the pupils'. Children younger than seven will need substantial guidance in the first few sessions before they get the hang of asking (philosophical) questions. Sometimes older pupils (Year 2 onwards) are set into groups to discuss their questions and agree on one to put forward for the group. Initially young children will offer their preferences rather than questions. For example, I liked the bit when the mouse scared away the other animals. At this point, it is appropriate for the teacher to help the children turn this offering into a question. For example, saying: I liked that bit too but can we turn it into a question? For example, what about Why were the other animals scared of the little mouse? Or ... How can a mouse scare bigger animals? Once some questions have been identified (normally a maximum of 3 questions for nursery children, 5 for reception, and up to 7 questions for key stage 1), a vote should be taken so that the children get to choose the question they want to inquire into. Voting methods Omni-vote: probably the most common voting method within P4C, this gives children as many votes as they like (omni is a Greek prefix meaning all children can vote for all the questions if they like) Single vote: each child is asked to pick just one question that they prefer or think is the best Multi votes: once the children have experienced P4C a few times, it is often nice to vary the voting method so as to keep things fresh. Giving each child 3 tiddly-winks to place on 3 different questions is a nice way of doing this Notes Page  |  7     Copyright:  p4c.com    
  8. 8. Introduction  to  P4C  with  Young  Children   Dialogue Dialogue about the children s own questions is at the heart of P4C; dialogue that is concerned with building something together rather than just exchanging ready-made opinions. Opinions are still expressed but final judgements are held back until other points of view have been explored. In a good dialogue children disagree without getting angry with each other and they want to understand what others are trying to say. Careful listening is as important as careful speaking and active listening will show up in questions learners ask each other. In P4C dialogues, we notice that: The teacher will elicit appropriate 'moves' from pupils in response to what others have said. Such moves might include those mentioned in 'Practice 3' above: thinking of alternative points of view and speculating about the consequences of different of each on; giving examples, noticing similarities and differences, examining reasons and establishing whether statements about people and things apply to 'all', 'many', 'some' and or 'none' There is a effort to arrive at some clear statements in response to the question(s) that can be tested through collaborative argument There is sometimes an effort to keep track of the discussion through verbal summary, either by the teacher or by the children With older children, there are sometimes 'breakout sessions' to allow pupils in pairs or small groups to gather their thoughts about a particular concept or argument. Sometimes the teacher will provide a structure for the breakout such as listing examples of a concept like 'fairness' At the end of the dialogue there is summary and an opportunity for pupils to have their 'last words' either in response to the content of the dialogue or to the process. Last words could be given as an oral response or in writing. Notes Page  |  8     Copyright:  p4c.com    
  9. 9. Introduction  to  P4C  with  Young  Children   M a king progress Some questions teachers might like to ask themselves (or ask the children to consider) include: Community Q uestions 1. Who is doing most of the talking? 2. Are the quieter children engaged? 3. Do the children listen to each other? 4. Do pupils correct each other with sensitivity? 5. Do the children trust each other? 6. Do the children regard the community as a safe environment to say what they feel? 7. Are the children becoming more thoughtful? Inquiry Q uestions 1. Are the children asking questions? 2. Are they listening to each other? 3. Do children follow on or respond to what each other has said? 4. Are they giving reasons for what they say? 5. Are the children sticking to the point? 6. Are children able to give examples to support what they say? 7. Are they beginning to understand the perspectives of others? Notes Page  |  9     Copyright:  p4c.com    
  10. 10. Introduction  to  P4C  with  Young  Children   W hat will P4C help my nursery/school to achieve? Research from primary schools, including foundation units, in Clackmannanshire, Scotland in 2007 showed the following gains: Developments in cognitive ability. -based teaching methodology each week was anecdotal evidence from both teachers and pupils that the use of enquiry-based methods extended osophy programme improved their self-esteem (as learners) scores over this period. There was no significant difference between the pre- and post-test results of the control pupils. These results suggest that enquiry-based approaches are conducive to promoting self- Developments in critical reasoning skills and dialogue in the classroom supporting their views with reasons doubled in the experimental group over a six-month period. Teachers doubled their use of an open-ended follow-up question in response to pupil comments. The percentage of time that pupils were speaking (compared to the percentage of time that the teacher was speaking) increased from 41% to 66%. The length of pupil utterances in the experimental classes increased on average by 58%. There were no significant changes in the discussions taking place in the E motional and social developments communication skills, confidence and concentration. It also suggested that the process of community of enquiry helped pupils learn to self-manage their feelings/impulsivity more appropriately.' The following quote typifies how P4C is received by Oftsed: 'The thought provoking and exciting curriculum the school has developed over the last two years is an outstanding component of the school's success à(this includes) the development of 'Philosophy for Children', a powerful tool which both excites the pupils and gives them the confidence to explore stimulating and challenging ideas and concepts. It not only strengthens their academic learning, but also encourages their empathy for others and gives them insights into the adult world.' (Ropsley Primary School Ofsted Report, Feb 2007) Notes Footnotes (1) S. Trickey & K. J. Topping (2004) 63-378. (2) S Trickey (2007) Promoting social and cognitive development in schools: An evaluation of Thinking through Philosophy in The 13th International Conference on Thinking Norrkoping, Sweden June 17-21, 2007. Linkopings University Electronic Conference Proceedings. http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp/021/vol1/026?ecp2107026.pdf Page  |  10     Copyright:  p4c.com