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By Sue Cowley — _educational author and trainer (

Sue’s book You Can … Create a Thinking Classroom (7-11 years) is published by Scholastic.

Encourage philosophical thinking using space as a basis for discussion

Looking at the moon

So far in this series, we’ve looked at how you can develop children’s creative and lateral thinking skills, using the theme ‘Journey into space’. In this part, I look at how you can develop philosophical thinking and discussion in your classroom.

What is philosophical thinking?

Philosophical thinking is about applying critical thinking skills, such as logic and reasoning, to a concept, question or idea – and by analysing, discussing and reflecting on a philosophical question, to come to some kind of a view (even if that view is, ‘I just don’t know’).

Philosophical questions include the age old concerns about ‘good’ and ‘evil’, life and death. They can be closely related to ethics – is it right to do this in these particular circumstances? Some people base their philosophy on the teachings of a particular religion; others use it to search for a new kind of moral code.

In recent years, there has been an explosion of interest in developing children’s philosophical thinking. ‘Philosophy for Children’ (often shortened to P4C) is a curriculum developed by Professor Matthew Lipman. His ‘community of enquiry’ provides a format for teachers and children to collaborate in developing their philosophical thinking. (See ‘ICT links’.)

To adults, philosophy can seem a daunting subject, and many of us steer clear of it. But if we think back to our own childhood, it is obvious that many of the questions that occur to children (What happens when I die? Why am I here? Do ghosts really exist?) are actually the beginnings of philosophical thought.

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