How is Philosophy used with Children?

How is Philosophy used with Children?

Philosophy is a discipline involved with logical and critical thinking.

However, rather than dealing with issues in an abstract and complicated way, as you might expect in adult philosophy, it deals with issues which are interesting to children – issues that children feel comfortable and confident in exploring.

Issues explored in philosophy include:

  • Friendship
  • Bullying
  • Stealing
  • Happiness
  • Kindness
  • Honesty
  • Rights and responsibilities 

What does a Philosophy Lesson Look Like?

All the children in the class take part in philosophy lessons. They sit in a large circle to do this.

The “stimulus” for the lesson can take many forms. It is usually a poem or a story. It might also be a picture or photograph, an item from a TV programme, a newspaper article, or even a question. 

If a story is used, the teacher will first read the story to the class. After this, pupils are asked what they found unusual or puzzling about the story. They are asked to make up questions about the story they would like to have answered.

The teacher also poses the children interesting and challenging questions to encourage critical and logical thinking.

The children then take part in something called the “Community of Enquiry” where they discuss all their ideas about the story they have just read.

During this part of the lesson the teacher encourages the children to listen respectfully to one another. Children learn that it is OK to have different views.

There are no right or wrong answers as such in philosophy. The most important thing is that children give good reasons for their answers.

What are the Benefits for Pupils?

Philosophy for Children is used in over 100 schools around Scotland, all primary schools use the approach. In Clackmannanshire, the success of the approach has been evaluated and the key findings include:

  • Children are becoming more reasonable thinkers and are more able to support their views and opinions with reasons
  • Teachers and head teachers reported improvements in behaviour
  • Teachers and head teachers felt that pupils become better listeners.
  • Children’s scores rose by 6 “IQ” points on the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT).

Findings from other studies tell us that using philosophy with children has a number of other benefits for children:

  • Children become better independent thinkers
  • Children enjoy the approach and are motivated by it
  • It improves a child’s ability to understand what they read
  • It helps improve achievement in maths and science
  • Children become better able to co-operate with others
  • It has a positive impact on children’s confidence and self-esteem

Contact Us

Educational Psychology Service
Beechbrae Education Centre
Duffus Road
Elgin

01343 550999

educ_psychology@moray.gov.uk

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