Do your pupils sometimes struggle with learning to think for themselves and engaging with their peers with openness and respect?

We engage staff and young people in a process that enables them to articulate and develop complex and diverse ideas in a space where they listen and are listened to. It is a powerful process for opening minds and possibilities, building a sense of community, and an appreciation of difference. In doing this it develops a group’s capacity for creativity and group collaboration.

You might choose this practice in order to provide a safe space in which learning is engaging, supported and deepened;

  • to share and shift perceptions
  • to encourage new and independent thinking in an emotionally neutral space
  • to access some of the quieter voices in a team/class/group
  • to develop creative thinking
  • to grow understanding of different perspectives
  • to build common ground in a diverse group of participants eg participants with different ability levels
  • achieve cross-fertlisation of subject & curriculum areas
  • explore cross-curricular benefits
  • to encourage collaborative thinking

Unlike debates conducted with ‘sides’ that either win or lose, this structure reveals the complexities of issues. Responsibility for clarifying, generating and developing ideas is shared, and no final answer or consensus is sought. In this way, instead of producing winners and losers, the process builds a ‘community of inquiry’.

Philosophical thinking lies at the heart of our thoughts, feelings, understandings and actions, but we rarely take the time to reflect on or review this foundational thinking. In this unique setting participants get the opportunity to philosophise anew, taking into account different events and experiences, experimenting with new perspectives on old ideas/thoughts and developing new thinking.

Curricular benefits include speaking & listening skills, articulation & confidence in crafting words to convey a position, reasoning, independent creative thinking, collaboration, co-operation, understanding, appreciation of difference, peer-to-peer engagement.

Examples of projects with schools and education:

The Virtual College (VC), Birmingham
Professional development training for tutors working with teenagers who have fallen out of mainstream education structures. The brief was to look at ways of encouraging the young people to work in groups and to foster an enquiring attitude to their lives and learning.

New York University, Madrid
MA in Spanish and Latin American Languages and Literatures, an interdisciplinary program in Hispanic studies for mainly North and Latin American students.

The 2008 session incorporated all 25 students from the MA Graduate programme in an inquiry exploring the theme of ‘Community’.

2007 saw an introductory inquiry tour interacting with the artworks on the top floor of La Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid. The aim was to engage the students with an exciting resource in the city whilst establishing a spirit of inquiry for the year ahead.

King’s College London
The annual reflection session of final year veterinary and science students, encouraging peer interaction and group development of ideas. The selected area was to explore the implications of a proposition to assign ‘human’ rights to primates.

A series of philosophical inquiries on the links between art/medicine and philosophy with a group of artists, medics and cross-disciplinary science staff and students at King’s College London.

Coopers Company and Coburn School, Upminster, Essex
A specialist Sports and Humanities College.
A one-off session with a group of A’ level arts students with the aim of establishing a collaborative research space for their individual art projects.

Creative Partnerships, Manchester
Investigating the nature of ‘a learning environment’ with an artist, architect and group of secondary students in the Imperial War Museum North, Old Trafford.

Mulberry High School for Girls, Whitechapel
A 3-day residency exploring the different aspects of the concept of ‘peace’ with a group of 6 formers in Whitechapel’s Mulberry High School for Girls.

Business and Learning