Thanks to generous contributions from the Leeds4Life Foundation and the School of PRHS, Minorities and Philosophy here at Leeds were able to put on a two day SAPERE accredited teaching training for 21 students and staff members.
The training was delivered by Grace Lockrobin from Thinking Space. Over the course of the two days she introduced us to both the theory behind and the practice of philosophising with children and adults new to the subject. We started by exploring the concept of a “Philosophical Community of Enquiry”, the rules of engaging in it, and tools to facilitate it. Our next step was to come up with our own ideas for a stimulus – these are interesting or provocative materials that stand at the centre of every enquiry. They ranged from story books, dilemmas, and newspaper articles, to videos, and art works. We then discussed ways to plan a lesson around such a stimulus. At the end the focus turned to ways of reflecting, together with the learners, about the content and success of an enquiry. Throughout, Grace provided us with many enjoyable classroom activities that not only ensure children and novice learners are interested and engaged but also foster basic critical thinking abilities.
Not only did all of the participants of the training achieve accreditation, they also got the opportunity to improve their communication skills, team work, leadership, problem solving, planning and organisation. We learned a lot about appropriate ways to communicate our specialist subject knowledge to a non-expert audience, especially when they are as young as primary school age. This also included our ability to be creative when solving problems of how best to shape our approach to a given target audience. Throughout the training we worked a lot in pairs and small groups. Not only did this mirror a technique we can use ourselves in the classroom but also helped us to receive constructive feedback from our peers. We talked a lot about how to lead an enquiry, including how to trade off being present enough to guide, but absent enough to give others the room to develop their own ideas. Finally, the focus on how to go about planning a session helped us to improve our organisational skills.
This training will enable the participants to benefit the school children and people in the wider community that MAP@Leeds are currently working with. They will be able to deliver more engaging and successful sessions to sixth form students at Allerton High School, pupils and undergraduates participating in the IntoUniversity scheme, and the adults attending the monthly philosophy club of the University of the Third Age (U3A), Leeds. This will also help us to advertise our access programme to more local schools and organisations in the future. Initial research suggests that young children exposed to philosophy lessons can make significant gains in reading, writing, and maths as a result. This means that promoting our scheme not only helps students develop as teachers, but also benefits pupils across the curriculum. Lastly, for those of us engaged in university teaching this has helped us to reflect on our current teaching practices and how we can make our tutorials a more active and engaging place.
Thanks to everyone that helped us make this possible!
(Photo credit: Elizabeth Watkins/Thinking Space)