Philosophy for Children is designed to develop thinking and reasoning skills and to enhance self esteem. With its emphasis on collaborative and rigorous inquiry, it serves as a powerful educational model for teachers and students at all levels.
Broadly speaking, P4C develops four key types of thinking:
- Collaborative - thinking with others
- Caring - thinking of others
- Critical - making reasoned judgements
- Creative - creating new ideas
P4C typically takes the form of a Community of Inquiry, which is characterised by:
- Sitting in a circle ready to think, talk and engage with each other
- Sharing a source of puzzlement or intrigue (e.g. picture, story, music, news, etc)
- Examining the source and creating relevant questions
- Persisting in the search for knowledge and understanding
- Giving reasons for opinions and distinguishing good reasons from bad ones
- Fostering mutual cooperation, trust, tolerance, fair-mindedness and a heightened degree of sensitivity to fellow inquirers
- Rich feedback that promotes thinking that is self-correcting and reflective
A History of P4C
Philosophy for Children (P4C) was created by Professor Matthew Lipman and his associates at the IAPC (Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children) at Montclair State College, New Jersey. Conceived in the late 1960ís in the wake of student unrest, the aim of P4C was to encourage students to be more reasonable, reflective and considerate.
Beginning with his first novel, Harry Stottlemeierís Discovery (Harry), published in 1969, Lipman wrote a series of stories in which characters grappled with philosophical concepts such as stereotyping, reality, relationships and the mind.
Over the course of the 1970ís and Ď80ís, novels for students between the ages of 6 to 16 were written and corresponding training manuals for teachers developed. Tests were conducted in American schools and the results were very promising, showing improvements in reasoning, logic, reading and maths.
In 1990 the BBC produced "Socrates for Six Year Olds", a one hour film on Philosophy for Children. This was broadcast in the UK, the USA, Japan, Israel and other countries around the world.
NB. A copy of "Socrates for Six Year Olds" can be ordered from SAPERE (click here)
P4C is now practised in more than 60 countries in the world. Lipman stories and manuals continue to be used but many countries now use a mixture of resources including:
- Newspaper Articles
What is the Teacherís Role?
The P4C facilitator is regarded as a member of the "Community of Inquiry" and so sits in the circle with the students
The facilitator encourages the students to focus on key concepts within a question, whilst at the same time persisting in finding an answer (even if one doesnít exist)
The teacher models good thinking by asking open-ended questions, challenging ideas, posing alternatives, seeking clarification, questioning reasons and demonstrating self-correcting behaviour
P4C facilitators are taught to neither impose authoritative views on their students nor support every studentís opinion but instead to encourage all students to examine their thinking
The children should see the facilitator as someone who respects them as people, takes what they have to say seriously, doesnít think s/he knows everything, models self-correction and really loves ideas
How do Pupils Respond?
Students love P4C! Low achieving children take to it like ducks to water: they donít have to write anything and they canít be wrong! High achievers may be a little hesitant at first (they canít spot an obvious answer which is new territory for them) but find very soon that P4C is a real opportunity to stretch their own thinking
"I donít have to read anything, I donít have to write anything and I canít be wrong? Bring it on!!" (Gary, a low achieving 12-year-old)
The kind of meaningful classroom dialogue that is typical of a P4C session is something most students find irresistible; they can't help joining in. Studies have shown that student participation and engagement, speaking and listening and even maths and reading/writing skills are improved as a result of regular P4C (click here for further details)
P4C is for all ages and abilities; there are examples on this site of children as young as 3, children with severe and multiple learning difficulties and "children" as mature as 90 doing P4C. Everyone is part of a community and the community involves everyone.
P4C in the Curriculum
P4C began as a distinct, stand-alone activity to be slotted into a school or collegeís curriculum. And, indeed, this remains the most popular model across the world. However, maximum impact is achieved when the processes and conventions of P4C are absorbed into the culture of the classroom such that any lesson can be a "Community of Inquiry".
The following suggestion is the pattern that I have found most useful and beneficial but is by no means the only, nor indeed the most popular, approach to P4C:
Term 1 P4C as a Stand-alone Activity
Each teacher finds time in the curriculum (45 Ė 90 minutes per week) to "do" classic P4C with his/her own class/tutor group.
This gives students the opportunity to develop their inquiry skills, and teachers the opportunity to develop their facilitation skills, without worrying about content
Term 2 P4C in "Vertical" groups
Each teacher does P4C with a "vertical" group of students once a week. A vertical group has a few students from each age group within the school.
This tends to have a remarkable impact on the social aspect of any school, encourages students to look out for each other (and so reduces bullying) and gives teachers an insight into the real abilities of children across the age range (and so raises expectations)
Term 3 P4C as an Integrated Pedagogy
In the final stage, teachers are encouraged to use their newly developed skills of facilitation regularly within the subject(s) they teach. There are no stand-alone P4C sessions but regular "mini-inquiries"
By suspending the stand-alone practice of P4C, facilitation techniques tend to be embedded into classroom practice, thereby improving teaching and learning across the curriculum