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Community of philosophical inquiry : citizenship in Scottish classrooms

Cassidy, Claire and Christie, Donald (2014) Community of philosophical inquiry : citizenship in Scottish classrooms. Childhood and Philosophy, 10 (19). pp. 33-54. ISSN 1984-5987

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Abstract

The context for the study is the current curriculum reform in Scotland (Curriculum for Excellence) which demands that teachers enable children to become ‘Responsible Citizens’. Education for Citizenship, as opposed to Citizenship Education, in Scotland is not a discrete subject; the objective is that citizenship permeates everything that happens throughout school, academically and socially. It is centrally situated alongside children becoming ‘effective contributors’, ‘successful learners’ and ‘confident individuals’. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the use of Community of Philosophical Inquiry (CoPI) as a pedagogical tool to enhance citizenship attributes in Scottish children in a range of educational settings. In order, first, to get an insight into the teachers’ perspectives on the Education for Citizenship agenda in Scotland, the teachers were asked for their definitions of ‘citizen’. Similarly, the children were also asked about their notion of ‘citizen’. The children’s group betrayed a more political understanding of ‘citizen’ than the teachers. Before and after an extended series of CoPI sessions, the 133 participating children from the ages of five to eighteen, in formal and informal educational contexts, were presented with dilemmas designed to elicit responses which indicated their ability to make, what Curriculum for Excellence (Scottish Executive, 2004) would describe as ‘informed choices and decisions and to articulate informed, ethical views of complex issues’. The sessions were facilitated by class teachers who were trained in CoPI. The results indicate that children’s reason giving was enhanced by participation in CoPI. The article uses contributions from the children to highlight areas of their lives within school and in society beyond school, where doing philosophy has had an impact. The implications both for education for citizenship and the potential of Philosophy with Children to contribute to an enhanced school curriculum will also be discussed.