Roger Sutcliffe Aug

My name is Roger Sutcliffe, and I have been a Philosophy for Children (P4C) educator in the UK for over 25 years, having been a primary and then secondary teacher for 20 years before that. I now offer consultancy, courses and coaching internationally.

My original aim for this site was to increase interest in philosophical inquiry in IB, and IB candidate, schools. But the vision quickly extended to include any school, and indeed any teacher, interested in Inquiry-based Learning. Finally, I realised I wanted to promote not just philosophical inquiry but the wider concept and even richer practice of philosophical teaching and learning.

PLEASE do not be put off by the word ‘philosophical’! This is not about some ‘new age’ philosophy. On the contrary, it is inspired by the time-honoured, practical, wisdom of Socrates and Aristotle, as well as by the ‘Community of Inquiry’ pedagogy of P4C (now 50 years old).

Nor is it about the specialist practice of teaching philosophy. Philosophical teaching, as I conceive it, is a way of teaching that is open to all teachers, whatever their subject and whatever the age of their students. It is more about how you teach than what you teach.

It weaves together 6 strands of healthy teaching and learning, whose DNA, so to speak, can be traced to ancient Greek philosophy, but whose expression is cutting edge practice.

The prime strand is, indeed, the development of inquiry skills – essential for the gaining of knowledge and growth of understanding in 21st century classrooms. There is still no better model for this than Socratic questioning – a gift for students as well as teachers.

The next four strands also echo Socratic practice, encouraging:

  • dialogue – to drive the quest for understanding;
  • a focus on concepts and their connections – so as to deepen and widen learning;
  • the practice of reflection – which provides much of the raw material for conceptual development;
  • the use of reason – to test the breadth of knowledge and the depth of understanding.

The best schools and teachers do already encourage these strands – though perhaps not with even emphasis. I am certainly arguing for a good balance between them, but also for greater recognition that these educational ‘goods’ are fundamentally philosophical.

The 6th and final strand owes more to Aristotle than to Socrates. Both thought that philosophy and education should nurture good habits of living as well as learning, but it was Aristotle who provided the first systematic account of personal and social (‘character’) and intellectual or cognitive (‘mind’) virtues .

My own account is more up to date, and effectively brings together all the other strands. I designate it ‘virtue-valuing’, partly to draw attention to the healthily growing emphasis in schools on values, but partly because I think it better to emphasise that publicly espoused values, such as harmony, don’t amount to much unless they are supported by privately exercised virtues.

Together, these 6 strands form a simple but powerful model for teacher and learner self-development and self-monitoring in the 21st century. For a fuller account of the strands, click here, and for a sketch of a self-monitoring model, click here.

If you like what you have read, I hope you will feel inspired to visit other tabs on this site, not least the Avenues of Inquiry. I also invite you to register an interest here in receiving the occasional update from me, and possibly joining a fledgling ‘philosophical teaching’ movement – which I hope may become a voice for reason in the sometimes overly politicised educational debate.

Copyright © 2017, Roger Sutcliffe, All rights reserved