4Cs Dialogue


Exploring caring thinking with children at The Wroxham School

Exploring caring thinking with children at The Wroxham School


What is Dialogue?

There would seem to be an obvious answer to this question – surely dialogue is talk between two or more people! But it can be argued that ‘dialogic‘ talk has some key properties. Here the Greek root ‘dia-‘ means ‘through’, or ‘across’ (not two) and the word dialogic can be translated as meaning ‘reason across difference‘. The participants in a dialogue genuinely seek to understand each  other’s ideas and to see their own ideas from the perspective of the other. The ideas are allowed to play around each other sparking new ideas and alternative perspectives. The participants are engaged in a shared chain of thinking – they are ‘thinking together‘.

This blog post explores these ideas in a little more detail.


Why is Dialogue Important in Schools?

Quality dialogue is an essential medium for developing educational outcomes, and is a profoundly important educational outcome in its own right.

In our book ‘Dialogic Education: Mastering core concepts through thinking together’, Professor Rupert Wegerif and I show how dialogue is essential to the mastery of core concepts that underpin progress across the curriculum. (You can find resources linked to the book here).

Y5 pupils exploring the idea of 'force'

Y5 pupils at Scholar Green School exploring the idea of ‘force’

In this blog post I draw on the work of Gert Biesta and the Cambridge Primary Review to argue that dialogue is central to a wide range of educational aims. Ultimately being able to engage in dialogue – to reason across difference – is a fundamental life skill.

But there is much evidence to suggest that most of the talk observed in schools (and other settings)  falls short of dialogue and is not a productive medium for learning or understanding different perspectives.

This is why it is important that we not only teach through the medium of dialogue, but that we also teach for dialogue as an endpoint in itself.


What are the 4Cs?

The 4Cs provide a framework that allows teachers and children to work collaboratively to develop and work towards a shared vision of ‘quality dialogue’. The framework was originally developed by the founder of P4C, Matthew Lipman in the USA, and was augmented by Roger Sutcliffe in the UK. It takes ‘good dialogue’ or ‘good thinking’ to involve four inter-related modes: Caring Thinking, Collaborative Thinking, Critical Thinking and Creative Thinking.

The 4Cs are explored in more detail in this blog post.


What Evidence is there that the Approach Works?

4Cs dialogue combines approaches from Philosophy for Children (P4C) and Thinking Together. This report by the Education Endowment Foundation explores the impact of P4C on reading and maths at KS2. The Thinking Together approach, developed by Professor Rupert Wegerif, Professor Neil Mercer and Dr Lyn Dawes, has been extensively evaluated. See, for example,  Littleton, K., & Mercer, N. (2013). Interthinking: putting talk to work. Routledge.


What CPD and Support is Available?

Bespoke support is available; please contact me to discuss details. Standard packages of CPD are listed below.


Introductory Sessions (60 – 90 mins)

These sessions introduce the 4Cs and their use in the classroom to create an environment in which dialogue can flourish. An overview of the application of dialogue to some educational aims, including conceptual mastery, is given.

Standard price £275


Full Day Courses

These courses include:

  • a detailed introduction to the 4Cs and their use in the classroom to develop quality dialogue;
  • examples of ‘talk tasks‘ that can be used to support groups of children to develop their understanding of core concepts through dialogue;
  • examples of how units of work can be adapted according to five principles of dialogic education to engage children and to help them to master core concepts;
  • guidelines for the facilitation of richer whole-class dialogue;
  • examples of how dialogue can support wider educational outcomes such as helping children to play an active part in local, national and global communities and to develop their own sense of autonomy.

Standard price £500 or £750 with a follow-up day of support and consultancy

Please contact me if you would like to book a course or if you would be interested in hosting an open course in your school.