04 SES 13 C, Philosophizing with Children: Inclusive Education through Uncertainty and Heterogeneity in the Community of Inquiry
As an alternative to teacher-led learning – which emphasizes the role of the teacher and is based on knowledge transfer from teacher to learner (Hedayati and Ghaedi, 2009), group discussion has been found to be efficacious to enhance children’s learning processes as well as to nourish their social skills and critical attitude (e.g Mercer et al, 1999). In this vein, Philosophy with Children (PwC) (Lipman et al. 1980; Lipman, 2003) has been proposed as a means to build shared knowledge, encouraging the dialogical disposition and argumentative skills of participants as well as to stimulate their inclusive and respectful attitude. However, a careful analysis of the social processes and dialogue dynamics occurring within a Community of Inquiry is necessary to understand how effectively PwC implements these goals under specific conditions (Billmann-Mahecha, 2005). In this case, the empirical observation on which this paper is grounded focused on the activity of generating questions for discussion, as it is a crucial feature of the PwC method (e.g. Lipman 2009; Mohr Lone, 2011). Initial research found that, in Communities of Inquiry comprising members from heterogeneous cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, the question-generating activity at the beginning of PwC sessions resulted in only a few members emerging as discussion leaders. This often led many participants to withdraw from discussion, thus frustrating one of the main purposes of PwC. Mitigating the emergence of hierarchical group relations connected with the standard questioning process, and making reference to Vygotsky’s work (2012), the Single Word Response method (SWRm) aims to foster greater inclusion in complex and heterogeneous communities. The SWRm consists of each participant framing thoughts and feelings into a single representative word in response to a philosophical stimulus (e.g text or video). Discussion later moves to the identification of one representative word that the community and facilitator formulate into a question for discussion. This paper reports on further experimentation of the SWRm - first tested in Italian primary schools - on adult communities composed of linguistically, socially and culturally heterogeneous members. Data show that the SWRm results in a lower percentage of questions, identified as starting point for discussion, coming from a single participant. The percentage of epistemically open questions and speech distribution among participants during discussion were also higher in comparison to the standard PwC method. This suggests that methodological integrations such as the SWRm could ensure the possibility to foster inclusion through PwC.
Billmann-Mahecha, E. (2005) Social Processes of Negotiation in Childhood - Qualitative Access Using the Group Discussion Method. Childhood & Philosophy, 1 (1): 271-285. Hedayati, M. and Ghaedi, Y. (2009) Effects of the Philosophy for Children Program Through the Community of Inquiry Method on the Improvement of Interpersonal Relationship Skills in Primary School Students. Childhood & Philosophy, 5 (9): 199-217. Lipman, M. (2009) Philosophy for Children: Some Assumptions and Implications. In Marsal, E., Dobashi, T. and Weber, B (Eds.) Children Philosophize Worldwide. Frankfurt: Peter Lang Lipman, M. (2003) Thinking in Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lipman, M.; Sharp, A. M. Oscanyan, F. S. (1980) Philosophy in the Classroom (2nd Ed). Philadelphia: Temple University Press Mercer,N., Wegerif, R. and Dawes, L. (1999) Children's Talk and the Development of Reasoning in the Classroom. British Educational Research Journal, 25 (1) Mohr Lone, J. (2011) Questions and the Community of Philosophical Inquiry. Childhood & Philosophy, 7 (13): 75-89. Vygotsky, L. (2012) Thought and Language. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press Ltd.
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