Transforming pedagogy through philosophical inquiry

Scholl, Rosetta Patricia (2012). Transforming pedagogy through philosophical inquiry PhD Thesis, School of Education, The University of Queensland.

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Author Scholl, Rosetta Patricia
Thesis Title Transforming pedagogy through philosophical inquiry
School, Centre or Institute School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2012
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Kim Nichols
Gilbert Burgh
Total pages 275
Total colour pages 9
Total black and white pages 266
Language eng
Subjects 13 Education
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies
Formatted abstract
    Transmission style pedagogy has traditionally dominated classrooms and focused on controlling students and imparting knowledge through a narrow pedagogical repertoire. This thesis focuses on the transformation of pedagogy through implementing Philosophy, in the tradition of 'Philosophy for Children' (Lipman, Sharp & Oscanyan, 1980). Lipman's pedagogical innovation, the community of inquiry, embodies the central tenets of socio-cultural theory and social constructivism. Facilitating the community of philosophical inquiry broadens the pedagogical repertoire of teachers and engages teachers in the process of adult learning. Whereas prior research about teaching Philosophy focused on student outcomes, this study investigated the impact of Philosophy on pedagogy. This study employs a large sample of comparative observations of pedagogy, and teacher and student self-report data, building on previous research which used small samples of teachers employing only self-report or single group pre-test - post-test data. This study sought to investigate the impact of teaching Philosophy on pedagogy including a detailed exploration of the resources and teacher dispositions required and the critical junctures in the teacher's learning.

    The study employed a quasi-experimental wait-list design that included 59 primary teachers across five state schools within one education district in Queensland, Australia. Schools were randomly assigned to either an experimental or comparison group. The experimental group received an intervention that comprised training in Philosophy and the comparison group received training in Thinking Tools graphic organisers, a small subset of the Philosophy training. The independent variables were the intervention and time (pre-intervention, 3-months post-intervention and 7-month follow-up). The two dependent variables included the pedagogy involved in teaching the intervention and generalisation of Philosophy or Thinking Tools to participant's 'everyday' pedagogy. The Productive Pedagogies Classroom Observation Scoring Manual (Lingard et al., 2001), a multidimensional instrument that identifies several variables of pedagogy organised into collective dimensions, was used to observe and code 302 lessons across the three time-points.

    At time-point 1 (pre-intervention) observations of 'everyday' teaching of all participants and teacher interviews were conducted. The intervention group (32 participants) then received the Philosophy training, including training and mentoring in the 'community of inquiry'. The comparison group (27 participants) received training in Thinking Tools (Cam, 2006) (graphic organisers). At time-point 2 (3-months post-intervention) two observations were conducted; an observation of the experimental or comparison group participants' 'everyday' teaching (that is their teaching of lessons other than Philosophy or Thinking Tools lessons) and then an observation of the teaching of either a Philosophy lesson (experimental group) or a Thinking Tools lesson (comparison group). Observations taken at time-point 2 were repeated at time-point 3 (7-months post-intervention). Teacher interviews and student focus groups were then conducted to gather participants' perspectives on the impact of Philosophy on pedagogy, required resources, critical junctures in pedagogical transformation, dispositions required to teach Philosophy and suggestions for future models of professional development in Philosophy.

    A between groups analysis of variance (ANOVA) of Philosophy or Thinking Tools lessons on several variables and dimensions of pedagogy applied at each of the three time-points revealed that Philosophy was significantly (p < 0.002) more effective than using Thinking Tools for broadening the pedagogical repertoire in the dimensions of Intellectual Quality, Connectedness and Recognition of Difference. A repeated measures ANOVA applied within the experimental group showed that teaching Philosophy had significantly (p < 0.05) improved the pedagogical repertoire in Philosophy lessons of the teachers within this group at time-point 2, and this was maintained or improved at time-point 3. Similarly, a within groups analysis of the Thinking Tools Group showed some significant improvements in the dimensions of Intellectual Quality, Connectedness and Recognition of Difference across the three time-points; although these shifts did not include as many variables of pedagogy nor was the effect as pronounced as those observed within the Philosophy Group. Generalisation of Philosophy or Thinking Tools to 'everyday' pedagogy within the experimental or comparison group was not observed.

    Qualitative data were consistent with the quantitative findings. Teacher's pedagogical repertoire was broadened through teaching Philosophy. Teacher listening and open-mindedness, and physical and human resources were essential to this transformation. Student questions, ideas and voice within Philosophy lessons surprised teachers, creating critical junctures in teachers' pedagogical transformation. Teachers' belief in students' thinking capabilities improved. Student diagrams of Philosophy and Thinking Tools lessons depicted distinct differences in the hegemonic classroom structures revealing the egalitarian, democratic and interaction-centred pedagogy that Philosophy engendered.

    This thesis discusses three major findings from the study. Firstly the study extended on prior research, with a larger sample of teachers, through a rigorous quantitative and qualitative analysis of the pedagogical transformation which occurred through teaching Philosophy. Secondly, the study extended the theoretical tenets of socio-cultural theory and social constructivism. Interactions within Philosophy lessons were transformed in both form and substance forcing open the cognitive boundaries on both the student's and the teacher's side of the Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1978). This positioned the teacher as co-learner, lacking omniscience. Thirdly, the study demonstrated the importance of including Philosophy in teacher education if systemic rhetoric regarding the implementation of inquiry-based pedagogies, professional standards and curriculum priorities are to be achieved.

    The focus of further research might include investigations into the generalisation of Philosophy to 'everyday' teaching. Implementing Philosophy with different socio-cultural groups could provide insights into improving educational outcomes of disadvantaged groups. The digital revolution and tyranny of distance in Australia provide an imperative to investigate online methods of promoting Philosophy. Finally, investigation, analysis and documentation of schools' reasons for teaching Philosophy, and associated outcomes, may provide further evidence for the inclusion of Philosophy within the Australian curriculum.
Keyword Philosophy - teaching
Inquiry based teaching
Philosophy for children
teacher education
Transformational learning
Adult learning
Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)
productive pedagogies

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Created: Tue, 26 Mar 2013, 20:13:23 EST by Miss Rosetta Scholl on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service