The benefit of teaching #philosophy in early education | Blog#42

Should we teach philosophy to children?

If a witch leaves her magic wand at home, is she still a magic witch?

Philosophical Play Consultant, Sara Stanley, uses questions to teach children as young as three philosophy.

Speaking to 5 live Breakfast, she said philosophy can be a useful way to help children explore the “concepts of power, the imagination and what’s real and fair”.

Teaching philosophy to children as young as nine can help them in maths and english, according to research from Durham University.

Curated from BBC


From Aeon:

Teaching philosophy at school isn’t just good pedagogy – it helps to safeguard society

“Teaching philosophy to children has been shown to sharpen reasoning and communication skills. Moreover, students who engage in philosophical thinking are better able to grapple with concepts that might otherwise be beyond their grasp. But, according to Emma and Peter Worley of The Philosophy Foundation, a UK-based organisation that specialises in doing philosophy in the classroom, what’s even more important than these cognitive advantages at the individual level are the societal benefits of having a population that thinks critically and coherently. In this instalment of Aeon’s In Sight series, the Worleys describe how, beyond teaching children to ‘think well’, spreading philosophy is a safeguard against the sorts of educational and societal structures that tend towards authoritarian control.”


Durham University

July 10, 2015
Professor Stephen Gorard, Dr Beng Huat See and Nadia Siddiqui explain how philosophical discussions with primary school children can boost their maths and literacy

A programme to teach young children the basics of philosophical thinking in UK schools has been shown to help them progress in maths and reading. A new study evaluated the use of the Philosophy for Children (P4C) programme in which primary school children are guided through discussions of questions such as “Should a healthy heart be donated to a person who has not looked after themselves?” or “Is it acceptable for people to wear their religious symbols at work places?” The programme is intended to help children become more willing and able to question, reason, construct arguments and collaborate.

A randomised controlled trial in 48 primary schools compared more than 1,500 pupils who took philosophy lessons over the course of a year with a further 1,500 who didn’t, but then took the lessons the following year. The children who had the philosophy lessons first improved their maths and reading by around an extra two months’ of progress compared to those children who weren’t taking part. And the poorest children made the most progress of all.

The scheme appeared to cost less than £30 per pupil, making it a possible use for the pupil premium funding provided to those schools for children eligible for free school meals because of their parents’ low income.

P4C was delivered by the Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education (SAPERE) and is currently in use in about 3,000 UK primary and secondary schools. SAPERE recruited the schools for the trial, provided training for the teaching staff in half of the schools and provided on-going backup and support.

Big picture questions

Throughout the sessions, children were introduced to a vocabulary for reasoning to help develop their skills and their understanding of concepts. They discussed which kinds of questions they could simply look up the answers to, and which kinds they might make progress with through argument.

In a typical lesson, the teacher showed the pupils a video clip, image or newspaper article with a philosophical dimension, to stimulate their interest. For example, on one occasion we observed, they read a short story about a child trying to keep a whale as a pet in their bath. This was generally followed by a short period of silent thinking time, before the class split into small groups to generate questions that interested them around the topic.

Questions with philosophical potential are also chosen by the group of eight to ten-year-olds to get the whole class talking. The lessons we observed also included the questions: “Why do men receive more sponsorship than women in tennis?”, “Is it OK to deprive someone of their freedom?” and “Can you and should you stop free thought?”

The pupils and teacher sat in a circle all facing each other. The main rules for participation are to listen to each other carefully and wait for your turn to speak. During the training, teachers were introduced to innovative strategies that could be used to encourage children’s participation in the discussions. The emphasis is to make each session an opportunity for children to think, question, discuss and debate in a group. Some schools only did one such philosophy session per week with each class during literacy or religious education lessons, and others embedded it more fully into the life of the school.

Read the rest of this article on Philosophy for children boosts their progress at school – Durham University

Philosophy for Children

A programme that aims to develop children’s social skills and cognitive ability.

The primary goal of this evaluation was to assess whether a year of P4C instruction for pupils in Years 4 and 5 would lead to higher academic attainment in terms of maths, reading, and writing. The project also assessed whether P4C instruction had an impact on Cognitive Abilities Test results.

The evaluation ran from January to December 2013. Teachers were trained in P4C by the Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education (SAPERE). On average, pupils received one period of P4C per week, although this varied across schools. A total of 48 schools across a wide range of English geographies participated. While these schools were in many ways diverse, as a whole they had above-average levels of disadvantaged pupils.

1. There is evidence that P4C had a positive impact on Key Stage 2 attainment. Overall, pupils using the approach made approximately two additional months’ progress in reading and maths.

3. Analyses of the Cognitive Abilities Test (a different outcome measure not explicitly focused on attainment) found a smaller positive impact. Moreover, in terms of this outcome it appears that disadvantaged students reaped fewer benefits from P4C than other pupils. It is unclear from the evaluation why there are these differences between the two outcomes.

Philosophy for Children (P4C) is an approach to teaching in which students participate in group dialogues focused on philosophical issues. Dialogues are prompted by a stimulus (for example, a story or a video) and are based around a concept such as ‘truth’, ‘fairness’ or ‘bullying’. The aim of P4C is to help children become more willing and able to ask questions, construct arguments, and engage in reasoned discussion.