Sunday, 7 February 2016


I have often wondered about methods… especially pedagogical methods… about how they help and support the work we do with children but also how they limit us… the need to keep to the method - the "right" way of doing something.

This weekend I attended the first of three 5 hour sessions learning more about philosophy with children - the focus being on Socratic dialogue.

As a teacher that has developed my own approach to philosophy with children I have read various methods and approaches and then done what I have always done, broken them down to understand how they work and then reassemble into a form that suits myself and the children I work with… it has to be interesting and meaningful not only for the children but for myself too… the children have to see that I am enjoying the process, the learning.

I was interested in how P4C and Socratic dialogue differ - and that those who are trained in one method find the alternative "hard" "wierd" and have resisitance… and this was something I saw yesterday and I have seen over time in groups where these philosophical approaches are defended in much the same way as pedagogical methods/approaches are defended… which I have often found has resulted in a lack of listening… if you are defending it is not an open dialogue, you listen only to answer rather than listen to understand.

For me, personally, this is why I fell in love with the Reggio Emilia Approach… it allowed me not to follow a set pedagogical structure but to explore many methods, research, schools, approaches and disciplines to find the information to weave together the fabric most suitable for the context - the children I work with, the setting I work at, the colleagues I work with and my own personal development.

I have found this useful in my philosophical learning journey. For me getting the children to think, to listen to each other, to be respectful of each others ideas, to share ideas, learning how to express their ideas… have been the most important. My understanding of Malaguzzi's 100 languages has given me the incentive to explore philosophy through more than just dialogues… to explore philosophical thinking through artistic expression, through construction, through movement, through theatre and most importantly through play.

Maybe being a pedagogue first and learning to be a philosopher WITH the children has given me the chance to see the power of thinking through many languages… communication is of course more than words… You can check out a blogpost here to read more about communication being more than the spoken language . I have not been trained in a specific method… but read and listened to others with philosophical experience… colleagues (Ellen) and courses (philosophy with children course) - some of these have been with a heavy P4C focus and others with a more Socratic dialogue approach… also meeting up with people like Kate Kennedy White from Australia and Sara Stanley from UK have also helped me understand how we can work philosophically with children and have inspired me greatly.

I think in the end we have to ask ourselves what do we want from these dialogues… what is the purpose… and then find a structure that will help create that…
I like structure… but I also like for that to be flexible enough so I can meet the needs of the children I work with… to be able to take inspiration from these different methods/approaches.

Structure is important… to allow the children to be free to explore their ideas… to feel safe. The structure gives time… to the group and to the individuals, it create the rhythm of respect…
I have written more about structure creating freedom here if you are interested in exploring this idea more.

Now I feel I need more time to reflect and think…

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