I am in Oxford visiting SAPERE, the Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education.
My interest is to look at the training and the delivery of philosophy in schools. In New South Wales, we run a similar Level One FAPSA accredited course but this is more on an ad hoc basis. One of my concerns has been the lack of follow-up and support teachers are given after this initial introduction and anecdotally I see evidence that the practice is neither effectively implemented or the interest sustained. As a trainer and modeller, I have also been concerned that while the Level One course was effective for the few, there is no strategy in place to promote P4C more broadly to the Learning community, nor is there in place a top-down strategy to offer continued support for teachers and schools.
SAPERE is a registered charity with a network of 60 professional trainers across the UK to deliver P4C training in initial Teacher Education and Continuing Professional Development programs for teachers and schools.
I met with Lizzy Lewis, the Development Manager for SAPERE and who is also the President of ICPIC, the International Council of Philosophical Inquiry with Children.
‘Going for Gold’ is a new initiative that SAPERE offers schools. It establishes a sustainable professional development training program and ensures that Philosophy as a pedagogy is embedded into the entire school. A school signs up for a three-year P4C program which involves an initial short intensive whole-of-school professional development training (usually a two day Level One training and follow up day ‘Tools for Thinking’) followed by observations of practice and in school mentoring where necessary by the expert trainers. Examining the evolution of this comprehensive program first hand has been a worthwhile exercise.
Of particular interest was the very recent development of partnership teams between postgraduate Philosophy students and experienced teachers. There is a long running debate on who should be delivering P4C in schools – the philosophers or the teachers. A SAPERE trainer, Grace Robinson (www.thinkingspace.org.uk) has developed a team approach where postgraduate philosophy students partner with an interested experienced teacher. They meet at an initial two-day SAPERE course and then the student works in tandem with the class teacher to deliver a philosophy program (say once a week) in the class. This is a win win as the student obtains classroom experience and the teacher is exposed to more ‘philosophy’. This is certainly something I will be proposing when I return.
A follow up from this is the growth of partnerships between academic institutions and specialist trainers. While there have been discussions in Australia on how to introduce P4C at the pre-service level, there are few examples of specialist trainers being engaged at the tertiary level. But at SAPERE, there is a notable growth of specialist trainers presenting modules of P4C as part of teacher training and postgraduate modules. Currently there are more than ten UK universities in partnership with SAPERE.
Two evenings of reading and a growing confidence that there are pathways to deliver more effective teacher training to both pre-service teachers and in-service teachers.