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Elm Wood Primary School

Philosophy for Children

Philosophy for Children is an approach to teaching and learning that puts philosophical enquiry at the heart of the lesson.

It emerged from the work of Matthew Lipman, a US philosophy professor. He wanted his undergraduates to think for themselves, not just demand answers they could regurgitate in exams. The method he developed is now used in over sixty countries with school children of all ages.

Rather than the teacher asking a question, in a typical P4C enquiry, children are given a “stimulus” such as a story or picture book, and create their own questions in response.

They seek out philosophical questions, ones that involve important ideas about which people can have different views, and then vote for the one they think will lead to the most fruitful discussion.

That neither the teacher nor the children know what they are going to end up discussing makes the process exciting.

Once the question is chosen, a discussion begins in which the children sit in a circle and pass the opportunity to speak between themselves. Children hold each other accountable for good reasoning, agreeing and disagreeing with each other without being disagreeable.

The teacher acts as facilitator to keep the discussion focused and push for greater depth of thinking; but while a typical classroom discussion is a series of questions and answers mediated by a teacher who is already an authority on the subject, in P4C the children have to create their own map to search for answers that they find plausible and well supported.

P4C develops thinking that is critical, using reasoned moves to build arguments; collaborative, with the sharing and challenging of ideas; creative in the willingness to speculate, take risks and imagine; and caring, because everything is set up to foster consideration and respect for one another.

P4C has been proven to impact on childrens academic, social, emotional and behavioural development.