Bringing Philosophy Into the Classroom

Updated: Nov 27, 2021

This new online CPD course is ideal for teachers who want to bringing philosophical thinking and questioning into their classrooms. This course focuses less on 'teaching philosophy to' and more on 'doing philosophy with': its emphasis is on thinking styles, intellectual virtues, questioning skills and critical thinking.

Click here to register for this new e-Learning CPD course for teachers.

Philosophy in schools and metacognition go hand in hand: thinking deeply about the nature of knowledge and the ways in which it can be obtained is at the heart of both the philosophical and the metacognitive enquiry.

On 'Philosophy for Children' the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy writes: "Philosophy for Children encourages children to think for themselves at the same time that it encourages them to think with others. However, philosophy is often viewed as more a matter of solitary reflection, perhaps involving exchanges between a few other solitary thinkers—something to which the “masses” are neither privy nor attracted. Perhaps many would claim that this is philosophy at its best; like physics or mathematics, “philosophy for everyone” is watered down. There is no need for Philosophy for Children to challenge this analogy. In fact, it can turn it in its favour. However esoteric physics and mathematics at their best may be, the schools nevertheless recognize the importance of making these subjects available to all students. Similarly, Philosophy for Children advocates can counter that there should be a place for the entire classroom—including “gifted and talented,” “underachieving,” and “ordinary” students—pursuing philosophical questions together.

If you would like to learn more about doing philosophy in the classroom please click here. This new online course is aimed at teachers in KS2 and KS3 and hopes to bring philosophical thinking into the classroom. Register here.

For this to work, it must be possible for children in the classroom to engage in sustained philosophical discussion with others. As already noted, Gareth Matthew’s writings provide ample evidence that many children are capable of having interesting, if not profound, philosophical thoughts. Less obvious, however, is children’s ability to sustain and develop this with others. Anecdotes of young children spontaneously sharing a philosophical thought with an observant adult are not sufficient. Matthews’ Dialogues With Children provides good evidence that children can go well beyond this. Examples of substantial philosophical conversations of children found in Lone (2012), McCall (2009), Pritchard (1996), Shapiro (2012), and Wartenberg (2009), among many others, should leave little doubt that children have this ability."

To learn more about research evidence backing-up the value of philosophy in the classroom please view this page from S.A.P.E.R.E. it states that, that in a 2015 Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) Efficacy Trial carried out by Durham University into SAPERE P4C showed that:

  • SAPERE P4C has the biggest positive impact on disadvantaged children (those eligible for free school meals). These children made 4 months' additional progress in reading, 3 months' additional progress in maths and 2 months' additional progress in writing.

  • overall, Key Stage Two pupils taking part in the trial made two additional months' progress in reading and maths

  • teachers and pupils reported that SAPERE P4C had a positive influence on wider outcomes such as pupils’ confidence to speak, listening skills, and self-esteem

You can sign-up for a 'doing philosophy with young learners' course by clicking here. It will allow you to bring philosophical thinking into the lives of the students you work with.


Lone, Jana Mohr, 2012, The Philosophical Child, New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

Lone, Jana Mohr, and Roberta Israeloff (eds.), 2012, Philosophy and Education: Introducing Philosophy to Young People, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishers.

Lone, Jana Mohr, and Michael Burroughs, 2016, Philosophy in Education: Questioning and Dialogue in Schools, New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

McCall, Catherine, 2009, Transforming Thinking: Philosophical Inquiry in the Primary and Secondary Classroom, London: Routledge.

Pritchard, Michael S., 1991, On Becoming Responsible, Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

–––, 1985, Philosophical Adventures With Children, Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

–––, 1996, Reasonable Children, Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

–––, 2000, “Moral Philosophy for Children and Character Education,” International Journal of Applied Philosophy, 14(1): 13–26.

–––, 2005, “Ethics in the Science Classroom: Science Teachers as Moral Educators,” in Thomas Wren and Wouter van Haaften (eds.), Moral Sensibilities and Moral Education: III, London: Concorde Publishing House, pp. 113–132.

Shapiro, David, 2012, Plato Was Wrong: Footnotes Doing Philosophy With Young People, New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

Wartenberg, Thomas E., 2009, Big Ideas for Little Kids, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.2013, A Sneetch is a Sneetch, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.