Philosophy deals with issues, dilemmas and questions that lie at the heart of human endeavor. Engaging in discussions about these will have a positive impact on all other activities and studies. In relation to Key Stages 1 and 2, philosophy classes are particularly beneficial for the emphasis they place on:
Taking the time both before and after discussions to reflect on and puzzle through issues from their own perspective.
Many of the activities involve pupils working in pairs or small groups to discuss issues before presenting their thoughts to the class. Working together in smaller units enables individuals to clarify and find the appropriate vocabulary to express themselves clearly and consistently. This is valuable for many children in building confidence to speak out in a larger group. It is also easier for many children to listen to one another within a smaller group without their attention wandering. Having invested their interest in the discussion in this setting they are then more likely to remain focused on the discussion when the whole class is involved.
Pupils are given the time needed to think through an issue or question for themselves and are encouraged to reach decisions and take up positions based on their own reasoning rather than simply following along with their friends. Learning how to formulate an effective challenge to an existing claim or belief is a valuable skill in discussion sessions and is recognised by the class as such.
The consolidation and development exercises in the workbooks give pupils the opportunity to demonstrate their individual ability in handling the key concepts in each inquiry, as well as exploring and recording their own thoughts on the topics.
“Children with regular input from Philosophy classes, in my opinion, have shown increasing levels of progress across a short space of time, particularly in the analytic and evaluative skills demonstrated in their oral discussions, reading and writing.”
The importance and value of building a ‘Community of Inquiry’ within the classroom cannot be overstated. It is within this context that pupils develop the confidence to think and speak for themselves and to challenge the views of others in a supportive environment, premised upon participating in a collaborative process of inquiry. The philosophical journey is one that is taken by the individual together with others. By engaging in these activities children learn to value the challenges offered by alternative views in moving a discussion forward, as well as developing problem-solving and reasoning skills, along with a sense of individual and group satisfaction in tackling difficult and complex issues.
By participating in Philosophy discussions pupils learn to develop a range of intellectual skills that are transferable to a range of other areas of study. These include being able to