Conference talks

Titles and abstracts for
Philosophy and the School: Challenges and Opportunities



Jana Mohr Lone:
Student Engagement, Social Inequalities, and the Importance of Institutional Humility

This talk focuses on three primary questions.

1. What are the limits and challenges of philosophy in schools and how do we develop transparency around our communications about this work?
2. Is it possible to engage all students in philosophical inquiry?
3. What is the potential for and the associated challenges of attempting to address social inequalities through philosophy in schools?

Philosophy in schools is still a relative rarity around the world. Because of this, most of those of us who work in the field end up engaged in "selling" the strengths of philosophy for young people. This is important, especially in a time in which the humanities are increasingly devalued, but can also lead to overstating the value of philosophy and hesitating to talk about some of the challenges we face. We can address this tendency in part by cultivating a kind of “institutional humility,” which involves an awareness in the field of the possibility of institutional error and the limits around what philosophy can do, and a willingness to examine the field’s difficulties.

One of our challenges, about which we do not, at least in my experience, talk openly very often, is that, despite our efforts, it is often difficult to involve all of the students in a class, as some or many are disinterested and disengaged. The talk explores this issue, offering some strategies to engage students who don't seem inclined to philosophy, including the use of silence in classrooms, and examines the role that social inequalities plays in classrooms and the ways philosophy in schools can address this.


Peter Worley:
How philosophy decreases confidence (and that that’s a good thing!)

There is a worrying relativist/subjectivist trend in P4C practice, often expressed in phrases like, ‘there’s no right and wrong in philosophy’ or ‘no one’s opinion can be wrong’ and so on. These are what you might call unofficial doctrines that have emerged in the field rather than in the theory. Rather than being a cure for ‘post-truth’ problems it could be argued that P4C may well be - among other things in education today - contributing to the problem. In this talk I will offer a distinction, with regard to confidence-building, that will help clarify how philosophy (P4C/P4/wC/PhiE/CoPI and so on) can help tackle the ‘post-truth’ situation, but – crucially – only if it is taught to teachers well and understood properly. Where it is not, philosophy may well be doing more damage than good. 


Layla Raïd:
Feminist care ethics and philosophy for children

Our aim is to explore possible implications of feminist care ethics (Nel Noddings, Carol Gilligan) for the practice of philosophy with children. First, as Noddings defends the idea that caring relations between teacher and pupil provide the best foundations for moral education at school, we will show what a care perspective could bring to philosophy with children. Second, the empirical material gathered by Gilligan on moral education can be reinterpreted as displaying children’s philosophical capacities. Third, in the Birth of Pleasure, Gilligan develops a theory of how the “voice of care” develops in children of both sexes: how it is stifled in the young boy around the age of 5, when he learns male standards of emotion control, and how it is silenced at the beginning of puberty in girls, when they express themselves in public settings. We propose to see this stifling and silencing as something that is at stake in the Philosophy with children movement: as trying (among many other things) to hear what the children have to say before being silenced into adulthood.


Caroline Schaffalitzky:
Philosophy with Children and Implicit Bias

It is widely agreed that it is important to address questions about privilege, prejudices and implicit bias in education. However, it is not clear how teachers and companies should go about this, and recently, implicit bias training has been challenged as an ineffective way to change thinking and behavior. In this talk, I will compare some attempted approaches with a suggested approach rooted in philosophical inquiry. I will argue that this latter approach has several advantages over traditional bias training, even if there are challenges and pitfalls here as well.


Søren Sindberg Jensen: 
Philosophy with Children: A key to successful school inclusivity?

In this paper, I will discuss theoretical and empirical reasons for why Philosophy with Children (PwC) might be a key to successful school inclusivity, specifically the inclusion of students with minority background, while also considering possible obstacles and pitfalls pertaining to inclusive teaching. First, I will argue for the inclusive potential of PwC inspired teaching by pointing to some of the ways in which PwC is usually conceptualized, as well as comparing PwC inspired teaching to other kinds of inclusive teaching strategies, case in point being teaching strategies in the multicultural education tradition. Lastly, I will raise the question of what to look for, in the first place, when studying the impact of PwC on school inclusivity, empirically. This last move, I argue, is much needed in order to, further, substantiate the answer to the question of the title.

Rose-Anne Reynolds:
Communities of philosophical enquiry in a post-colonial South African school setting

In a country like South Africa, where the power difference between the adult and child in the classroom is usually fixed, replicated and reproduced, engaging in a community of enquiry can be transformative. In my presentation I will share how a community of philosophical enquiry can contest the adult/child binary by focusing on more than the verbal interactions between the children and the teacher. I will also explore one of my PhD research questions: How does critical posthumanism reconfigure the concept of inclusion in a post-colonial school setting? I have enacted an inclusive research design, doing 13 philosophical enquiries at the school – with 13 different groups of children from Grade 1 to Grade 7. I will be sharing one of the philosophical enquiries that was done with a group of Grade 2 children who are 7-8 years old.


Karin Murris: 
The critical choice of the starting point in philosophy with children (P4C)

I will be exploring with the audience the idea that picturebooks can be philosophical texts and the idea that this could decolonise childhood as well as education. My presentation will be aimed at people new to P4C as well as experienced practitioners and theorist and will comprise a series of images from well-known picturebooks from the West.




Egle Säre:
Developing the reasoning skills through Philosophy for Children

Philosophical discussion with children according to the programme Philosophy for Children (P4C) leads to growth in the learners’ verbal reasoning abilities. Reasoning skills enable children to give explanations of opinion, behaviour, and make decisions. This presentation introduces the main results of dissertation, which aim was to find out the emergence of 5- to 6-years-old Estonian pre-schoolers’ verbal reasoning via their responses to questions asked by the adult—which should support children’s verbal reasoning—during the implementation of philosophical group discussions based on Philosophy for Children (P4C). The results indicate that pre-schoolers who participated in philosophical group discussions in a quasi-experiment over 8 months performed higher in their thinking skills and were more talkative than the control group. The results also revealed which questions asked by the adult moderator have more potential to support the development of reasoning skills among pre-schoolers.


Tascha Brandt Schøsler:
The disruptive potential of Philosophy with Children – Examples from Practice

For many years it has been argued that dialogic teaching is worth pursuing in schools. Still, studies show that student-centered dialogue are under-represented in many classrooms. In this talk I present Philosophy with Children as a point of departure for exploring teacher beliefs in relation to dialogic teaching and I present different and recurring reactions from Danish teachers who observed Philosophy with Children-sessions in their own classes. I discuss what the teachers’ reactions indicate about their beliefs regarding e.g. children, teaching and education and argue that some of these beliefs might be contrary to the dialogic pedagogy of Philosophy with Children. These contrary beliefs might be part of the explanation of the “missing dialogue” in classrooms. Further, I discuss how the practice of Philosophy with children may disrupt these beliefs.


Lærke Groth & Dorete Kallesøe: 

P4C (Philosophy for Children) as ”supportive teaching”  and ”supportive learning activities”

In Frederiksberg – a small county in the middle of Copenhagen – all 9 schools decided that the children in year 0-3 (6-9 years old) should do P4C one lesson a week to support their learning, and they invited Filosofipatruljen (Lærke Groth and Dorete Kallesøe) to do the training of the 200 preschool teachers. The training consisted of a one-day course – and two follow up half days of training and exchange of experience. Filosofipatruljen developed around 50 exercises and a manual for the teachers. The last follow up day introduced the participants to tools for continuing doing P4C and developing their own materials. In year 2, an independent researcher will evaluate the P4C impact. In our paper, we will give some more details about the Frederiksberg project: What kind of material did we develop? What did we think about progression? How did the children experience P4C compared to usual teaching? In spite of strong results, many questions remain: What should a teacher learn to be able to philosophize with children? What does a good P4C-facilitator do? Can a teacher do philosophy after just 3 days of training?


Janice Moskalik:
Inclusive Conversations: A Philosophical Defense of Philosophy for Children

Including children in the doing of philosophy is the more philosophical approach when thinking about philosophy itself. Philosophy is a method of interrogating and reflecting upon arguments for positions that differ, allowing for a plurality of perspectives to be brought to bear on certain kinds of important questions – usually with the aim of increasing understanding. The academy is often assumed to be the main setting for philosophical conversations, but this setting is necessarily limited. Doing philosophy with children includes voices from outside the academy, including perspectives that might not otherwise be represented in academic discussions. Including children in philosophical conversations thus allows for greater opportunities to be reflective on what philosophy is, provided we are open to such reflection. And, such reflection is what philosophy is all about!


Anne Klara Bom (with Caroline Schaffalitzky):
Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales and Philosophy with Children

How can Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales be used in philosophical inquiries with children? Informed by research on the use of Hans Christian Andersen in the education system and knowledge about philosophical inquiry as a didactical approach, we will begin by looking at potential benefits and challenges in combining Andersen with philosophical inquiry. After this, we will turn to a closer examination of specific challenges in material on the fairy tales as stimuli for philosophical inquiry, namely 11 manuals published by prominent proponent of P4C in Denmark, Per Jespersen. We will conclude the talk by presenting our own recommendations for future uses of the fairy tales in inquiries.


Alina Reznitskaya:
Researching Dialogue-Intensive Pedagogy: What We Know, What We Need to Know

Dialogue, as a communication form characterized by its commitment to inclusiveness and rationality, has long been advocated by educators as a mechanism for helping students become better thinkers. Unfortunately, numerous claims about the educational potential of participating in dialogue have not resulted in substantial changes in classroom practices. In this presentation, I discuss how we can better support the use of dialogue-intensive pedagogy by conducting theoretically-driven and systematic investigations of this practice. I will critically review existing research on various pedagogical approaches centered on dialogue, highlight the differences in the ways dialogue is structured and supported, and point out questions requiring further investigation.


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