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10 Reasons to Teach Philosophy

Teaching philosophy

Hi everybody,

Summer’s nearly here and you are probably busy making plans for your curriculum for next year (or just working out as a parent how to fill up six weeks of school holiday). Now is a great time to consider teaching philosophy to your children – let me give you 10 reasons why you should:

1. Teaching children oracy has been in the news recently, with UK Schools Minister Nick Gibb calling on schools to consider its importance. Philosophy is a fantastic way to help children develop their speaking skills as it helps them practise explaining their ideas clearly and succinctly. Delphi Philosophy uses a powerful approach based on a skills progression framework where you can model and reinforce clear ways of speaking and explaining.

2. The new Ofsted framework in the UK emphasises the need for personal development as valuing good character education. Learning philosophy has been shown to develop children’s sense of empathy and social and communication skills as well as promoting a culture of respect and tolerance. By practising sharing different ideas and learning how to disagree with one another in a rational way, children see the value of different perspectives on ideas. All of this ticks a lot of boxes for Ofsted inspections!

3. Metacognition is one of those buzzwords around in education at the moment – and philosophy is a powerful tool to help children think about their own thinking. Recent research has shown the impact that teaching metacognition can have. Philosophy helps children to reflect on their own way of learning and the skills learned in philosophy emerge naturally in the rest of the curriculum.

4. Teaching philosophy has been shown to improve attainment in English and mathematics. When you teach philosophy it’s not hard to see why - what children learn how to do in philosophy – give reasons, listen to each other, use logic – link naturally to skills required in other lessons, whether it’s making inferences from a text, expressing ideas clearly or problem solving, to take a few examples.

5. Research suggests that teaching philosophy can have the most significant impact on disadvantaged learners. We have found it is particularly powerful for those children who have language difficulties as philosophy can help them to develop their confidence in speaking clearly. Teachers often tell us that children they’d never expect thrive in philosophy lessons! This makes teaching philosophy a great use of a school’s Pupil Premium budget.

6. Schools need to teach what philosophy delivers – for example, the National Curriculum in the UK states that pupils “should learn to justify ideas with reasons; ask questions to check understanding; develop vocabulary and build knowledge; negotiate; evaluate and build on the ideas of others; and select the appropriate register for effective communication. They should be taught to give well-structured descriptions and explanations and develop their understanding through speculating, hypothesising and exploring ideas.” (The National Curriculum in England, 2013) This is exactly what teaching philosophy delivers!

7. As well as being a logical and rational subject, philosophy is also a creative subject that encourages the children’s imagination and ideas. Philosophy lessons feel very playful to the children – it offers a chance to play with an idea and open their minds to new possibilities. Children want to ask questions and love to explain what they know – and they pick up practising philosophy very easily (often much more easily than adults do!) Children are natural philosophers – we just have to show them how to do it!

8. Learning how to teach philosophy can also have a great impact on the teacher’s skills and development. Learning to teach philosophy gives teachers a fantastic range of tools in terms of questioning, managing classroom discussions and promoting positive attitudes and behaviour. This can help improve the quality of teaching in all your subjects!

9. Of course, it not just about the skills picked up along the way, philosophy tackles the big questions and promotes curiosity and wonder about the world around us. We want every child to engage in these questions, and maybe learn some of the ideas of the famous philosophers as they go along!