A Brief Overview
There are many pressures encouraging information led teaching and learning, however, in an information rich age such a focus frequently fails to develop children’s ability to think critically or compassionately leaving them ill-equipped to deal with the complexities of modern living, as well as stifling genuine interest and enthusiasm in the human condition and the wider world. The result for our children is well documented by UNICEF who note the UKs position at the bottom of their research into children’s well-being, and the OECD who express concern at the lack of basic academic skills and social skills our school leavers have.
This is not a new concern for compulsory schooling. Building on the work of the 19th century American Pragmatists like John Dewey, in the 1960s Matthew Lipman provided educators with an extremely effective pedagogy that resolves those failures identified in our traditional education models. Philosophy for/with Children (P4C) is now recognised internationally as a format to help children develop their capacity to reason and thereby philosophise. In recent years the pedagogy has flourished in the UK and numerous research studies from around the world testify to its efficacy at developing raising attainment and improving social skills.
Philosophy with/for Children (P4C)
P4C is based on over 35 years of research; is skills and student orientated; is practised in over 60 countries; is a way of improving ‘learning to learn’; increases cognitive ability; is effective at enhancing behaviour, emotional intelligence and social interaction.
The P4C structure has ten steps to enable participants to become a community of enquiring minds and identifies 4 Thinking C's, namely Critical, Caring, Collaborative and Creative to help with this endeavour.
P4C is a democratic model and participants decide for themselves the best way to reach the outcomes through negotiation, investigation, creativity, reflection and evaluation. The process encourages participants to develop the ability to reason and think as a community as well individually and is incredibly popular with students because it is such good fun.
Studies into P4C have been conducted all over the world and yielded impressive results. A typical example being the Trickey and Topping research, published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology (2007), which highlighted the following benefits for students:
o P4C sessions once a week for a school year can increase IQ
by an average of 6 points as measured by CAT scores.
o This correlates with a 20% improvement in the chance of
achieving a particular grade at GCSE.
o Improvement is sustained even after pupils move from primary
to secondary school.
Click here to access a summary of eighteen pieces of research into P4C collated by SAPERE, the internationally recognised educational charity that brings together a network of people throughout the UK practising and promoting philosophical enquiry for children and communities.
SAPERE is currently running a two year P4C Research Project funded by the Educational Endowment Foundation and involving 50 schools, the results of which will be available in 2015.
When facilitating P4C it may be possible to see a little way ahead during an enquiry but the community is self-governing and unpredictable and there is always a sense of excitement because of the expanse of possibilities this brings. Indeed, everyone in the community of enquiry enjoys P4C, as this VLE Student P4C Feedback from a Y9 class shows.
P4C is best understood by being part of the process, which makes it tricky to show just how much participants develop, both socially and philosophically, from regular practice. This online VLE P4C enquiry provide some idea of the philosophical journey taken by a group of Year 9 pupils and shows them getting to grips with Collaborative, Caring, Creative and Critical Thinking.
Example P4C Enquiry
Demonstrated uplift in standardised test scores.
Improvements in classroom and playground behaviour
Positive whole school impact on teaching & learning, as well as improved communication with parents and the wider community
Benefits for Schools
A range of effective and cohesive strategies to enhance teaching skills and the learning environment
Increased confidence with using open-ended questioning and dialogue
Increased pupil engagement in learning and the curriculum
Benefits for teachers
Benefits for students
Greater motivation to enquire and learn
Improved critical and reflective thinking skills
Increased confidence and self-esteem
Enhanced literacy, numeracy and oracy