Whilst teaching English at Sutton Grammar School, Jason Buckley rotated around Year 7 forms, facilitating discussions off the back of philosophical stories. These were popular, and years later when he was looking for a name for this website, he remembered one boy exclaiming “Yay, it’s the Philosophy Man!”
From small beginnings in 2008, The Philosophy Man is now the leading independent provider of P4C training and workshops. We now have two full-time trainers – Jason Buckley and Tom Bigglestone, and we work with a small group of associate trainers too. We send weekly email bulletins to nearly 16,000 educators worldwide, and train upwards of 2,000 teachers a year through INSETS and Keynotes in our streamlined and accessible Philosophy Circles approach to P4C. We spend as much time in the classroom as we do delivering courses, and we’re both in schools week-in, week-out ‘showing our working’ in front of children of all ages.
We’re extremely keen to make sure we don’t just turn up, trouser our fee and disappear without leaving much behind. We put a lot of energy into creating memorable, interactive sessions supported by practical resources. For example, all school bookings come with 100+ pick-up-and-go session plans for every subject in the curriculum; a Philosophy Circles handbook for every member of staff, as well as a mini-books of Thinkers’ Games and Pocket P4C. More about our Philosophy Circles training can be found under Training and Workshops.
We are continually creating new resources, sharing improvements to the training and expanding our horizons. We’re training more teachers, delivering more workshops, and giving more presentations than ever before, and this year have started working in Singapore, returning there and to Oz and NZ next year.
Philosophy for Children is an approach to education that puts philosophical enquiry at the heart of the learning process.
It emerged from the work of Matthew Lipman, a US philosophy professor. He wanted his undergraduates to think for themselves, not just demand answers they could regurgitate in exams.
The method he developed is now used in over 60 countries with schoolchildren of all ages. A recent study by the EEF found that regular P4C boosted children's literacy and numeracy test results and contributed to closing the gap between disadvantaged learners and the average (or "diminishing the difference", if the government hasn't yet changed it to "minimizing the mismatch"!).
Rather than the teacher asking a question, in a traditional P4C enquiry, children are given a “stimulus” such as a story or picture book, and create their own questions in response. That's one option within the Philosophy Circles. However, in an increasingly crowded curriculum, it can be time-consuming to go through the entire process on a regular basis, which is why we developed the three principles of Philosophy Circles.
They seek out philosophical questions, ones that involve important ideas about which people can have different views, and then vote for the one they think will lead to the most fruitful discussion.
The fact that neither you nor the children know what you are going to end up discussing makes the process exciting.
Once the question is chosen, a discussion begins in which the pupils sit in a circle and pass the opportunity to speak between themselves.
Pupils hold each other accountable for good reasoning; agreeing and disagreeing with each other without being disagreeable.
The teacher acts as facilitator to keep the discussion focused and to push for greater depth of thinking; but while a typical classroom discussion is a series of questions and answers mediated by a teacher who is already an authority on the subject, in P4C the participants have to create their own map to search for answers that they find plausible and well supported.
P4C develops thinking that is critical, using reasoned moves to build arguments; collaborative, with the sharing and challenging of ideas; creative in the willingness to speculate, take risks and imagine; and caring, because everything is set up to foster consideration and respect for one another.
The last paragraph is a quote from my mini-book, Pocket P4C, which is my potted guide to the method and techniques for implementing it. For a fuller explanation of the method, take a look in the “About P4C” section on P4C.com
I’m uncomfortable sounding like a mystic, but it is genuinely hard to convey how different and powerful P4C can be to someone who hasn’t done it.
That’s why there is a big emphasis in P4C training on allowing teachers to enjoy philosophical enquiry as participants: once they have tried it for themselves, teachers become passionate about bringing the same experience to their pupils.
The best analogy I can give for how P4C differs from regular teaching and learning is that it’s like the difference between storytelling and story reading.
The connection between the participants is stronger and more “live”, and when it works well it is a very special way of being with people of any age, a sort of meeting of minds at one another's best.