Philosophy for Children

Philosophy for Children

‘Philosophy for Children’ aims to develop students’ critical reasoning skills through engaging students of all ages in dialogue about philosophical questions, such as ‘is it ever wrong to tell the truth?’ or ‘is it better to be right or happy?’ Using a text, picture or alternative stimulus, the teacher, as a facilitator, guides the students through challenging their assumptions and explaining their points of view using Socratic questioning methods. These questioning techniques encourage students to question one another, consider different opinions and collaboratively work through their ideas.

Lipman, who developed ‘Philosophy for Children’, describes ‘a teacher-guided community of inquiry’(Lipman, 1991) in which students are prompted to be thoughtful and increasingly reasonable along with their teacher as opposed to the teacher always being the primary provider of knowledge. Instead, the main role of the teacher in these episodes is to scaffold the dialogue to support the students to steer the learning, reasoning and supporting their own views, listening respectfully and questioning others’ views, offering alternative views, making connections, and building on other student’s ideas.

During these particular learning episodes, through the collaborative efforts of the students involved, the construction of deeper knowledge, understanding and connections to other learning often outweighs those that could be developed alone, therefore supporting that high quality group work can develop independent and curious learners.


Children are encouraged to think from different perspectives and ask questions thoughtfully. The ‘P4C Commitments’ allow for views to be shared in a safe nurturing climate which provides the opportunity to question others and challenge themselves.

Research basis

  • Trickey, S., & Topping, K. J. (2004). Philosophy for children: A systematic review. Research Papers in Education, 19(3), 365-380.
  • Topping, K. J., & Trickey, S. (2007). Impact of philosophical enquiry on school students’ interactive behaviour. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 2(2), 73-84.
  • Topping, K.J., & Trickey, S. (2007). Collaborative philosophical enquiry for school children: cognitive effects at 10-12 Years,” British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 271-288.
  • Topping, K.J. & Trickey, S. (2007) Collaborative philosophical inquiry for school children: cognitive gains at 2-Year Follow-Up,” British Journal of Educational Psychology , 77, 787-796.