Philosophy for Children – P4C

At St Peter at Gowts, P4C (Philosophy for Children, Colleges and Communities) is embedded throughout the school, to support and enhance our focus on enquiry-led learning and values, alongside developing children’s use of vocabulary and oracy.

Philosophy for Children (P4C) is an educational initiative built on the aspiration for dialogue about questions that matter, sometimes described as ‘big questions’ or questions about ‘big ideas’. It is an approach which impacts positively on children’s social and emotional, as well as intellectual development.

Philosophy literally means ‘lover of wisdom’ (from the Greek: ‘philo’=love, ‘sophia’=wisdom), and has its origins in the Socratic method of thought, asking and answering methodical questions to stimulate critical thinking, draw out ideas and expose assumptions. Philosophy can be thought of more as ‘a practice rather than another subject’, relevant to all areas of life – and applicable to different curriculum subjects.

Philosophical ‘big questions’ are ‘wondering questions’ – about meaning, truth, value, knowledge and reality – formed around philosophical concepts (such as ‘family’, ‘anger’, ‘jealousy’, ‘altruism’, ‘sameness’ or ‘difference’, for example) which are:

  • common to humans worldwide
  • central to how we think of ourselves and others – connected to human endeavour, our everyday experiences (which enquirers can draw upon to test out ideas, using concrete examples and counter examples)
  • contestable – open to examination, further questioning and enquiry – such concepts do not mean the same to everyone, and cannot be answered solely by researching facts or scientific investigation

P4C takes place within a Community of Enquiry, defined as ‘a group of people used to thinking together with a view to increasing their understanding and appreciation of the world around them and of each other’ – aiming to be ‘respectful of different experiences and open to other ways of thinking, but determined to think and act for themselves’.

Facilitated by a skilled P4C practitioner, participants foster a culture of collaborative (e.g. building on each other’s ideas, working together), caring (e.g. listening and appreciating other’s ideas), critical (e.g. asking ‘big idea’ questions, giving good reasons) and creative thinking (e.g. making connections, comparing things).

Within a community of enquiry, the focus shifts from traditional didactic teacher-centred learning to participants becoming co-enquirers who build on each other’s ideas to pursue shared (as opposed to competitive) thinking, connections and meaning-making.

Through P4C sessions, our aim is to enhance skills in independent thinking, reasoning, communication and collaboration, building on the characteristics of good learning behaviours and making connections across the curriculum. P4C fosters intellectual dispositions, such as curiosity and clarity of expression, as well as the development of emotional intelligence, in a safe learning environment, and helps prepare pupils for future citizenship. We value pupil voice and giving our pupils the freedom to think for themselves – rendering them agents, rather than spectators, in knowledge creation.

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