Academic journal article Trames

Improving Pre-Schoolers' Reasoning Skills Using the Philosophy for Children Programme

Academic journal article Trames

Improving Pre-Schoolers' Reasoning Skills Using the Philosophy for Children Programme

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Developing language, independent thinking and cooperative learning are essential tasks for young children, and this is the focus of preschool activities for children aged 3-7 in many countries (Fisher 2001, Goh, Yamauchi, & Ratliffe 2012, Koolieelse lasteasutuse riiklik Oppekava 2008, Taggart, Ridley, Rudd, & Benefield 2005). In the context of basic education, verbal reasoning capacity could be defined as an essential cognitive domain for success in one's life and academic education because verbal reasoning is the precondition to fostering the four main language skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing (Fisher 2001). Acquisition and competent use of these language skills assumes consciousness and deliberative activity, the achievement of which is associated with verbal reasoning (Vygotsky 1934/2014). That is why it is important to develop verbal reasoning skills as a precondition to fostering the four main language skills in children as early as possible, and to find an effective method to achieve that (Lipman 1975 1984). Some authors have emphasized that structured conversations are very good places to learn verbal reasoning skills in a variety of ways (Aubrey, Ghenta, & Kanira 2012, Lipman 1977, Taggart et al. 2005). Piaget and Vygotsky also both stressed the importance of interactions with others to develop a child's ability to explain points of view (Piaget & Inhelder 1975, Vygotsky 1934/2014). This leads us to Sperber and Mercier's (2010) research, which pointed out that groups perform better at reasoning tasks than individuals, and in some cases, only about 10% of the participants give the correct solution (when questioned individually), while an astonishing 70% of groups did. Therefore, in a group discussion, participants are able to produce more good arguments to develop verbal reasoning. But there is a problem, some researchers (Goh et al. 2012) have found that children aged 3 to 7 often have limited opportunities to be involved in structured conversations and group discussions. For instance, Jacoby and Lesaux (2014) observed learning activity through literacy-based lessons with children 2 to 6 years old and found that only 22% of the 147 children observed could participate in the group discussion, the rest were listening to what the teacher was saying. It is known that some investigated learning methods that rely on group discussions have been found to be extremely effective at developing thinking skills (Aubrey et al. 2012, Cabell, Justice, McGinty, & DeCoster 2015, Daniel, Gagnon, & Pettier 2012, Goh et al. 2012, Lipman 1973, White 2012), and these are now being adopted at all levels of education (Sperber & Mercier 2010).

Therefore, we assume that structured group discussions could be implemented regularly with pre-schoolers to support verbal reasoning. Therefore, this study aims to obtain some clarity on what effect philosophical group discussions following the Philosophy for Children (P4C) programme have on supporting children's verbal reasoning skills as well as on raising children's talkativeness and reducing the extent to which children answer "I do not know".

2. Verbal reasoning

Reasoning is often considered one of the higher-level thinking skills (Evans 2003, Sperber & Mercier 2010), which is beyond the reach of children in their early years (before the age of 5) (Aubrey et al. 2012, Becker, Miao, Duncan, & McClelland 2014, Daniel et al. 2012, Koerber, Sodian, Thoermer, & Nett 2005, Matsak 2010, Myers 2005, Nobes, Martin, & Panagiotaki 2005, Ridley 2006). Some researchers (Apperly & Butterfill 2009, Evans 2003, Sperber & Mercier 2010) are of the opinion that reasoning can be carried out through two distinct cognitive systems: the first system is cognitively efficient but limited, inflexible, unconscious, implicit, automatic, associative or heuristic--it is also seen as fast, of little value and generally efficient in ordinary circumstances, and runs in the wrong direction when problems are non-standard, the second system is described as conscious, explicit, rule-based, analytic or flexible and demanding of general cognitive resources. …

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