CHAPTER 3 PHILOSOPHICAL INQUIRY IN THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY
Chapter 2 has focused on reviewing literature on the development and teaching of philosophical skills through an inquiry approach. This Chapter focuses on theoretical framework of philosophical inquiry. However, a theoretical framework on engaging learners in philosophical inquiry cannot be complete without an understanding of its epistemological underpinnings. This Chapter gives an understanding of conceptions of teacher learning, critical pedagogy, critical rationalism and critical thinking through logic as ways of promoting philosophising. It has also focused on importance of philosophical inquiry under the sub-headings; philosophical inquiry and moral reasoning and philosophical inquiry for social reconstruction. The issue of pedagogy is crucial in this study because the researcher considers philosophical inquiry as a way of teaching. The importance of philosophical inquiry is one of the themes are going to be explored by this research; hence it is significant to discuss it in this chapter. This Chapter makes reference where necessary to some philosophical schools of thought such as idealism, realism, progressivism and reconstructionism, among others, which have contributed immensely to the development of philosophical inquiry as a critical pedagogy.
The intellectual roots of critical thinking can be traced back to the ideas of such philosophers as Plato (1941), Aristotle (350 B.C.), Hegel (1975), Peirce (1971) and Dewey (1953) among others. Their ideas have provided the basis for the philosophy, policy, educational research, theory and practice of education. Central to learning is the development of cognition. The works of psychologists such as, Kohlberg (1981), Piaget (1932), Bruner (1957) and Vygotsky (1978) on cognitive development need to be examined in the framework of teaching critical thinking skills. Some of the philosophers’ and theorists’ scholarship have been examined in this chapter in the context of both their times and their contribution to critical educational practice and philosophical inquiry in the contemporary era. Efforts were made to indicate how the study of the challenges faced by NTC student teachers fits into what is already known in the field of theory of education. This connected the research to the existing knowledge on philosophical inquiry. The connection to existing knowledge enabled the researcher to have a better understanding and explanation of the nature, meaning, advantages and challenges associated with the implementation of P4C.
Conceptions of teacher learning
Teacher learning can be defined as a process by which teachers and student teachers acquire knowledge, values, skills, competencies, dispositions they need to practice effectively. The nature of student teacher learning determines the quality of their practice. It is important for this study to look at the conception of teacher learning because the knowledge, skills and values they learn can either contribute to their development or impede their professional growth. This means that it is very crucial to analyse the conception of teacher learning at NTC so that challenges facing student teachers can be understood in the framework of that conception of teacher learning.
There are different knowledge conceptions on teacher learning. Teacher learning is discussed in the context of Cochran-Smith and Lytle’s (1999) work entitled, ‘Relationship of knowledge and practice: teacher learning in communities’. Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) identified three conceptions of knowledge on teacher learning, knowledge for practice, knowledge in practice and knowledge of practice. Knowledge of practice and knowledge in practice are gained during practice. According to Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) knowledge in practice is the knowledge a practicing teacher gains through reflection and inquiry on teaching experiences. This conception points to the fact that practicing teachers also learn from experts as well as their experiences. Knowledge of practice is also acquired during practice through reflecting in action. The assumption behind the former conception seems to be that there is vast knowledge in the field of practice, which is gained from the teacher’s experience and from experts. The latter conception is informed by the premise that teachers improve their practice as they critique their assumptions. The problem with Cochran-Smith and Lytle’s (1999) conception of teacher learning through knowledge of and in practice is that, they entirely depend on student teacher’s ability to relate his or her experiences to theoretical grounding of professional learning practices.
These two conceptions of teacher learning, knowledge of and in practice make the student teacher an active learner, who is not only a consumer but a creator of knowledge on practice. This can be the same with the knowledge student teachers get at college or university. Student teachers can be required to inquire and reflect on what they learn at college. The other conception of teacher learning indicated by Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) is knowledge for practice. They described this as the knowledge student teachers acquire from their lectures before practice.
The assumption behind knowledge for practice is that the knowledge they gain from teacher educators can make them effective practitioners. This is the conception of teacher learning at NTC. In this research this is referred to as teacher education before TP. The basis of this conception seems to be that teaching has a unique set of knowledge which if learned well can produce an expert or a professional. Whilst it is true that knowledge for practice is important, a number of issues are at stake. These include, how effective is the knowledge transmission process? Is that knowledge relevant to all situations student teachers face in their practicing schools? Is this knowledge adequate to produce an effective teacher? The same questions can be asked about NTC teacher education.
It is critical to note that what is learned and how, can determine the nature of the foundation a teacher has for his or her professional growth. If knowledge for practice is presented in a critical and reflective way it can be a good springboard for student teachers to improve their practice. Knowledge for practice can be presented as a starting point rather than an end in itself. The point here is that it is good to impart knowledge for practice and let student teachers improve with knowledge in and of practice than to rely on the latter only. However, there can be a tension if knowledge for practice is not compatible with practice in schools. Cochran-Smith, Villegas, Abrahams, Chavez-Moreno, Mills and Stern’s (5015:111) overview on research on teacher preparation indicates that some of the researches acknowledged tension between teacher education which focuses on progressive approach and how education is organised and delivered traditionally in schools. This means that in such schools knowledge in and of practice may not make meaningful contribution to the teachers professional growth. Rauan, Beijaard and Verloop (2008) in Cochran-Smith, Villegas, Abrahams, Chavez-Moreno, Mills and Stern’s (5015:111) suggest the increase of time spent on practice as a solution. This suggestion might not necessarily remove the tension because it can be just a longer period of experiences which are neither critical nor educative. In other words if education in practicing schools is still following the traditional way then there is very little to learn about critical pedagogy in those schools.
The other issue raised in this discussion is the issue of relevance of knowledge for practice to all situations student teachers face in their practice. If this knowledge is characterised by mere acquisition of facts then, its relevant is questionable. However, if knowledge for practice focuses on the development of skills for critical thinking, reflection and inquiry, then, the knowledge is relevant since it can be applied to any situation a teacher may come across. If knowledge for practice develop inquiry, problem solving and decision making skills in student teachers then it is effective. These skills can enable student teachers to deal with challenges they face in their practice.
This discussion made it clear that knowledge of and in practice is important for professional growth. However, their professional growth depends on their ability to inquire reflect and construct knowledge from their experiences. The questions to be answered are; does knowledge for practice has a bearing on the teachers’ ability to learn from experience? How can they evaluate the worthiness of the knowledge they gain through reflection if they are to rely on knowledge of practice only? Cochran-Smith, Villegas, Abrahams, Chavez-Moreno, Mills and Stern (5015:111) indicate in their analysis of teacher preparation research that some of the researches portrayed learning to teach in the context of practicum as a challenge due to uncertainty. This finding can mean that the student teachers’ knowledge for the practice was not sound. The point being made is that, the three conceptions of teacher learning are critical in teacher education. It is important to note that whilst it is true that teachers cannot grow professionally if learning ends at college with knowledge for practice, it is equally true that without knowledge for practice they may find it difficult to reflect effectively. The knowledge for practice can be essential in benchmarking effective practice. This study looked at the effectiveness of this knowledge at NTC in empowering learners to be reflective student teachers who are able to inquire and reflect on their practice.
The position of this research is that teacher education should integrate the three conceptions of teacher learning. It is the knowledge for practice that enables student teachers to start going in practice. Knowledge for practice also guides student teachers on documenting the practice and the use of documents such as curriculum, syllabii, schemes of work and pupils records among others for effective practice. Cohen, Manion, Morrison and Wyse (2010:441) point out the importance of writing and understanding documents when they indicate that documents in teaching are communicative devices essential to the success of the educational programmes. Although teacher practice is practical, it is informed by specific ideas and theories that are gained through knowledge for practice. In the case of NTC knowledge for practice seems to be ineffective in developing student teachers who can reflect and inquire on their practice. If knowledge for practice is delivered critically it can lay a good foundation for professional growth. This means that the issue of critical pedagogy is very important in knowledge for practice. This is discussed under critical pedagogy.
The quality and relevance of education is not only determined by the amount of content that is learned by pupils. The way content is delivered can make otherwise relevant content not educative. Teachers should employ sound pedagogical approaches that empower the learner. Critical pedagogy is an approach that empowers both the teacher and the learner to be independent critical thinkers (Freire, 1996:61). This approach focuses on how the teacher and the learner can be critical of practice and critical of what is being learned respectively. On this basis, it can be inferred that pupils who were taught by some of the NTC student teachers were not being afforded the opportunity to be critical of what they learn. This should be a cause for concern to NTC teacher educators; hence, the researcher had to find out the challenges faced by NTC student teachers in employing critical pedagogy.
The process of education involves engaging one’s mind. According to Plato and Grube (2002) Socrates believes that education is not a question of transfer of knowledge. This means that mere acquisition of facts should not be an end of education. Schjelderup (2009) indicates that “Socrates underscores the idea of education as an activity of the mind not a curriculum to be delivered”. This suggests that Socrates’ concept of education repudiates mere reproduction of a body of facts as learning. It is important to note that Socrates is not dismissing the learning of different disciplines, his emphasis is on the need to develop critical thinking. Whilst it is vital that learners have knowledge of different disciplines, it is also fundamental that these learners are reflective and critical of what they know through critical pedagogy; hence, Socrates’ emphasis on education as an activity of the mind is very relevant to this study.
Critical pedagogy is embedded in critical theory. Horkheimer coined the term ‘critical theory’ in 1937 to describe a politically committed response to the problems in the society, (Berendzen 2013). Critical theory was developed by the Frankfurt school philosophers who include Herbert Marcuse, Jurgen Habermas, Walter Benjamin and Max Horkheimer among others (Crossman, 2015). According to Ward (2013), “the critical theory was based on the assumption that society of the twentieth century constituted under capitalism was basically unjust, unhealthy, wasteful and exploitative”. On this basis, critical theory focuses on finding out injustices in the society with the goal of transforming it for the better. As Horkheimer (1982:244) puts it, “critical theory seeks human emancipation to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them”. The assumption behind this theory is that society can be transformed or made better if people are able to identify and change conditions that disempower or oppress them. The aim of education, according to critical theory, is to make a significant change to human life; therefore, philosophical inquiry as a critical pedagogic approach should provide critical skills for educational and societal transformation.
One of the French philosophers, Rousseau, observes that a corrupt and oppressive political system is strengthened by an equally corrupt education system. Likewise, education can be instrumental in the emancipation of humanity from corrupt and unjust practices. Freire (1996:60) sees the need to employ a critical pedagogy in education that would “emancipate learners from the negative effect of the banking concept of education”. If schools are to be instrumental in the transformation of societies, then their pedagogy should liberate learners from the commands of authoritarian teachers. A pedagogy that is able to emancipate learners from forces that enslave them academically, is equally capable of bringing equity and justice to the society.
Important to this study is Smyth’s work on critical pedagogy. Smyth (2011:12) analyzes the work of teachers which he believes “has been reduced to that of being mere machines who implement educational practice decided by others who are not teachers”. This kind of practice is authoritarian in nature. Habermas (1991) as cited by Smyth (2011:74) points out that an authoritarian educational process is curriculum centred than student-centred. An authoritarian type of education is characterized by the telling method. The teacher is believed to possess all the knowledge that pupils should learn. Learners are passive recipients of facts or knowledge. Such kind of education lacks what Freire (1993:107) calls praxis. As long as learners remain passive recipients of knowledge, they cannot be critical learners who are able to engage in independent thinking. Transformation is only possible through a critical dialogical pedagogy. Teachers and learners need to understand classrooms as places where they can liberate themselves, especially their minds. Through a critical pedagogy, teachers are capable of constructing schools and education for societal transformation.
If the society expects teachers to empower learners, they have to be empowered first. While Smyth blames the system of education for relegating teachers to mere technicians, Bercaw and Stooksberry (2004) believe in the empowering of teachers through critical pedagogy in teacher education (Smyth, 2011: 12; Bercaw & Stooksberry, 2004). Smyth sees the possibility of empowering teachers through questioning, conceptualizing and reflecting on their pedagogical practice. Although Smyth (2011) and Bercaw and Stookberry (2004) view teacher empowerment from different angles, they concur that the practice of critical pedagogy in schools is only possible through empowering the teacher. It is clear, therefore, that teacher education and the education system play a significant role in promoting critical pedagogy and reflective practice in schools. Hence, this study has focused on the challenges faced by NTC student teachers in engaging their pupils in philosophical inquiry, which is a critical pedagogy. Bercaw and Stookberry’s (2004) exploitation of critical pedagogy in teacher education shed further light on the study. The reason NTC student teachers are not engaging in critical pedagogy may be explained in terms of the nature of teacher education or the education system.
It is prudent that all teachers conceptualize critical pedagogy. Kincheloe (2008:10) views critical pedagogy from a democratic point of view. He sees critical pedagogy as grounded in a social and educational vision of justice and equality. The importance of democratic principles need not be over-emphasized. Important to this study is an encouragement by Kincheloe (2008:10) for teachers to be researchers who produce knowledge and teach students not to consume knowledge and theories but to produce their own. In today’s society, the idea of creating knowledge is now more important than before. The world no longer needs people who are knowledge consumers only. There is a need to bear in mind that in as much as nations want citizens who are critical of other people’s ideas that should not be an end in itself. Instead, criticism should be seen as a springboard to being critical and caring knowledge creators who are innovative in the realm of science.
Education can produce knowledge creators through employing interactive pedagogy. Interactive pedagogy is a teaching methodology that stimulates active teacher- pupil and pupil-pupil participation which strengthens philosophical inquiry skills in pupils. Interactive pedagogy is critical in the process of developing philosophical skills in pupils. Habermas (1991) as cited in Smyth (2011:74) believes that good teaching is only through learner centred methodology. This implies that, learning cannot take place if learners are passive recipients of knowledge. Central to critical pedagogy is critical reflection. Learning cannot take place unless the learners become critical thinkers who reflect on what and the way they learn. Experience is viewed as a source of knowledge. While this is true, for Dewey, experience is more than doing things. Having experienced that some trees and grasses wither in summer is not learning unless one begins to think on why vegetation withers in summer and not in the rainy season. In Dewey’s philosophy, learning is a result of reflection on experience (Dewey 1933:6). This suggests that ‘knowledge what’ should not be an end in itself. Learners should expand their thinking horizons to the knowledge how and why. Teachers should engage in reflective teaching and learners should reflect on what they learn and their lives.
Critical pedagogy can transform education to bring equity and justice in the classroom and outside. This implies that critical pedagogy does not only ensure effective engagement of learners, it is also dedicated to the removal of human suffering (Kincheloe 2008:10). Critical pedagogy empowers learners to be critical thinkers who can challenge and change the existing systems that oppress them. Transformation can start in the classroom where pupils question common sense or a widely accepted assumption, weigh evidence, reflect and recognise the distinction between reasoning and opinion.
Critical pedagogy can be viewed as a philosophy of liberation. Freire (1993:60) rightly points out that “liberating education consists in acts of recognition, not transferors of information”. The indications are therefore, that, a liberating pedagogy is the foundation of a sound democratic society. It can be inferred that if Zimbabwe is to be a democratic nation, its schools should be laboratories for freedom. Freedom in this context implies being afforded the opportunity to think critically, caringly and creatively on questions and issues. It also implies doing things not as obedience but because it is right to do so. While it is now common knowledge that philosophical inquiry plays a significant role in building a democratic society, Plato was of the opinion that practicing philosophy with young ones can result in indiscipline. Plato believed that philosophical dialogue corrupts young people (Fisher 2005:130). The problem is that in some cases, authorities do not want critical thinkers who question their interests, assumptions and policies. On this basis, it can be inferred that the real problem of pupils without philosophical skills is not indiscipline or disobedience but ignorant obedience.
Contrary to Plato’s idea that philosophical inquiry causes indiscipline is a supposition by Zinn (1970), that civil disobedience is not a problem. Zinn (1970), as an advocate of civil disobedience, articulates clearly the dangers of ignorant obedience that he terms civil obedience which is a result of not thinking (Zinn, 1970). He perceives civil obedience as the problem. Zinn (1970) believes that “things are upside down because of the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leader… and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of obedience”. In light of Zinn’s (1970) premise, it can be concluded that critical thinking is a prerequisite for a ‘just’ and democratic society. Philosophical inquiry is a critical pedagogy needed to develop in pupils the ability to see things from their own perspective, challenge dictates and refuse to advance selfish interests of those who require obedience. In a classroom situation, the teacher’s assumptions should be open to interrogation. Acceptance of the teacher’s beliefs without questioning can lead to pedantry. It is therefore, important for all classroom practitioners to engage their pupils in philosophical inquiry for critical, caring and creative thinking. This is only feasible if classroom practitioners become critical teachers. This is discussed under the sub-heading of critical pedagogy, becoming a critical teacher.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Acronyms used in this study
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
1.2 The background to the study
1.3 The problem statement
1.4 The aims and objectives of the study
1.5 Research design and methodology
1.6 Concepts clarification
1.7 Limitations of the study
1.8 Significance and contribution of the study
1.9 Structure of the thesis
CHAPTER 2: PEDAGOGY FOR PHILOSOPHICAL SKILLS
2.2 Importance of P4C
2.3 P4C as a democratic process for democracy
2.4 P4C as a pedagogic approach
2.5 Community of inquiry
2.6 Philosophical inquiry across curriculum
2.7 Prerequisite for teaching philosophical skills
2.8 Challenges to teaching children philosophical skills
CHAPTER 3: PHILOSOPHICAL INQUIRY IN THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY
3.2 Conceptions of teacher learning
3.3 Critical pedagogy
3.4 Critical rationalism
3.5 Critical thinking through logic
3.6 Philosophical inquiry and moral reasoning
3.7 Philosophical inquiry for social reconstructionism
CHAPTER 4: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
4.2 Interpretive paradigm
4.3 Qualitative approach
4.4 Case study strategy
4.5 Research methods
CHAPTER 5: RESEARCH FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS ON AWARENESS, PERCEPTIONS ON ENGAGING PUPILS, IMPORTANCE OF CRITICAL THINKING AND FEASIBILITY OF INQUIRY ACROSS CURRICULUM
5.2 Research process
5.3 Findings on awareness to engage pupils in philosophical inquiry and how
5.4 Findings on the NTC student teachers’ perceptions of philosophising
5.5 Findings on the importance of critical thinking to learners
5.6 Findings on the effectiveness of NTC teacher education before TP
5.7 Findings on the feasibility of employing philosophical inquiry across curriculum
CHAPTER 6: RESEARCH FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS ON CHALLENGES AND PROMOTION OF PUPILS’ ENGAGEMENT IN PHILOSOPHICAL INQUIRY
6.2 Findings on the NTC student teachers’ challenges in engaging student pupils in philosophical inquiry
6.3 Findings on feasible ways of overcoming challenges and promoting engagement of pupils in philosophical inquiry
CHAPTER 7: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE STUDY
7.2 Summary of the findings
7.5 Avenues for further research
7.6 Concluding remarks
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT