The Programme is focusing on the following research projects:
A) Teacher Training in PFC.
One of the interesting and debatable issues in PFC has always been the question of teacher training, and the kind of background a teacher needs in order to be a good PFC teacher. In a nutshell the question has always been: How much philosophy does a PFC teacher need to know in order to facilitate a PFC session in class.
Interestingly, Lipman, one of the pioneers in this area, felt that teachers should have a background in Philosophy. This is the plainest of logic - in order to teach physics, you need to know physics, same with chemistry etc. So why not the same for philosophy? Interestingly Lipman speaks of the 'philosophical ear' that is, that 'ear' by means of which you have the ability to pick up philosophical concepts, and explore them in detail. Missing this background, the hypothesis is that one missis philosophy altogether in class.
In reality, few people in the field have a background in philosophy and a background in teaching. They are either good philosophers, but not necessarily good teachers, or excellent teachers with no background in philosophy. The argument is made that PFC is mainly dialogue (talk?) about concepts, and that a teacher needs enough training to facilitate such a discussion. Within this approach, the process, rather than the content, is given much more importance. The danger of this approach is that anything could possibly go as 'philosophy'.
The research aims to
a) identify the kind of training teachers have had as preparation for becoming responsible PFC facilitators
b) identify the kind of programmes available with regards to pre-service and continuous professional development (from one day/one week courses to MAs)
c) identify the needs felt by the teachers themselves, in order to improve their practice
d) research, the performance of a number of teachers with a background in philosophy as compared with a group of PFC teachers with no background in philosophy
It is hoped that this research will be done with the collaboration of SOPHIA: The European Foundation that promotes PFC in the classroom
B) Curricular Material
Since the introduction of PFC in the classroom (I have in mind the early 70's) there have been two main strands when it comes to Curricular material to be used in the classroom. The starting point seems to have been the development of 'novels' and 'manuals', the idea being that you have a novel, sometimes one novel a year, that you comb through with the kids in class with the support of a manual (in the beginning these were 500 pages long!). The movement was to continue with this trend, but making things simpler, with manuals of a lesser density. Some focused on particular areas of philosophy such as logic, or ethics, or social philosophy. Up to this very day, these novels and manuals are being translated into various languages, with the dangers of translating the language but not the cultural ambiance they were written in.
The alternative to this approach was the use of literature already available in the market, to which guidebooks were written. Another approach was to abandon all the traditional texts, and move towards a more modern use of the term text - in the sense that anything can be a 'text': a child's drawing, a cartoon episode, a poem, a happening.
The research aims to
a) Identify what kind of curricular material is being used in schools
b) Which approach is considered to be more effective by teachers, and why?
Again it is my hope that this research is done in collaboration with Sophia
C) Philosophy for Children - Philosophy for Adults?
Philosophy for children has definitely popularized philosophy. Experienced teachers vouch for the improvement of thinking PFC brings about, irrespective of whatever it is philosophy or not. Children are talking (conversing, engaging in dialogue) about issues that interest them, are building on one another (social construction) and are learning the habit of listening and thinking before saying or doing something.
The research idea is whether such a process can be encouraged with adults. Because of my interests, i am interested to see whether it is possible to engage Prison inmates in Philosophy. I am mostly interested in encouraging the inmates to produce the texts themselves - of whatever kind - and then to discuss these texts in a group.
We have already started doing something like this in Malta's only prison. The starting point was the staging of 'When you hear my Voice' (you will find more about this in another section of this site). The second part now is the 'conversation' (a term I prefer to dialogue) about this text.
The research aims to
a) Identify the best approach to involving prison inmates in a conversation -the goal is to use the 'arts', mainly drama, art and photography.
b) having produced these texts, the idea is to have conversations on them - possibly 'philosophical' ones - whatever that means.
But just to give you an example, we discussed the concept of justice (cant get more philosophical than that!) with prison inmates. The answers you will get to know hopefully when this research is concluded.
Anyone who would like to collaborate with such research, or has done something similar to this work, has some other idea one would like to explore, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org