A Practical Enquiry into the Philosophy of Education
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The If Machine: 30 Lesson Plans for Teaching Philosophy
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Gillen M. By way of introduction, my research is focussed on teacher and practitioner perceptions of Philosophy for Children P4C practices in Irish Educate Together primary schools. I am in the very fortunate position where one of my supervisors in the principle of one of these primary schools and has been very eager and accommodating for me to observe and practice some P4C sessions with some of the students in his school.
As a former science teacher, Dewey advocated the use of enquiry in classrooms as opposed to students being instructed about conclusive facts where the thinking had been done for them and any indeterminate situation already being settled. The Pattern or Process of Dewey's Enquiry According to Dewey, enquiry is initiated when there is: 1 a feeling that something is amiss. This feeling is unique, a particular doubtfulness whose singular and pervasive quality helps direct subsequent stages of inquiry.
Next, because what is initially present is indeterminate, 2 a problem must be carefully formulated; problems do not preexist inquiry, as frequently assumed. Next, 3 a hypothesis is constructed, imaginatively utilizing both perceptual facts and theoretical ideas to forecast possibilities consequent on the execution of various operations.
Then, 4 one reasons about the meanings involved in the hypothesis' central ideas, ferreting outunnoticed conflicts and consequences that might require revision of the hypothesis or even the problem's formulation.
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Finally, 5 one takes action, actually evaluating and testing the hypothesis to reveal whether the proposal satisfactorily converts an indeterminate situation into a determinate one which may prompt the inquiry to conclusion Hildebrand You get bitten and are faced with a perplexity — is that bite on your foot a sting from a wasp or a bee?
Where did it come from? Like the subject of your enquiry, you cannot but be compelled to give it all your attention. You self-correct yourself about previous conceptions — you never thought mosquitoes would be around at this time of year or in this climate, but it is the best possible answer you have at the moment. You look around to try and find the culprit, to no avail. You ask other people if they have had a similar experience. When did you first notice the bite?
The If Machine: Philosophical Enquiry in the Classroom
When has this happened before? And so the perplexity moves, in several reflective and self-corrective stages ending when the original perplexity is resolved — perhaps a window was left open during the night and which you will now be spurred into acting upon by keeping the window closed or keeping insect spray close at hand.
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The context and experience of the enquiry is key and it is accomplished through focusing attention on the process of the enquiry. I knew I had an issue with the subject, and probably unbeknownst to me at the time, also with how the subject was taught, but I was unableto enunciate what the problem was. My experience of dissatisfaction with something I cared for and was involved in urged me enough to act upon trying to remedy it, or at least to try and find out more about it. It could be suggested that this may have been down to the nature of philosophy as a subject, where deep philosophical questioning is a normal part ofthe training and the studies.
However the experience I had, the feeling of something being amiss, was not the same as the more clinical structured questioning that is developed and advanced within philosophical studies. The questions we pose and the solutions to the problems we feel contain meanings and result in affects, be it a change in behavior somehow or a re-evaluation of something of significance to you.
The sense of "unsettledness" with the subject of philosophy was not part of the normal philosophical questioning that is advocated in such studies. I sought for ways in which to help the students raise their own questions aboutthings and to exercise a voice that could be heard from outside the regimented routine of standardized testing within the Japanese education system, which I found to be extremely strict and demanding on the young students I taught as an assistant language teacher. Nothing could be further from the truth — without the discussions and dialogues I had along the way with friends, colleagues, peers, academic and non-academic alike, I would never have had the multitude of perspectives that have so firmly informed my reflections and enquiries.
Due to the fact that I am investigating the practice of P4C, the self-reflective and critical-reflection elements will be pivotal to the study, focusing on developing self- corrective practices of conducting P4C sessions within Irish Educate Together primary schools.
This kind of ethos that emphasises inclusivity and democracy, asides from being a wonderful medium in which to conduct Deweyan-informed research, is very much congruent with my personal orientation towards tolerant and open educational practices. Dewey's notions of the Community of Enquiry will play a crucial part of the study as I establish dialogues between myself starting the journey as a novice P4C practitioner and other teachers currently practicing P4C in Educate Together primary schools in Ireland in an attempt to achieve a multi-faceted and deep-reaching descriptive enquiry.
Onlywhen the relation of means process to the final phase of consequence is perceived is the wholeexperience meaningful, significant, and valuable. For Dewey, a clear explanation of experience paves the way for opening up and understanding contexts. An enquiry is successful for Dewey if it is directed towards establishing a warranted judgement that can be asserted by following the hypotheses and premises that emerge from the process of the enquiry.
Because anindeterminate situationis so context bound, there is a corollary between an enquirer and their actions based on some premise in some situation.
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It is this corollary in my case, between myself as a P4C practitioner and my actions of investigating how other practitioners perceive their practice and the experiences and contexts of the situation in which it occurs that give some really rich and descriptive insights and a main aim in terms of my own research. In practical terms, a method that ties in with Dewey's idea of experience as context is that of narrative analysis. Narrative analysis will provide the descriptive perspective necessary to listen to the insights from the voices that emerge from my study since it addresses the contexts of telling and hearing Esin et al.
To this end I have been engaging in the practice of keeping a reflective research journal.
Reflective practices such as this attempt to open a window, so that readers may see the constructed nature of the research outcomes Ortlipp I have found writing a journal entry after each P4C session a key part of cementing in my mind the reflexivity and meaning of my research into P4C practices. Much like Dewey's acknowledgement that the pattern of enquiry rarely operates in a seamless sequence, I find the practice of self- reflective and self-critical journaling helps me to view the varied landscape of my experiences throughout my research.
Questions emerging from Dewey's enquiry as conceptual framework It may well be suggested that Dewey's enquiry may only inform conceptual frameworks engaged in a certain kind of research — from my own perspective, as a philosophy graduate influenced by American Pragmatism, the domain I am researching does reside within the disciplines more traditionally associated with Dewey, such as education, philosophy and democracy. I get much encouragement as a researcher engaged with a topic that I thoroughlyidentify with from something which informs my experiences of the research, such as Deweyan enquiry.
Deters sums up my feelings and concludes my discussion when he explains: Any theory that purports to explain how people remain connected to and in balance with their environment is a theory that has the function of impacting our everyday lives. References: Bleazby, J. Brew, A. The nature of research: Inquiry in academic contexts. London: RoutledgeFalmer.