Philosophical Inquiry – Overview
The teaching of collaborative Philosophical Inquiry (Philosophical Inquiry) began at Hillbrook in 2015. A goal was set in 2013 to have all Year 7 – 10 Hillbrook students engaging in regular Philosophical Inquiry sessions, with the possibility of Philosophy and Reason as a senior subject in the future. A strategic plan was developed. We are now approaching the end of the ‘Leverage’ phase and moving into the ‘Growth’ phase of the strategic plan.
The decision to implement Philosophical Inquiry at Hillbrook was firmly premised on both the vision and mission of Hillbrook.
Our Vision: To open minds, inspire hearts and nurture dreams.
Our Mission: To empower young people to make a positive difference.
Further, Philosophical Inquiry supports Hillbrook’s strategic thinking in the following areas:
- Supporting personal and professional growth in all members of our community to develop capacity, not dependency;
- Ensuring the teaching and learning environment, strategies and curriculum engage students and foster an integrated approach to personal, spiritual, intellectual and physical growth;
- Supporting opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking;
- Developing reflective skills and metacognitive abilities;
- Incorporating philosophical inquiry skills and ethical decision-making into the learning environment; and
- Promoting the development of emotional intelligence and personal resilience.
At Hillbrook we believe that the ability to think well is fundamental to the lives of all people. We also acknowledge the support and strength inherent in being part of a strong community. Thus, Hillbrook is a thinking-centred school that provides opportunities for members of our community to work together to become creative, independent thinkers.
The Hillbrook philosophy curriculum is an outstanding achievement. It is not only the first Australian-based curriculum to systematically cover the first four secondary years, but a world leader in its field. (Dr Phillip Cam, Adjunct Associate Professor at UNSW).
A comprehensive four-year Philosophical Inquiry curriculum of weekly lessons for all students in Years 7 – 10 is now complete. The curriculum covers all branches of Philosophy and focuses on the development of good argument. It is expected that teachers new to the subject, provided they have had at least two days of training, will with support, be able to pick up and use the curriculum successfully. It has been developed slowly, carefully and with much monitoring, reviewing and revising, with regular input from practising teachers (and sometimes students). This curriculum is the source of much pride.
The Year 11 Philosophy and Reason curriculum is complete and is being taught to the first cohort of 13 students, and the Year 12 curriculum is currently being developed by the Philosophy Subject Coordinator, who meets regularly with Philosophy and Reason teachers from other schools.
Philosopher in Residence Program
Implementing Philosophical Inquiry at Hillbrook is based on a fundamental belief that it will benefit our young people and the adults they will become. Inherent in this success, however, is our teachers, who need to be as proficient in teaching Philosophical Inquiry as possible if our goals are to be met. An important means by which high quality professional development is offered to our teachers is through our annual Philosopher in Residence program. This program enables our students to experience Philosophical Inquiry with an expert; someone with greater experience and knowledge than their teachers currently have and who therefore offers an authentic experience and thus a greater understanding of ‘doing’ Philosophy.
Hillbrook has hosted a Philosopher over the past 4 years for either five or three days. To the best of our knowledge, this program is unique to Hillbrook. Visiting philosophers to date are Dr Vanya Kovach (Auckland University), Professor Stephan Millett (Curtin University, WA), Dr Liz Fynes-Clinton (University of Queensland) and Dr Michelle Sowey (The Philosophy Club). These visits provided invaluable, targeted professional development for the teachers of Philosophical Inquiry, as well as challenging and interesting discussions for the students. In each case, the Philosopher in Residence also ran a parent evening which included a community of inquiry as is undertaken in the classroom. These were well attended and enjoyed.
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