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Volume 53, No. 4, November 2018
Reconceptualising system transitions in education for marginalised and vulnerable groups
Guest Editors: Paul Downes, Erna Nairz‐Wirth, Jim Anderson

Volume 53, No. 3, September 2018
Learner agency at the confluence between rights-based approaches and well-being
Guest Editor: Jean Gordon

Volume 53, No. 2 June 2018
Special Issue: Are Student Assessments Fit For Their Purposes?
Guest Editor: Janet Looney

Volume 53, No. 1. March 2018
Special Issue: Innovative approaches to Continuous Professional Development in Early Childhood Education and Care. A European perspective.
Guest Editors: Brecht Peleman, Bente Jensen and Jan Peeters

Volume 52, No. 4 December 2017
Special Issue: Education for people, prosperity and planet: Can we meet the sustainability challenges?
Guest Editor: Aaron Benavot

Volume 52, No. 3 September 2017
Title: Participatory Design for (Built) Learning Environments
Guest Editors: Karen D. Könings and Susan McKenney

Volume 52, No. 2 June 2017
Title: The Influence of PISA on Education Policies
Guest Editors: Alain Michel and Xavier Pons

Volume 52, No.1 March 2017
Title : Higher education learning outcomes - transforming higher education ?
Guest Editors : Joakim Caspersen and Nicoline Frolich

Volume 51, No.4 December 2016
Title: Governance Dynamics in Complex Decentralised Education Systems
Guest Editors: Edith Hooge

Volume 51, No 3 September 2016
Title : Vocational Schooling and Social Exclusion in the Western Balkans
Guest Editors : Claire Gordon and Will Bartlett

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Philosophy for Children (P4C) - Aleksandra Styś

Promoting learning and well-being through philosophy
Over the last thirty years, the ‘capabilities approach’ has emerged as an important theoretical framework for well-being, human development and social justice.  The approach is based on two core principles: first, that the freedom to achieve well-being is of primary moral importance, and second, that this freedom is to be understood in terms of people's capabilities -- their ‘real opportunities to do and be what they have reason to value’ (Sen, 1999).
Nussbaum (2006), who has significantly developed the capabilities approach, has proposed three ‘central human capabilities’ that are important to develop in education.  These include:
  • critical thinking (logical reasoning, dealing with difference of opinion and taking responsibility for one’s own arguments),
  • the ideal of the world citizen (the ability to understand differences and shared interests among groups and nations, and to identify opportunities to bridge communities), and
  • the development of narrative imagination (the ability to understand the emotions and wishes of another person) (Nussbaum 2006; Hart, 2015).
Education, in Nussbaum’s view (2010), should support children’s ability to reason, to debate, and to empathize.  The enquiry-based Philosophy for Children (P4C) program aligns well with these three central capabilities.  This case study explores the background, practice and impact of P4C.
History and origins of P4C
Professor Matthew Lipman, an American philosopher and educator, is recognized as the father of Philosophy for Children (P4C), an educational movement that is present in over 60 countries worldwide. In 1972, Lipman and his colleagues at the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (IAPC) in Montclair University, New Jersey, designed a methodology based on two underlying principles: ‘philosophical novels’ and the ‘community of enquiry’ (The P4C Co-operative, 2013).
Lipman’s idea was to create ‘novels’ to make philosophical questions more relevant for school-age students.  In classrooms, students form a ‘community of enquiry’ and reflect on  topics of common interest. They share opinions, present their own arguments and consider others’ arguments.  They are encouraged to set out examples, question assumptions and test hypotheses (Williams, 2012).
P4C, considered as a major educational innovation, is supported by positive results from a number of controlled studies in the field (The P4C Co-operative, 2013; Trickey & Topping, 2004). Internationally, a wide range of practitioners from different fields have experimented with the approach. As the IAPC offered courses and workshops for teachers in a growing number of countries, the original P4C model has been translated and adapted to diverse cultural contexts[1], and  educators have started designing their own materials and methodologies. For example, Per Jespersen conceived a model stemming from the tradition of story-telling in Denmark while Catherine McCall in the United Kingdom created her own methodology of Philosophical Inquiry (PI), partly influenced by the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment (The P4C Co-operative, 2013).
UNESCO’s report (2007) underlines that P4C in its capacity to support intellectual and moral development of children from a very young age is likely to fill a significant gap in contemporary education. P4C and especially its ‘community of enquiry’ refers to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which includes an emphasis on children’s right to think and express themselves freely.   
Philosophia [Term Image] (φιλοσοφια) or love of wisdom
P4C’s primary goal is to encourage children to think philosophically – that is, to reason, to think independently and to make informed choices (Trickey & Topping, 2004; Williams, 2012).  School is seen as a special form of community and students are encouraged to take interest in the beliefs and feelings of their peers and to respect the differences of perspective (Daniel & Auriac, 2011; Williams, 2012, 2015). Openness to alternative views is combined with critical judgment. The objective of enquiry is not to reach consensus, but to develop a common language which may be used to disagree with the others in a constructive way. Children are supported to develop more solid and consistent judgment (Williams, 2015).       
Children are also encouraged to take a step back from their emotions and turn difficult situations into subjects for serious thought. In the context of the classroom, this becomes a collective process; children are able to recognize that they share concerns and questions. In addition, curricula place greater emphasis on collaboration rather than competition and help develop their civic character (Cam, 2014). Also, Martha Nussbaum underlines the role of educational programs such as P4C in enhancing children’s ‘capabilities’, and which prepare them to participate in community life and to be able to create a democratic society (Biggeri & Santi, 2012). Finally, Lipman’s ‘community of enquiry’ may foster the development of empathy (Schertz, 2007), an important aspect of learning and well-being.
How P4C works in practice
P4C is appropriate for learners of all ages and abilities, but in practice it can be more easily organized in primary rather than secondary school timetables. Nonetheless, a growing number of secondary schools are interested in the model as a way to support competences for 'learning to learn' (The P4C Co-operative, 2013).
Hanyes (2002) describes routine classroom philosophical enquiry through the P4C program as involving nine steps. Getting started may include a relaxation exercise and agreement on the rules of interaction. After a stimulus, such as a story, film, news article or other item is shared to prompt enquiry, there comes a pause for thought. Questioning, during which the students think of interesting or puzzling questions, follows. Then, connections are made between these questions. Once a question is chosen to start the enquiry, the classroom engages in building on each other’s ideas. At this stage, the teacher has to strike a balance between encouraging the children to follow on from each other’s ideas and ensuring that questions discussed are always focused on important philosophical concepts, such as courage, justice, and so on.. Recording the discussion may take the form of graphic mapping – that is, a written record of the children’s ideas. Finally, there is time for review and discussion which involves summarizing and reflecting on the process itself, whether minds were changed, etc. These steps comply with the procedure described by the Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education (SAPERE), which promotes P4C in the United Kingdom. The outcomes of class discussion and children’s learning depend to a large extent on the quality of interaction and dialogue rather than on a rigid application of these steps (Hayes, 2002); Trickey & Topping, 2004). Williams (2015) notes that the teachers’ skills in providing open-ended questions and encouraging children to enquire, while creating the environment of intellectual debate, are crucial to the final outcomes of the process. Questions which require judgment often result in answers including ‘big ideas’ such as duty, fact, fairness, friendship, evidence, knowledge, respect, and truth. While students hear and use these terms, they learn to understand them more fully and to apply them intelligently in various contexts (see also Williams & Sutcliffe, 2013).
Evidence of impact
There is growing evidence of positive outcomes associated with the practice of P4C in different countries and for different age groups. For example, a critical review of controlled studies of the P4C methodology in primary and secondary schools conducted by Trickey and Topping (2004) lists significant improvements in reading, critical and creative thinking, self-esteem, confidence and persistence, as well as inter-personal relationships, in particular in listening to other points of view. The review also found that P4C can reduce angry and belittling interactions among students, leading to a more supportive group interaction. Finally, a range of impact studies, P4C groups demonstrate higher levels of motivation, curiosity, commitment, and concentration as compared to control groups. A consistent positive effect size across studies was observed. Effect sizes from eight separate studies ranged from 0.31 to 0.59, with a mean of 0.425 and a standard deviation of 0.09. The researchers indicate that effect sizes of such magnitude are considered as moderate and are evidence of the effectiveness of the program.
Trickey (2007) carried out a comprehensive study of the P4C philosophical enquiry which took place in mainstream classes in primary schools in Scotland over a four-year period. First, the researcher investigated whether philosophical enquiry could lead to positive outcomes in children when implemented across primary schools in a local educational authority with classes of 30 children and teachers with little previous experience of collaborative enquiry methods. Second, the study described the nature of these outcomes. The latter set of outcomes were evaluated through three different methods. The first method – standardized tests – included Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT), which covered 105 experimental and 72 control students, and ‘Myself as a Learner’ (MALS) questionnaire administered to 134 experimental and 52 control students, in order to provide measures of cognitive ability and academic self concept. Second, the study included an analysis of classroom discussion using video recordings to provide measures of critical thinking and dialogue, structured according to a detailed observation schedule and measured through inter-observer agreement in order to enhance the reliability of data. The third category comprised an analysis of the perceptions of students, teachers and head-teachers which was based on questionnaires completed by 77 students after six months, a questionnaire completed by head teachers after six months, as well as verbal and written comments from participating teachers throughout the initiative. The aim of these data was to provide an indicator of students’ social/emotional development. The results of the study suggest that even one hour’s use of an enquiry-based teaching approach each week can have a significant impact on children’s reasoning ability. Anecdotal evidence from both teachers and students shows that the enquiry-based approach was used far beyond the ‘philosophy hour’. Also, the study demonstrates that enquiry-based approaches are conducive to promoting self-esteem in learning situations. Last but not least, students perceive the ‘communities of enquiry’ as leading to an increase in their participation in classroom discussion and to gains in their social/emotional development and thinking. The study also underlines that the practice of ‘community of enquiry’ allows students to learn how to self-manage their feelings/impulsivity in a more appropriate manner. Trickey (2007) carried out an additional study which showed that cognitive gains associated with regular participation in collaborative classroom ‘communities of enquiry’ sustained in children despite the absence of further experience of classroom enquiry in secondary school.
More recently, a large-scale evaluation of P4C was undertaken by an independent group of researchers from Durham University (Education Endowment Foundation, 2015). The major objective of this evaluation was to assess whether a year of P4C instruction for students in Years 4 and 5 would improve their results in academic subjects of mathematics, reading and writing. Also, it assessed the impact of P4C instruction on a cognitive ability test (a different outcome measure not explicitly focused on attainment). The project included 48 volunteer primary schools across England (Birmingham, London, Hull, Sheffield, Manchester, Hertfordshire, Staffordshire, and Stoke-on-Trent) which varied in many ways, but as a whole more than the average of their pupils came from disadvantaged environments. A total of 3,159 students in Years 4 and 5 (entire year groups) took part in the trial, with 1,550 being in the treatment group and 1,609 in the control group. The evaluation found significant evidence that P4C had a positive impact on Key Stage 2 (KS2) attainment[2], as students using the P4C approach made approximately two additional months’ progress on reading and mathematics as compare to students who were not; analyses of cognitive ability test results showed a smaller positive impact. Moreover, teachers observed that P4C instruction enhanced students’ confidence to speak, patience when listening to others, self-esteem, well-being, happiness, and sense of judgment. A teacher reported: ‘It gives children the confidence to know that they can participate in class discussions and that their viewpoint is a valuable one.’ (Education Endowment Foundation, 2015, p. 28). Interestingly, teachers also believed that P4C had a positive impact on the curriculum at large since students who took part in P4C classes became much more engaged in the classroom and asked more questions in all lessons. Finally, the students found P4C helpful in developing new viewpoints and learning new words. They also felt that P4C improved their communication skills and peer relationships. These and other broader non-cognitive impacts of P4C are currently being evaluated by a new Nuffield-funded study project undertaken at the University of Durham. This will be the first large-scale research project measuring P4C outcomes with regard to students’ relationships with school, teachers and peers; students’ confidence, well-being and self-esteem; students’ voice and how they engage with opinions that differ from their own, as well as teachers’ attitudes towards students’ learning (Nuffield Foundation, 2015).  
Conditions for successful implementation
Trickey (2007) points out that despite these positive findings, creating open ‘communities of enquiry’ for many teachers could mean an important shift in pedagogy. Teachers of P4C play the role of a ‘curious facilitator’ rather than ‘expert instructor’. Teachers need appropriate training and reliable support.
There are a few examples of countries that have included P4C in their national curricula, but in the majority of cases school faculty decide to reach out to their national training centers to receive the necessary training and encouragement. This presents some challenges as opportunities for schools to train staff are often limited. In England for instance, schools only have a few training days per year and P4C courses receive no outside funding. Thus, most schools decide to have a short course of one or two days to learn the basics of P4C. Following this initial training, a tutor observes teachers’ own P4C courses and gives them feedback. Those teachers who are particularly enthusiastic may educate themselves reading, carrying out philosophical studies or taking part in specialized teacher networks (Williams, 2015). Also, there is a system called ‘Going for Gold’ which is a structured three-year program of training and support for the schools guiding the latter through the bronze, silver and gold levels which are part of its special award scheme (SAPERE, 2014). Another challenge in the English context is that although teaching staff at some schools go through the P4C training, they may not apply it. This is likely due to the significant number of new initiatives which teachers are expected to introduce, which in turn creates numerous pressures on them.
Another important debate refers to the qualification of teachers. A combination of philosophical background and teaching experience would be highly desirable for teachers to be able to practice P4C. Yet, in the English context, it is only sometimes possible to find a philosophy graduate who is also a teacher. More often, the reality is to have philosophy graduates without teaching experience who learn some teaching skills if they are willing to facilitate P4C sessions in schools. Also, there are teachers who have no philosophy background and who therefore learn philosophical themes and methods to practice P4C. In any of these cases, what really matters is that both teachers and philosophy graduates are responsive to students’ needs and encourage them to philosophize through constructive dialogue. In fact, it should be stressed that the real success of P4C in the classroom depends to a large extent on the teachers’ mindset and their natural predisposition to practice this experimental pedagogy. As mentioned earlier, apart from committed and enthusiastic teachers, successful implementation of P4C in schools also requires involvement of committed head-teachers who will follow up regularly on the progress made and prospects for deepening and broadening the program in their school, sufficient support materials for the involved staff as well as a network of contacts to facilitate the learning process among the teachers (Williams, 2015).


Biggeri, M., & Santi, M. (2012). The Missing Dimensions of Children's Well-being and Well-becoming in Education Systems: Capabilities and Philosophy for Children, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities: A Multi-Disciplinary Journal for People-Centered Development, 13(3): 373-395.
Cam (2014). Philosophy for Children, Values Education and the Inquiring Society, Educational Philosophy and Theory: Incorporating ACCESS, 46(11): 1203-1211.
Cassidy, C., & Christie, D. (2013). Philosophy with children: talking, thinking and learning together, Early Child Development and Care, 183(8): 1072-1083. 
Daniel, M.-F., Auriac, E. (2011). Philosophy, Critical Thinking and Philosophy for Children, Educational Philosophy and Theory: Incorporating ACCESS, 43(5): 415-435.
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Fisher, R. (2007). Dialogic teaching: Developing thinking and metacognition through philosophical discussion, Early Child Development and Care, 177, 615-631.
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Haynes, J. (2002). Children as philosophers. London: Routledge Falmer.
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UNESCO (2007). Philosophy: A School of Freedom. Teaching philosophy and learning to philosophize: Status and prospects. Paris: UNICEF. 
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Williams, S. (2012). A Brief History of P4C and SAPERE. In Lewis, L. & Chandley, N. (Eds), Philosophy for Children through the Secondary Curriculum. Bloomsbury Publishing.
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Williams, S., & Sutcliffe, R. (2013). 5 steps to... Understanding P4C (Training document produced for SAPERE).

[1] The countries which are classified as ‘Affiliates’ by the IAPC are as follows: Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, UK (England, Scotland), Uruguay, USA, Venezuela.  

[2] Key Stage 2 is the legal term for the four years of schooling in maintained schools in England and Wales (years 3 to 6), with pupils aged 7-11. The UK government describe on their website Key stage 2 tests as covering:
  • English reading
  • English grammar, punctuation and spelling
  • maths (including mental arithmetic)
The tests are taken in mid-May and last under 5 hours 30 minutes in total. The results are announced in July.