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philosophical instruction

18 May The Philosophy Advantage: PART 1

By Sarah Brandt, Rubicon International

If you haven’t yet considered teaching philosophy (or philosophically) in your classroom, then now may be a good time to start!

In the ever-changing landscape of education, philosophical instruction can provide your pedagogical practices with structure and consistency. As one of the oldest academic disciplines, philosophy is at the roots of today’s educational practices. So, why not tap into these instructional methods that have withstood the test of time?

In this two-part blog series, we’ll discuss why you can and should teach philosophy in everyday instruction. We’ll talk about some ways to do this, provide resources, and dive into the specifics of what we mean by philosophy.

WHY do we care about instructing philosophy/philosophically?

It is the difficult and critical role of a teacher to impart more than factual information on to their students. Asking questions and having dialogues are integral to the philosophical method, and they are also powerful tools for engaging students and encouraging them to be active learners. The good news is children are natural philosophers – they are inquisitive and curious about the world around them.

Philosophy is about pursuing knowledge and wisdom. Asking big questions fosters interest not just in gaining knowledge, but also in the process of learning.

Philosophical Instruction is already integral to some of the pedagogical shifts we see in education.

Q: What do the NGSS and Philosophical Instruction have in common?

A: The NGSS advocates for a pedagogical shift to inquiry based instruction – philosophy instructors have been calling this the Socratic Method of inquiry for years!

Pedagogical shifts, such as those spearheaded by the NGSS, emphasize inquiry-driven instruction. Inquiry-driven instruction is driven by questions that grab students’ attention and ask them to engage in creative thinking and problem solving. This type of instruction is not a new phenomenon, but has for centuries gone by a different name: philosophical inquiry.

HOW can we teach philosophy in our classrooms? It may be easier than you think!

Topics of philosophy tend to tie into academic subjects in a myriad of ways, much like cross-cutting concepts.

A philosophy of ___ unit is a great introduction to any subject – it provides a big-picture perspective for the course. This can make the course more relatable and help engage a variety of learners with different levels of interest in the material. It can also help connect the subject to other academic disciplines.

HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES!

Philosophy of Language

Discuss the relationship between language and reality. Most languages have words that don’t appear in other languages or words that work differently. For example, Italian uses “Ciao” for hello and goodbye, as opposed to having two different words like we do in English. What does that mean culturally, and how does our language shape our reality?

Philosophy of Art

Ask your students questions about what makes something art. Does art have to be beautiful? Can it have utility, such as a chair, or must it be purely for the sake of art?

To infuse your instruction with philosophical themes and ideas, check out these resources:
  • The Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO) is aimed at introducing philosophical instruction in primary and secondary education. Their website provides great resources on what this looks like at different grade levels.
  • The University of Washington Center for Philosophy for Children advocates for teaching philosophy at all ages. Their website has great resources including sample lesson plans!
  • The If Machine: Philosophical Enquiry in the Classroom by Peter Worley provides information on enquiry based philosophical instruction as well as topics and scenarios for philosophical discussion.

Check back for Part 2 of this series where we’ll take a look at what we specifically mean by philosophy and provide examples in a classroom context.

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