Our learning community is bound by shared ideas and values, but we are also diffuse and inclusive. We are made up of a collection of interesting, curious, optimistic, clever, vulnerable and fabulous should in their early adolescent years.
Like all of us, they need to be respected, valued, supported and guided as they learn about themselves, their beliefs, and what sort of a life they might aspire to.
At Hillbrook we view challenge as an opportunity for growth and learning and, as such, we ask ourselves challenging questions: “How should I live my life?”
Now, imagine a group of young adolescents, sitting in a circle discussing a question such as, “Is respecting someone through fear the same as respecting someone through trust?” or “Is logical thinking the best kind of thinking?”
During Philosophical Inquiry (PI), students are considering big issues fundamental to the way we live our lives. The questions discussed are those the students have raised themselves, so are of interest to them.
They are inquiring together to search for answers, or to try and make some progress towards truth. The process is democratic, ethical, respectful and thoroughly enjoyable. Who doesn’t want to be heard?
During the discussion students reflect on prevailing beliefs, explore alternative viewpoints, recognise faulty reasoning, give and accept reasons, test hypotheses and so on. In this way they learn to be reflective, sensitive to meaning, divergent and reasonable.
Students also listen to one another, build on one another’s ideas, seek clarification, and explore disagreements respectfully. Through this, they learn to be fair and open minded, intellectually co-operative and mutually respectful. Along the way they develop a good sense of self, the ability to work with others, the ability to solve novel problems, a social conscience, the ability to make reasoned judgements, and the confidence to change their mind when faced with good reasons.
By doing Philosophy, students are learning to think. Not what to think, but how to think.
PI began at Hillbrook in 2013 for interested teachers and became a novel way for teachers and the first cohort of Year 7s to engage with each other.
By the time our 2015 Yr 7 cohort finish Yr 10 they will have had four years of weekly PI sessions. As they enter Years 11 and 12 they will have the opportunity to undertake an elective, ‘Philosophy and Reason’, which will be counted towards their exit grades. By this time all students at Hillbrook will be doing PI.
Want to know more about Philosophical Inquiry for students?
Dr Laura D’Olimpio is a lecturer in Philosophy and Ethics at The University of Notre Dame Australia and has written an article in the online journal The Conversation which is well worth reading.