Philosophy for Children (P4C Plus)

Philosophy for Children (P4C) is an approach to teaching and learning based on philosophical inquiry.  P4C Plus, designed by the leading practitioners at Dialogueworks, shows teachers how to teach through dialogue, facilitation and student-led inquiries.

Philosophy for Children (P4C Plus) Permanent Education CIC

P4C Plus shows students how to think independently,  reason effectively, communicate persuasively and explore their values.  The students have a strong say in the content of a lesson and a safe space to discuss views on a wide range of topics. P4C helps teachers get to know the students better.

P4C draws on Socratic questioning, Vygotsky’s constructivism and Dewey’s ideas of democracy in education. Mathew Lipman developed P4C 40 years ago in New York.  He wanted children to become: 

more thoughtful, more reflective, more considerate and more reasonable individuals”.

Matthew Lipman, creator of Philosophy for Children

P4C Plus creates space for open inquiry in response to a stimulus, or provocation.  Without practice in open inquiry, where the pupils make and choose their own questions for discussion, the spirit of inquiry can fade away. With it, every lesson can be seen by pupils as an opportunity to ask questions – whether questions of meaning or value judgement, or questions seeking information.

P4C Plus gives teachers practice and guidance in philosophical facilitation moves that widen or deepen inquiry.  It helps teachers keep dialogue constructive, focus on concept connections, draw on relevant reflections and push for reasons.

P4C Plus is well suited to International Baccalaureate and other schools, where inquiry is at the heart of the curriculum.  IB teachers who have been trained in P4C Plus, report how much they appreciate what the courses teach them about the practice of inquiry. The best philosophical teacher will also emphasise the valuing of virtues. And in this respect P4C Plus again aligns well with the IB’s Learner Profile and Attitudes.

P4C Plus is fun:  students and teachers love it. 

What are the foundations of P4C and P4C Plus?

Philosophy for Children (P4C Plus) Permanent Education CIC

What is a Community of Inquiry?

A community of inquiry is the group in which a P4C session takes place.  It is a group in which the individuals feel valued by each other and where they feel safe to express their views and share their experiences.  In most schools the whole class will form the community of inquiry, but it can also work with smaller groups.

What is 4Cs Thinking?

Four types of thinking are central to P4C’s values and practice:

  • Caring thinking: this is about respect for others in the community of inquiry and respect for the subject of the inquiry. 
  • Collaborative thinking:  this is about helping the community as a whole to progress by building on each other’s ideas.
  • Critical thinking: this is about questioning and reasoning well, and seeking understanding.
  • Creative thinking: this involves making connections and suggesting ideas.

What is Philosophical Questioning?

Philosophy is often defined as the love of wisdom.  It seeks to explore questions and find meaning about issues which our central to our lives:  issues such as truth, identity, virtue, knowledge, beauty and existence.   P4C encourages students to create their own questions on topics such as these.

Examples of philosophical questions in P4C inquiries might be:

  • Does everyone have a right to a good education?
  • Can animals create art?
  • Would it ever be right to tell a friend a lie?
  • Does it matter what I look like?
  • Is there truth in dreams?
  • Do things have to be equal to be fair?

What is the 4 Phase Inquiry Method?

The standard P4C inquiry model consists of four phases.  Teachers and pupils need to familiarise themselves with this model, as each phase contributes importantly to the value of the inquiry.  Once the community is conversant with the standard model, teachers can  vary it to suit particular learning goals.

Philosophy for Children (P4C Plus) Permanent Education CIC

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