The Benefits of Philosophy for Children, for Teachers and their classroom

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:

Individual thinking

Taking the time both before and after discussions to reflect on and puzzle through issues from their own perspective.

Peer Collaboration

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.

Independent Thinking

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.”

Class Discussion: The Community of Inquiry

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.

Transferable Conceptual Skills

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

  • express his/her own beliefs and opinions clearly and concisely
  • give and ask for reasons (justification)
  • make considered judgements
  • give and ask for definitions
  • make logical inferences and see the implications of claims
  • give and ask for examples and counterexamples
  • make conceptual connections
  • classify and make generalisations
  • identify and question assumptions
  • note consequences
  • pose and explore alternative possibilities
  • use criteria
  • use analogies and causal inferences
  • question illegitimate claims to authority
  • formulate structured arguments
  • reflect upon and reassess a position
Recent Praise
  • The Blooming Minds Handbook is an invaluable resource and used by both Year 4 teachers as a ‘bible’ in running sessions. The lesson plans are really well designed and the breakdown into stages of the lesson is very helpful. [Year 4 class teacher]

     

    The Blooming Minds Handbook for Teachers
  • My Year 5 class have been lucky enough to participate in Philosophy sessions with Kath for the past 5 weeks. Many children in my class have trouble maintaining friendships and there are often arguments and unhealthy gossip. There are also several children who display particularly difficult behaviour. Since the children have taken part in the Philosophy sessions, there has been a visible improvement in their attitude and outlook on their own behaviour. The sessions have had a significant impact on the way the children think and I often have conversations with them during the week in which they reflect back to the session. I often hear the phrase, “That’s like in Philosophy when Kath said…” or “It’s like we learned in Philosophy, we shouldn’t let our emotions push us to make bad decisions”. The phrases “I agree” and “I disagree” are now used regularly in the classroom, and the children readily speak about making decisions and using justification. I cannot begin to explain how pleasing it is for me, as their class teacher, to hear them reflecting in this way and using what they have learnt in the session to think about and improve their own skills and behaviour. Simply wonderful. [Y5 class teacher]

    Improving behaviour and reflective thinking