Swimming against the tide : the implementation of philosophy for children in the primary classroom

O'Riordan, Nicola

September 2013

Thesis or dissertation

© 2013 Nicola O'Riordan. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Philosophy for Children is a cognitive enhancement programme that utilises Socratic questioning and a dialogic pedagogy to develop the reasoning, creativity, social skills and ethical understanding of children. An abundance of research has established P4C’s efficacy in achieving these aims (Trickey & Topping, 2004). However, Leat (1999) asserts that despite evidence of the effectiveness of thinking skills programmes, embedding innovative programmes like P4C into school practice is analogous to “rolling a stone uphill” (p389) and anecdotal evidence of the researcher’s own experience as a SAPERE level 1 trainer substantiates this claim.

Exploration of the implementation of P4C in the classroom is a neglected area in the large body of research literature pertaining to P4C; research efforts until recently have tended to focus on the cognitive, affective, methodological and theoretical aspects of this approach. This research set out to test the veracity of Leat’s (1999) claim that teacher efficacy is “…a measure of the chances of implementing change” (p399) and employed qualitative interviewing to examine the factors which primary teachers perceived to determine the implementation of P4C in the classroom.

The research findings identified three distinct groups of P4C implementers: regular, intermittent and ceased. Analysis of the factors that teachers perceived to determine the implementation of P4C in the classroom revealed differing levels of teacher efficacy amongst these three groups and substantiated Leat’s (1999) claim. Furthermore, analysis facilitated the formulation of fuzzy predictions about the likely consequences of decision making on the P4C implementation process. The research findings also highlighted tensions, which were not exclusive to any particular group, between the values and practice of P4C and the values and requirements of the prevailing educational policy context. Further analysis gave credence to the view of many experienced SAPERE P4C trainers that P4C in the current climate represents counter-cultural practice.

Centre for Educational Studies, The University of Hull
Bottery, Mike
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