In my last couple of blog posts, I’ve written about David Fisher and his work in developing a pragmatic approach to encouraging children to think. I also wrote, “...we believe teachers and students need to experience generating their own ideas to discuss. Effective frameworks for learning and teaching are great – as long as the content that’s generated using those frameworks is original. If both teachers and students don’t have at least one ‘Aha!’ moment a day, there’s something wrong.”
In his book, Teaching Thinking, David Fisher offers some really interesting examples of how this works for him in practice... through questioning... to develop imagination, autonomy, empathy, thinking ahead and beyond the immediate situation, being sensitive, developing and testing hypotheses, being able to justify standpoints, and examining ideals.
Anyone getting 9- to 10-year-old children to come up with questions such as, ‘What is a thought?’; ‘Where do thoughts come from?’ or ‘Does your brain talk to you or do you talk to your brain?’ is on to a good thing.
One of the frameworks he recommends is Matthew Lipman’s Philosophy for Children programme, a resource with lots of teachers’ aides and prompts. Fisher himself provides lots of facilitation questions as well, such as, ‘What do you mean by that?’; ‘Can you repeat that in your own words?’; ‘Can you give an example?’ ‘Do you know what we said a few moments ago?’ or ‘What question are we talking about?’ Much of the success of these questions depends on these being asked in an open-ended, non-judgemental way. Questions are presented in useful categories, with 25 possibilities given to help teachers direct a Socratic discussion.
I tried this approach out on my long-suffering 13-year daughter – I’d read up on the approach, decided to question her about thinking, taking a list of Lipman’s questions Fisher includes in his book as starting points. To my chagrin, I found I was so engrossed in trying to remember the questions, I’d lost sight of the point Fisher makes, quoting Plato – ‘Philosophy begins in wonder.’
I wondered at my own inadequacy and went back to the drawing board to try to understand what underlying framework would help me – and hopefully other teachers – generate meaningful questions naturally and spontaneously. Here's what happened...