teaching critical thinking and metacognitive skills through philosophical enquiry. A practitioner's report on experiments in the classroom

Childhood and Philosophy 15:01-34 (2019)
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Although expert consensus states that critical thinking (CT) is essential to enquiry, it doesn’t necessarily follow that by practicing enquiry children are developing CT skills. Philosophy with children programmes around the world aim to develop CT dispositions and skills through a community of enquiry, and this study compared the impact of the explicit teaching of CT skills during an enquiry, to The Philosophy Foundation's philosophical enquiry (PhiE) method alone (which had no explicit teaching of CT skills). Philosophy with children is also said to improve metacognitive (MC) skills but there is little research into this claim. Following observable problems with ensuring genuine metacognition was happening in PhiE sessions - on a reasonably strong understanding of what metacognition is – a method has been developed and trialed in this study to bring together, in mutual support, the development of critical thinking and metacognitive skills. Based on the work of Peter Worley and Ellen Fridland (KCL)The Philosophy Foundation ran an experimental study with King's College London in Autumn 2017 and Autumn 2018 to compare the impact of teaching CT skills and MC skills against classes that just have philosophical enquiry. The approach developed and used for the study employs the explicit teaching of some CT and MC skills within the context of a philosophical enquiry (as opposed to stand-alone teaching of these skills) and yields some positive findings both qualitative and quantitative. Both studies took place over one term (12 weeks) and a control and intervention group were used in each study. This report focuses on the second year of the study, with 220 ten and eleven-year-old children involved in eight classes across three state schools in South East London. Although there were limitations to the study the results indicate that the explicit teaching of these skills during a philosophical enquiry can help children use CT and MC skills more successfully than philosophical enquiry alone.

Author Profiles

Emma Swinn
King's College London
Peter Worley
King's College London


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