04 SES 13 C, Philosophizing with Children: Inclusive Education through Uncertainty and Heterogeneity in the Community of Inquiry
This symposium presents four empirical studies on the subject of Philosophy with Children (PwC) and the papers focus on the question of the ways in which PwC creates an inclusive learning environment. Each of the papers focuses on PwC within educational environments with particular challenges.
The papers presented take the theoretical position that Philosophy with Children (PwC) is a dialogic pedagogy (Bakhtin, 1981; Wegerif and Philipson, 2017) as learners develop not only the skills to articulate their thinking in group situations, but also create a collaborative classroom culture in which learners and teachers listen to each other’s views. A central tenet of dialogism is that the dialogic relationship is one in which individuals are open to the voice of others , and that meaning is created as voices engage together: true dialogism is recognising the ontological validity of others, rather than a solely pedagogical approach .
The key pedagogy associated with PwC (Gregory et al, 2016) is the Community of Inquiry (CoI), which has pragmatist origins (Kerslake, 2018) with the epistemological position that all knowledge is fallible, and is open to question by others. In the classroom, the aim of philosophical inquiry is to be systematic but also meandering (Lipman, 1998): participants are expected to justify and explain their reasoning in a culture where listening to and understanding others’ viewpoints are of greater focus than reaching the end-point of the inquiry. In this way, Philosophizing with Children enables children to engage with open questions, uncertainty and ambiguity because the openness of philosophical questions and the uncertainty of possible answers is in the very heart of the community of inquiry.
Two of the papers present methods for honing the inclusivity of CoI pedagogy. Kerslake’s paper presents data from interviews and questionnaires with teachers and children following the Playground of Ideas method of philosophizing; data indicates that it is a method which offers opportunities for younger children to participate in the CoI.
The Single Word Response Method (Postiglione) is also a new method of facilitating philosophical discussions, and measurements of participation levels amongst both child and adult groups of socioeconomically heterogeneous members highlight that this method fosters greater inclusivity where there is social disadvantage.
While discussion-based pedagogies are credited with improving children’s communicative competence (Cazden, 2001; Michaels et al, 2008), Alt’s research in a pre-school class examines specific language gains by children, finding that following PwC sessions, children use more complex language. This includes children participating in a second language and those with identified language impairments.
Michalik’s paper highlights that the uncertainty of philosophical discussion in the pragmatist tradition is an inclusive means by which to explore diverse viewpoints. In an age of risk and a fast-changing world, this paper, based on group discussions with children and interviews with teachers in primary schools, indicates that PwC offers a means by which children can productively encounter and engage with diversity and ambiguity in the classroom in preparation for wider life.
Together, these papers offer a collection of new research into Philosophy with Children which both supports previous literature on the positive aspects of the pedagogy such as learner development and teaching culture, while also extending knowledge of the specific ways in which PwC contributes to inclusivity in education. The data presented here indicates that PwC is a method which can contribute to create inclusive learning settings, because it fosters participation and mutual exchange in heterogeneous communities, cultivates the speaking, listening and thinking together through the uncertainty of philosophical discussion, enabling children to solve problems in interactions which are dialogic.
Bakhtin, M.M. (1981) The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Ed. Holquist, M. Trans. Caryl Emerson, C and Holquist, M. Austin and London: University of Texas Press Cazden, C. (2001) Classroom Discourse. The Language of Teaching and Learning (2nd Ed). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Gregory, M, Haynes, J and Murris, K (2016) (eds) Introduction The Routledge International Handbook of Philosophy for Children London: Routledge Kerslake, L. (2018) From pragmatism to posthumanism: thinking through the Community of Philosophical Inquiry. In Kerslake, L. and Wegerif, R. (eds.) The Theory of Teaching Thinking. International Perspectives. London: Routledge Lipman, M. (1998) Philosophy Goes To School. Philadelphia: Temple Michaels, S. O’Connor, C. and Resnick, L. (2008) Deliberative Discourse Idealized and Realized: Accountable Talk in the Classroom and in Civic Life Studies in the Philosophy of Education 27: 283-297 DOI: 10.1007/s11217-007-9071-1 [Last accessed 15/1/19] Phillipson, N and Wegerif, R (2017). Dialogic Education: Mastering core concepts through thinking together. London and New York, Routledge
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