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But is it philosophy? Mais, est-ce la philosophie?. The question of teacher training. Background of this paper: thinking about teacher training and its effectiveness-- a presentation at ICPIC in England ---I am still thinking… 30 years+ of p4c

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Background of this paper: thinking about teacher training and its effectiveness-- a presentation at ICPIC in England

---I am still thinking…

  • 30 years+ of p4c
  • The concept of CoI (Community of Inquiry)--why it can be problematic for schools: 4 points of concern
slide3

Obstacles for P4C as viewed by school personnel:

  • The teacher should be in charge of the classroom and the nature of the CoI seems to shift the power to the children.
  • 2. In a philosophy discussion one cannot have an articulated learning plan and in a test driven environment, this open-endedness makes administrators uneasy. What is getting done?
  • Isn’t philosophy akin to religion or some belief system and thereby inappropriate for children in a public school setting? We shouldn’t be teaching mere opinion to students.
  • We do not have time to waste on children discussing philosophy or any subject when there is so much material that must be efficiently covered
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Let’s us put aside these concerns and assume that there is a willingness to engage in p4c in schools.

While much attention is paid to the value of philosophy for children, we must not ignore the role of the teacher.

Let us now explore what the teacher needs to effectively function within a Community of Inquiry Classroom of philosophical inquiry

To begin: what questions should guide our examination of teacher preparation?

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Questions:

  • Will children be experiencing a real philosophical inquiry?
  • Are classroom teachers able to engage children in a CoI investigation on philosophical issues?
  • How does their own professional training as educators factor into their abilities and the likelihood of success in P4C?
  • Are some teachers constitutionally better at P4C and why?
  • What constitutes enough training and how ought the training program be developed to maximize success?
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The Successful Teacher-Facilitator

  • Five characteristics and masteries:
  • Intellectual abilities
  • Background knowledge
  • Critical thinking skills and practices
  • Teaching methodologies
  • Interpersonal skills
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I. The First Step for Teacher training

  • Inviting teachers to reflect on their engagement with p4c-- some suggested questions coming out of the five characteristics:
      • What sorts of questions do you have about the world? What interests you most and least?
      • How do you approach a new subject matter? With eagerness or reluctance and why?
      • What subjects are you conversant with and how did you become such? Are there subjects that bore you? If yes, why do you think that is the case?
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How do you envision your self as a thinker and what strategies do you use in your own thinking and teaching to assist your students in becoming more careful and alert thinkers?

  • With what teaching methods do you align yourself ? Why?
  • How do you envision your students in their roles as students, children and friends with their peers?
  • How do children experience the world in ways different from and similar to adults?
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II. The Recognition of philosophy in P4C

  • The challenge in the United States: lack of exposure to philosophy at the undergraduate level and especially in teacher training programs. Particular attention must be paid to helping teachers understand the meaning of philosophy and philosophical inquiry.
  • Defining philosophy for the teacher

a. Ann Sharp’s 3 C’s: (central, common, controversial

b. My definition (from Lipman) :concerted attempt to think together coherently about difficult, open questions.

c. But defining philosophy is a philosophical inquiry in itself!

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2. Introducing Philosophy to the novice

a. Encountering the works of the canon, East and West: pro and con

b. Using topical introductions. Some examples:

Think by Simon Blackburn

An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy by Roger Scruton

What does it all mean? By Thomas Nagle

The Philosophy Gym By Stephen Law

The Great Ideas by Mortimer Adler

Philosophical Problems by Bertrand Russell

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Side Comment: an anomaly to be noted

The naturalness of philosophy is a cultivated and nurtured activity

To assume that humans are natural philosophers is to miss the obvious: most people do not think or at least do not think well.

But philosophy is an essential human potential which makes it a desired and fulfilling experience [Aristotle’s argument for the contemplative life]

This makes the nature and quality of teacher training all that more urgent

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III. The Recognition of Inquiry in training teachers to be philosophical facilitators

--Initial enthusiasm followed too often by dissolution

--Pressures of testing, teacher isolation, and lack of deep understanding of the concept of CoI: p4c is not simply cooperative learning, questions or conversation.

--Nor is p4c an instructional program which the teachers teach to their students

Conclusion: You do not necessarily have P4C because students are talking, asking questions or working in groups or use the label “philosophy.”.

slide14

IV. Aprés le deluge: After all this gloom and doom, what can I recommend?

Some guiding questions and suggestions for discussion:

Ought we to implement some screening system which can better detect which teachers have the preparation and skills to excel in P4C?

Do we need to engage in a renewed effort in the area of pre-service teacher training programs?

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3. In preparing professional teachers, focus on their acquiring a working knowledge of philosophical problems, a vocabulary of concepts and a basic familiarity with the philosophical literature.

4. Develop ways for teachers to form “philosophy support groups,” or quite simply their own “communities of inquiry” wherein they can pursue the topics that interest them within community.

5. Continually encourage teachers to explore how philosophical inquiry is different from the more familiar forms of discussion such as cooperative learning, group work or simple conversations.

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6. Recommend to schools or districts the enlistment of ongoing support of a philosopher-on-site or a visiting philosopher who can facilitate a teacher CoI or simply offer refresher workshops.

7. Continue the development of fresh “catalyst documents or activities” which can engage the teachers in new ideas.

8. Finally, we must work on developing rubrics or assessment tools that can help both students and teachers reach a level of meta-inquiry into the P4C dialogic experience.

slide17

Topics to consider for discussion:

Training

Implementation

Assessment

Plural models

slide18

Le Fin

Merci pour votrê patience!

To contact me:

Wendy C. Turgeon

wturgeon@sjcny.edu

La philosophie