Philosophical three-year-olds: the P4C journey of Oaklands Nursery

Wednesday, September 27th, 2023
Oaklands’ Lead Teacher Claire Smith, with children around the Thinking Mat (Image: StokeonTrentLive)

One of the most satisfying experiences I have had in my years of being a Philosophy for Children (P4C) trainer has been watching the way in which teachers at Oaklands Nursery in Newcastle-under-Lyme have adopted the practice and made it their own.

Right from the beginning of their journey in 2018, the wonderful practitioners at Oaklands, led first by Nadine Key and latterly by Claire Smith, have been able to see how the pedagogy of P4C adds value to their existing (and Outstanding!) early years practice. The setting’s 2023 Ofsted report includes the lines:

Children are thoughtful thinkers. They have the words and confidence to share their own ideas, feelings and questions. Children show great focus and enjoyment in these sessions. They come up with many interesting and individual thoughts on a range of subjects. They transfer these to their learning across the days and weeks. Children know how to express and follow their own beliefs. They learn to understand and respect that not everyone will share the same opinion. They understand that it is fine to be different to, or think differently to, a friend‘.

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Teaching and learning on Buber’s narrow ridge

Wednesday, September 6th, 2023
My sons stepping onto the narrow ridge of Blencathra’s Sharp Edge in the summer of ’23

Relationship educates

As they put to sea at the beginning of a new academic year, here’s a maxim that educators everywhere might like to hold tight to: relationship educates.

Relationship educates. Thanks for the truism! Relationship educates? What does that even mean? I came across the phrase while reading Kenneth Kramer’s ‘Learning through Dialogue’ in which he reflects on the relevance of Martin Buber’s teachings to modern education. Buber, an Austrian-Jewish scholar of the early to mid-twentieth century best known for his work ‘I and Thou’, believed that it is not the teacher alone, but the lived relationship between the teacher, the student and the text (the material to be studied) that educates.

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P4C in a diverse environment – an EAL perspective from Summerbank Primary Academy

Monday, April 10th, 2023
Summerbank P4C Leaders Sarah Johnson and James Thomas with pupils Yagen, Zoya and San

A voice for everyone

Teachers from Summerbank Primary Academy had early misgivings about Philosophy for Children (P4C). Back in 2018 they joined colleagues from across The Societas Trust (a multi-academy trust in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent) – for Level 1 training. Summerbank had, and still has, a high proportion of pupils with English as an additional language (EAL), and the teachers’ disquiet was evident: ‘This sounds great, but how will it look in our school?’

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On the value of Philosophy for Children and Communities (P4C)

Saturday, February 26th, 2022
“P4C becomes the source of a stream of dialogic practice that flows through the curriculum…”

Credit for image;

I have been practicing Philosophy for Children and Communities (P4C) since 2009, and have been training teachers and others to practice it since 2012. It was P4C that sparked my interest in dialogue and dialogic teaching and learning, and these interests in turn have led me into ventures such as becoming a Lead Facilitator with Generation Global, writing a book about Dialogic Education with Professor Rupert Wegerif and becoming an affiliate of Professor Neil Mercer’s group, Oracy Cambridge.

But none of these experiences have led me away from P4C – in fact they have strengthened my belief in its value. Here I will share just some of the reasons underpinning this belief.

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The hopefulness of teaching for dialogue

Monday, October 25th, 2021
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

I often argue the case for dialogue as a medium through which young people can learn about curriculum subjects more deeply (see my series ‘A Teacher’s Guide to Dialogic Pedagogy‘, for example). In this post I want to make an argument for dialogue as an endpoint of education. I’ll argue that it offers us a better way to be, that it enables a person to gain a richer understanding of him or herself, of other people, and of the world, and that it offers hope for the future. Let’s start with some everyday experiences.

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Teaching for Metacognition with Thinking Moves A-Z

Sunday, November 29th, 2020

Following the closure of schools in March 2020, Diane Swift, Director of Keele and North Staffordshire Teacher Education (KNSTE, where I am a tutor), took the decision to engage our Associate Teachers (ATs) with Thinking Moves A-Z, an approach to teaching for metacognition. It proved to be a very positive experience for all, as I will attempt to explain below.

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A Teacher’s Guide to Dialogic Pedagogy Part 4: Teaching for Dialogue

Monday, June 8th, 2020
‘(Dialogic pedagogy) is not something that you can do to your students, but something you have to create with them. It is born out of relationship.’

Posts 2 and 3 of this series focus on the role of the teacher in dialogic pedagogy. In Post 2 Mortimer and Scott’s categorisation of the different communicative approaches available to the teacher are offered as a basis for reflection on the different types of classroom talk and their purposes. In Post 3 the role of the teacher in facilitating dialogic / interactive talk (or Thinking Together) is explored.  In this post we turn our attention to the role of the students in creating an environment in which Thinking Together becomes possible and can flourish, allowing them to make meaning of what they have been taught.

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A Teacher’s Guide to Dialogic Pedagogy Part 3: The How – Facilitation

Friday, May 8th, 2020
‘It’s funny. You don’t have to think too hard when you talk to a teacher.’ Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye

In the previous post I suggested that Eduardo Mortimer and Philip Scott’s categorisation of classroom talk offers a useful tool for teachers as they reflect on the different ‘communicative approaches’ they use. I also suggested that it would be useful for many teachers to increase the proportion of dialogic / interactive talk (or Thinking Together) in their classrooms, and perhaps to reduce the proportion of authoritative / interactive talk (characterised by IRE sequences) used. In this post I will retain the focus on teacher talk and offer some suggestions as to how the transition from authoritative to dialogic interaction could be made.

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A Teacher’s Guide to Dialogic Pedagogy Part 2: The How – Getting Started

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020


In the previous post I described dialogic pedagogy as involving teachers and students talking and thinking in a way that seeks out and values different perspectives, and uses them to develop understanding. The broad term ‘dialogic pedagogy’ encompasses diverse approaches to its enactment in the classroom. Notable approaches include Professor Robin Alexander’s Dialogic Teaching; Thinking Together as developed by Professor Rupert Wegerif, Professor Neil Mercer and Dr Lyn Dawes; Professor Lauren Resnick’s Accountable Talk; Roger Sutcliffe’s Philosophical Teaching and Philosophy for Children (P4C) as developed by Professor Matthew Lipman. Follow the links or see the bibliography to find out more about them.

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A Teacher’s Guide to Dialogic Pedagogy Part 1: The What and the Why

Saturday, April 18th, 2020

In this short series of posts, I want to explore what dialogic pedagogy is, why it might be valuable and how a classroom teacher or school might get started with it. It’s written in part to help me to clarify my own thinking (or at least to keep me thinking!) during the lockdown, though I do hope others will find it interesting and useful too. Any feedback would be most welcome.

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