Results are released today of a year long study funded by the Education Endowment Foundation with over 3100 9&10 year olds in UK primary Schools. The study shows that just 1 hour a week of P4C leads to progress equivalent to an extra 3 & 4 months of reading, writing and mathematical over the year. A significant finding raising the profile of the work of SAPERE.( Society for advancement of philosophical enquiry and reflection in Education)EEF news link
If we can prove it closes the gap at the age of 9 then surely starting philosophy with our very youngest children could eliminate the gap completely? Why should there be a gap at all if we have a proven tool to fix it?
What the presenter didn’t ask and I didn’t get the chance to say was HOW philosophy helps close this gap…..
P4C offers the opportunity to apply knowledge to thoughts, questions and ideas .
Through philosophical stimulus children have intrinsic motivation to want to be many things ;
- scientists. “I need to experiment on this purple goo in case the aliens want to contaminate the earth and kill all the humans”
- Mathematicians…”Is there a beginning to numbers? Can there ever be an end, is nothing but a speck of dust something or nothing?
- Authors… ” I need to write to the dragon and tell him how to behave if he comes to my party”
And in addition they want to be readers, editors, investigators, historians and social commentators.
Through facilitated enquiry children are learning skills such as logical reasoning, challenging hypothesis, articulating exact meaning, listening for understanding, recognising contradictions, challenging assumptions, avoiding generalisations, building dialogue in a community of respect.
As a result they want to acquire knowledge. We don’t have to get them to rap, chant, perform complicated body movements to tell us what they obviously already know because we have told them repeatedly that that is so and that is that. (I know some Academy leaders who might disagree….and no , we do not have to “just agree to disagree. “That’s not helpful and it’s certainly not philosophy.) but I digress ……
Years of observing and listening to children have highlighted just how much young children struggle to make sense of their worlds even before words
Who is this in the mirror? Identity
Why do they seem cross at this lovely mess I’ve made? Aesthetics
When they start first social interactions with others in nursery and school they are still having to work out how their worlds work .
“Now more than ever children come into their first experiences of education bringing different cultural meaning systems through which they make sense of the world. if we don’t acknowledge the diversity of the lived experience of childhood it renders individual children invisible. Philosophical play thrives on diversity and has the potential to allow the voices of all children to be heard.” Sue Lyle 2015
When children play they replicate the same puzzlements of adults…
Why can’t I play?
I am the leader?
Your not my best friend today
That’s not a goodie dragon it looks scary
These thoughts and questions could so easily be …
Why does my male colleague get more respect than me?
What do I do to gain respect in the workplace?
How do I do what is right?
He looks foreign he might be dangerous
These are powerful philosophical concepts such as
Power, identity, ownership, fairness, equality, human rights.
When you overhear a child saying…
“Let’s pretend you were nice to me”
We can ask the whole class who might have been saying this?
The youngest children know stories about lonely creatures, they understand and empathise with a person who is misunderstood …Was it a dragon? Why doesn’t he have any friends? How can they help him make friends? Would he prefer goodies or baddies to be his friends? Can we teach bad dragons to be good?
Next time they recognise loneliness and sadness in their peers they might remember the dragon.
When children use story and fantasy we discover all sorts of philosophical “thortings” (Charlie aged 4)
I’m being a princess but where has the real me gone?
If a witch leaves her wand at home is she still a magic witch?
Is the giant big or is jack just really really small?
Do babies know they are only babies?
Can something be too magic?
But what if it is a pink fluffy girl dragon?
In response to my very brief interview on BBC 5 live there have been a few anticipated tweets and comments , aww aren’t little children sweet!
Imagine saying that to your work colleague when they ask why you are paid more…
Another tweeted response .. Along the lines of ”Plato? don’t you mean Play dough?”
Yes actually, P4C through play and playdough, and dressing up, and drawing and painting and digging in the dirt . I have examples of 4 years olds discussing evolution and alien life forms and what if their playdough alien has an evil beam in it and is controlled by a boss? What if the blue kangaroo made from play dough breaks and we remake him ? Is it still the same kangaroo?
So those are some of the things I wish I’d had time to share and please follow the links in the media today to find out more about the EEF report and the work of sapere.org