Philosophy For Children (P4C)

The Wondering Wednesday question for today was: (This was posed by Kaydan in Y4.)

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?


P4C, or Philosophy for Children, is an approach to learning and teaching which enhances childrens thinking and communication skills, boosts their self-esteem, and improves their academic attainment. It was established over forty years ago by Professor Matthew Lipman of Montclair State University in the United States and is now practised around the world.

In our weekly P4C sessions at Gallions, a stimulus, such as a story, video clip or image, is shared with the class. The children are encouraged by the teacher, in role as a facilitator, to come up with the kind of big, engaging philosophical questions about the stimulus which are at the heart of P4C.

Philosophical questions are open to examination, further questioning and enquiry. They are contestable, central and common that is, there is more than one valid point of view, the question is important in the lives of the children, and it is a shared issue or concern.

Children might come up with philosophical questions such as:

  • Is it ever OK to lie?
  • What makes you who you are?
  • Do we have to respect everyone?
  • Can good people do bad things?
  • Do animals have the same rights as humans?

Through a vote, the children then choose the question they would most like to discuss. The teacher gives the children time to think and reason individually about the question before facilitating the exchange of ideas and opinions as a group, or community of enquiry. The teacher supports the children to think more deeply and philosophically by encouraging the 4Cs of P4C  critical, creative, collaborative and caring thinking.

Through regular P4C sessions at Gallions, the children’s questions have become more philosophical and imaginative. Children have learnt to listen carefully to each other, to explore differences of opinion respectfully, and to value the ideas of others.
P4C at Gallions is a whole school approach with every child from Nursery to Year 6 taking part in regular P4C sessions.

P4C is a thorough pedagogy with considerable academic pedigree. Professor Matthew Lipman, frustrated by his students’ lack of engagement with learning and thinking, was influenced by educationalists and philosophers such as Vygotsky, Piaget, Dewey as well as the tradition of Socratic dialogue.

The 4 Cs of P4C

Through P4C lessons children will develop the 4Cs of philosophical thinking: creative, critical, caring and collaborative skills.

Caring thinking listening (concentrating) and valuing (appreciating)
Collaborative thinking responding (communicating) and supporting (building on each others ideas)
Critical thinking questioning (interrogating) and reasoning (evaluating)
Creative Thinking connecting (relating) and suggesting (speculating)

P4C and British Values

P4C specifically promotes the British values of democracy and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith. The children learn practically about democracy through P4C as almost every session involves the class voting on which question they would most like to discuss. The weekly sessions enable children to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence whilst encouraging respect for other people.

P4C also supports our childrens development by allowing them the opportunity to investigate and offer reasoned views about moral and ethical issues; by providing them with a space to develop their tolerance and respect for others feelings and values; and by promoting a sense of enjoyment and fascination in learning about themselves, others and the world around them.