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Philosophy for Children

In short

Philosophy for Children (P4C) is a powerful educational approach which has been found through research studies to have cognitive and social benefits for children and schools.

It is more effective, and less expensive, than any comparable approach. Attainment and happiness are increased.

It is centred on philosophical enquiry, where a trained teacher encourages children to think and reason as a group.

It supports Personal, Social and Health Education and complements many government initiatives and education strategies. P4C is short for Philosophy for Children.

In detail

P4C is an approach to learning and teaching, now a recognised worldwide movement and practice, that was founded by Professor Matthew Lipman. P4C has developed over 35 years, and is practised in approximately 60 countries.

Children are taught how to create their own philosophical questions. They then choose one question that is the focus of a philosophical enquiry, or dialogue. For example the question might be ‘is it ever ok to steal?

The teacher, as facilitator, supports the children in their thinking, reasoning and questioning, as well as the way the children speak and listen to each other in the dialogue. After the enquiry the children and facilitator reflect on the quality of the thinking, reasoning and participation, and suggest how they could improve; either as individuals or as a group (community).

P4C is intended to be a regular activity so that the children develop their skills and understanding over time. The role of the facilitator is crucial to ensuring quality dialogue and progress, as well as integration with the curriculum.

It is well documented that P4C has an impact on children’s cognitive, social and emotional development. P4C is about getting children to think and communicate well; to think better for themselves.

P4C is a thorough pedagogy with considerable academic pedigree. Professor Matthew Lipman, frustrated by his students lack of engagement with learning and thinking, was influenced by educationalists and philosophers such as Vygotsky, Piaget, Dewey as well as the tradition of Socratic dialogue.

P4C – Eco-Curriculum


What our pupils say:

“This year I’ve also enjoyed  doing P4C because I like sharing my opinion and listening to other peoples.  We’ve discussed lots of different things and normally you don’t get to talk about things like animal cruelty and climate change just on the playground so it’s nice to hear opinions you don’t often get to hear.”

“In P4C, I liked it when we had a picture of a town on the board and we had to spot all the different values like friendship and respect.  For friendship there was a man getting a cat out of a tree and for respect there were people holding up signs saying ‘Save the World’.  I like giving my ideas in P4C.”

“I enjoy P4C club because its peaceful and you have to concentrate which helps you to learn how to concentrate in other situations.  Its good for debating because you have to talk to people that you might not normally talk to in a respectful manner and everything that you do is calm, including the games. You have to respect what other people thing and say.  Sometimes we do the Odd One Out and you mustn’t judge them for their opinion—you can’t say I’m right, you’re wrong, you have to explain your reason.  I also enjoy doing P4C lessons in class.”

“P4C is an unique learning place. It really gets me thinking deeply and often makes me think- ‘is that really what I think?’ You can experience lots of different things such as confusion or frustration because you just can’t think of the right word.  You can learn something you didn’t know before, you can build on whatever other people are saying. You can learn a lot but most of all, I enjoy it.”

“I love doing that. P4C gets my brain working a bit more and the games we play really do help me think.”

“I prefer it when the teacher listens to me. The lessons I most enjoy are the ones when the teachers listen to what I have to say. P4C – I enjoy this a lot because it is about listening. I would like to have more P4C sessions across all of the subjects.”

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