Steve Williams

The Basics
The basics of Philosophy for Children are straightforward. Children, or older students, share some reading, listening or viewing with their teacher. The children take some thinking time to devise their own questions. They choose a question that interests them and, with the teacher's help, discuss it together. The teacher is concerned with the getting children to welcome the diversity of each others' initial views and to use those as the start of a process of that involves the children questioning assumptions, developing opinions with supporting reasons, analysing significant concepts and generally applying the best reasoning and judgement they are capable of to the question they have chosen.

In the longer term, the teacher aims to build the children's skills and concepts through appropriate follow-up activities, thinking games and the orchestration of connections between philosophical discussions, life and the rest of the school curriculum.

The community of enquiry
A central concept of Philosophy for Children work has been that of the ‘community of enquiry’, which may be defined as a reflective approach to classroom discussion built up over time with a single group of learners. The ‘community’ embodies co-operation, care, respect and safety; and the ‘enquiry’ reaches for understanding, meaning, truth and values supported by reasons. As a community of enquiry develops over time, the children's questions get deeper and more thoughtful. Their discussions are disciplined and focused, yet, at the same time imaginative. They care about what others say but don't accept easy answers. A community of enquiry combines critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinking.

A little history
Philosophy for Children (P4C) is a worldwide educational movement that began in 1972 with the work of Professor Matthew Lipman and colleagues at the IAPC. Lipman wrote special 'philosophical novels' for use with children and comprehensive 'manuals' of accompanying resources. He also suggested the 'community of enquiry' as an appropriate method and aim of P4C. Now Philosophy for Children is practiced in more than thirty countries around the world using a wide variety of materials to instigate questioning and enquiry. Though the materials vary, the basic model of the community of enquiry and the methods Lipman introduced have remained remarkably robust and popular with teachers and pupils alike.

Boy thinking

Matthew Lipman: P4C Pioneer