What is teaching Philosophy for Children P4C?

What is P4C?

  • P4C is an educational method that takes students further than traditional education does. It’s not a subject with a particular content and a text book that teaches the history of philosophy or different philosophical schools, but it is a practical method that teaches the skill of Socratic dialogue as a way to learn philosophical questioning and conceptual thinking. This enables the student to gain the ability to use philosophy as an intellectual skill he/she can use in different aspects of life.
  • P4C is compatible with any school subject, and it is also suitable for all ages, from preschoolers to adults.
  • P4C is spread across more than 60 countries around the world, it focuses on stimulating thinking through community dialogue, which creates an educational model called the “community of inquiry”.
  • The role of the teacher in the community of inquiry is as a facilitator of an open-ended philosophical dialogue, while the child or the adult is an active participant in  developing knowledge and meaning.
  • The dialogue takes place during a so-called Socratic Circle where participants are encouraged to interact and respond to a philosophical theme presented through a stimulus that may be a picture book, a short clip or a short film.
  • Students are then taught how to create an open philosophical question, in small groups. After that each group proposes its question and then votes for a single question: the facilitator leads a Socratic dialogue using a range of techniques to enquire into the chosen question.
  • Individuals within the Socratic Circle reflect and evaluate at the end of the dialogue, because philosophical thinking goes beyond interest in philosophical content to the process of dialogue itself in the community of inquiry.
  • The community of inquiry focuses on four types of thinking: caring thinking, collaborative thinking, creative thinking, and critical thinking.
  • An individual who uses this method build a range of mental habits by using the cross-cultural integration of thinking types such as: connectivity, differentiation, forming concept, refuting argument, giving examples, clarifying criteria, returning to hypotheses behind the question and the accompanying logic and reasoning .
  • P4C is considered a structured education which is centered around the child, to give the child a sustainable learning skill, develop a sense of logic on the one hand and the emotional side, listen carefully, speak fluently, express ideas clearly and concisely.
  • Research studies around the world have proven that P4C contributes to the development of the efficiency of learning school subjects and enriches behavioral learning because it clearly supports students learning motivation.
  • P4C provides a challenge to children, young people and the general public, including the teacher who plays a role that is different from their traditional role by being a facilitator in the Socratic Circle.

Six Strands of P4C

1. Inquiry-inspired

the very goal of inquiry is sound knowledge as a basis for good judgement It is a more complex process that may start with one or more questions but then relies upon reasoning, which itself may involve different purposes and processes, e.g.:

  • to clarify the meaning of the question(s)
  • to draw out, and test, assumptions in the question (s)
  • to formulate hypotheses or possible answers 
  • to decide the process for confirming or settling on one or more answers
  • to assess the relevance and strength of suggested evidence or justification
  • to reach one or more conclusions on the basis of arguments put forward

2. Concept-constructive

  • concepts can be viewed on two levels – a ‘public’ one and a ‘private’ one. Therefore a teacher does not assume that his/her way of understanding concepts is the same as the students’ understanding, as human beings we are continually constructing and reconstructing concepts in our everyday use of language 
  • Teachers should not underestimate the challenge of bridging the ‘conceptualisations gap’ the gap between their own understanding and that of each of their students. Just to recognise this gap is to be a philosophical teacher
  • The ‘processing’ of ‘raw’ concepts (e.g. by making distinctions, comparisons, generalisations, etc. was a speciality of philosophers long before modern ‘subjects’ came into being. Any teacher who thoughtfully models such processes will be philosophical in practice and effect.

3. Dialogue-driven

Ordinary conversation may, of course, stimulate participants to exchange ideas. But it is dialogue proper that disciplines, as well as stimulates, the exchange of ideas – requiring, as it does, reasoned statements and reasonable responses. In short, reasoned dialogue turns minimum collaboration – mere taking turns at speaking and listening – into the careful building of common understandings, purposes, concerns and interests.  

  • The philosophical teacher listens to the students as much as she hopes they will listen to her expositions
  • Encoureges dialogue between students 
  • Dialogue reinforces cognitive skills, personal relationships, personality and self confidence 

4. Reason-respecting

teachers can journey a long way just by promoting the vocabulary of reasoning, such as:

  • quantifiers (all, some, no, only)
  • connectors (if, only if, then, so, therefore, not, but, because, as, since, etc.)
  • components of arguments (premise, conclusion, pros, cons)
  • moves in argumentation: (maintain, agree, oppose, disagree, infer, imply, clarify, verify, falsify, etc.)
  • degree of certainty (certain, necessary, probable, possible, impossible, etc.) 
  • Philosophical teachers can develop the ability to reason by the sort of strategies and devices they use, such as the van diagram

5. Reflection-refining

Teachers who are aiming to be more philosophical can embrace reflection as an integral part of their teaching. Here are some simple suggestions:

  • regular pauses for private reflection throughout a lesson, perhaps with the introduction of ‘thought journals’ to write or draw in, spontaneously or on request 
  • a formal pause procedure half way through a lesson calling for key words from the first half, and even asking what direction the second half might go in
  • a formal review at the end of a lesson or unit, asking students to evaluate the quality of their learning, and to suggest ways of improving it in future
  • asking students to write on post-it notes the most interesting thing they learnt, or their best ‘insight’ – and display them until the next post-it occasion

6. Virtue-valuing

The skills that you learn in P4C are accuired to your personality:

  • respectful of others
  • impartial (fair) in pursuing the good for everyone
  • open-minded in accepting that others have different ways of thinking and being
  • team-minded, willing to play one’s part in common endeavours
  • trustworthy enough for the team to rely on
  • sportive (playful) such as to lift others’ spirits

 (2019) Source: Philosophical Teaching an exposition/manifesto, Roger Suitcliffe

Principles of Baseera’s method of P4C and the values of the community of inquiry:

P4C is guided by two main objectives:

  • Developing cognitive abilities through learning higher-order mental habits such as:  abstraction, reasoning, logic, classification etc.
  • Building a strong sense of community learning, including all aspects of community skills: respect and acceptance of differences in ideas, feelings, perspectives and values.

Reflecting these two objectives, the community of inquiry is based on a set of values:

  • Every child and young person has his/her own experience and interests as adults, and has the right for it to be a part of his/her educational experience.
  • Good education is the result of these interests, which are specific to the child: it is not subject to fixed quantitative standards.
  • School is a whole academic and social experience, it is not specialized only in inducting aspects of academic content, so it is a microcosm of a whole society.
  • A good education focuses on the process arising from the child him/herself with equal importance to the educational outcome or content. Based on that, we believe there should be an official time for students in school to ask genuine questions.
  • As a facilitator the teacher is advised to facilitate the dialogue process between individuals without conveying subjective information or determining answers.
  • The facilitator commits to open Socratic dialogue, so he/she is advised not to lead the dialogue in order to make the students guess the answer he/she already has in mind. He/she also is advised to try to rephrase students’ answers
  • The facilitator is a model to be followed in the values and teaching style behavior of the method.
  • The dialogue circle includes everyone, the dialogue respects everyone’s opinions and promotes interaction with arguments, examples and counter-arguments.
  • The dialogue does not stimulate the desire to earn points or achieve a victory for an opinion within the Socratic circle, but rather there is a tendency to reach to the truth without being self-biased to it.
  • Students within the community of inquiry have an understanding that they are a part of a social fabric, they also have an understanding that constructive learning is a natural and an authentic way of making inter-subjectivity between individuals.
  • Constructive learning enriches the process of exchanging ideas, it contributes to creating new models of the ideas which is more respectful of the living reality, social values and is more committed to the idea of a shared future within the general social fabric.