Best practice of Philosophical Teaching and Learning – in a Community of Inquiry conducted by a trained facilitator – has been shown time and again to improve young people’s reasoning and communication skills, not to mention their self-respect and respect for others. These are results that any school would appreciate.
What makes Philosophical Teaching and Learning particularly appropriate for IB schools, though, is its practice of inquiry – which is at the heart of the IB curriculum at all levels. After the P4C Level 1 courses that Roger Sutcliffe piloted in IB schools during 2017, every teacher reported how much they had appreciated what the courses had taught them about the practice of inquiry.
Part of this is due to the space that Philosophical Teaching and Learning creates for open inquiry in response to an unexpected stimulus, or provocation, in IB language.
Without practice in open inquiry, where the pupils make and choose their own questions for discussion, the spirit of inquiry can fade away. With it, every lesson can be seen by pupils as an opportunity to ask questions – whether questions of meaning or value judgement, or questions seeking information.
Another part of it is due to the practice and guidance that teachers get in philosophical facilitation moves that widen or deepen inquiry, e.g. encouraging pupils to elaborate or elucidate their accounts.
Good philosophical teaching, of course, relies heavily upon such skills of facilitation, which also include keeping dialogue constructive, focussing on concept connections, drawing on relevant reflections, pushing for reasons, etc.
But the best philosophical teacher will also emphasise the valuing of virtues. And in this respect Philosophical Teaching and Learning again chimes very well with the espoused aims of the IB, particularly those encapsulated in the Learner Profile and Attitudes.