making meaning through walk and talk

lunch break on our 10 kilometre walk and talk with Dr Julia Harwood and Dr Sue Lyle
lunch break at Pwll Du with Dr Julia Harwood and Dr Sue Lyle

I awoke bubbling with questions after spending last night reading the recent research Dr. Sue Lyle had undertaken on the impact of Philosophy for Children (P4C) on children, teachers and schools.

My interest in this paper was that it underpins the purpose of my scholarship: to examine the impact of P4C practice in the early years (particularly years 3-6) and to find a baseline when proposing effective professional development for educators in the early childhood sector.

Sue is a P4C teacher educator and former Head of Continuing Professional Development at the Swansea Metropolitan University’s School of Education. The focus of her research and training is with P4C, the Storytelling Curriculum and action research with a particular focus on how young children make meaning through talk.

This study involved 1800 trained P4C teachers and 64 schools, with 110 teachers continuing to advanced P4C training. The findings were challenging and concerning with three dominant themes emerging that hinder the implementation of Philosophy in schools

  • Power and Authority: the reluctance of teachers to surrender their role as authority figures.
  • The Perception of the Child: the view that children were not capable of engaging in inquiry or abstract concepts and the uncritical acceptance of development psychology theories as a measure of a child’s capabilities.
  • The Model of Childhood: children seen as ‘innocent, untamed, blank slate or developing’ and the impact these models have on teachers’ attitudes.

Sue’s paper proposes pathways to promote a paradigm shift in teacher understanding of children. These include a critical look at the ‘privileged’ role of the teacher, revisiting the relationship between teacher/child, child/teacher and child/child in the learning environment, disrupting the historical models of childhood and deconstructing developmental psychology.

True to Sue’s belief in ‘making meaning through talk’ we walked and talked during our five hour walk from forest to sea with Dr. Julia Harper a colleague and expert in restorative justice.

Over the next two days, I will visit two schools in Wales to observe what changes have been made as a result of P4C training. It’s thrilling stuff.