In this post was Janet Orchard, University of Bristol (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Ruth Heilbronn, IOE, University of London (R.Heilbronn@ioe.ac.uk) outline their project “P4T” or Philosophy for Teachers, an idea adapted from the more familiar idea of “P4C” (Philosophy for Children), or learning through dialogue within a community of fellow enquirers. Two 24 hour workshops took place in a Quaker Retreat Centre in rural Oxfordshire. Each workshop enabled student teachers to think ethically about dilemmas they might face in the classroom; each blended theoretical perspectives on and systematic ways of thinking about education at an introductory level in response to frequently cited examples of complex and potentially difficult classroom situations. The intention of the project was to develop independent views on managing examples of challenging behaviour in the classroom, a common preoccupation of early career teachers.
The project was conceived out of a concern that initial teacher education in England is focused too narrowly on the development of beginning teachers’ technical competence and expertise, at the expense of developing their capacity for critical reflection. Philosophers have highlighted the key contribution which critical reflection makes to the professional judgement which distinguishes the best teachers from others (e.g. Winch, Orchard, Oancea 2013, Heilbronn, 2008). Moreover, some recognition of the role professional judgement plays in good teaching is given in the Teachers’ Standards for England (DfE, 2011). These standards are divided into two sections, the first concerned with classroom practice in a technical sense, while the second concerns issues of personal and professional conduct. Part Two requires teachers, for example, to be able to ‘respect the rights of others ...not undermining fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty’. However, these are weighty ideals, complex and deeply contested and there is little formal opportunity and time if any on courses of teacher education to enable serious and sustained reflection on them, or indeed other ethical aspects (Maxwell et al., 2014).
Teachers and teacher-educators would benefit from having some education and a space in which they could discuss and debate what these actually mean in the classroom (Shortt et al 2014), a deficit which this project addresses. Moreover, considerable difficulties are created when the framing of teachers’ work in official documentation like the Teachers’ Standards brackets out critical reflection on teaching and learning from more technical discussions of classroom pedagogy. This creates the impression that reflection of this kind is an optional extra, whereas in practice the two dimensions are bound together.
Take the standard which, for example, requires teachers to ‘maintain good relationships with pupils, exercise appropriate authority and act decisively when necessary’ (DfE, 2011, 7). To maintain good relationships in the classroom does requires technical competence on the teacher’s part (why else should the pupil respect their authority?) but the capacity for ethical deliberation in equal measure. Good teachers must determine on the spot and at any one time which of the thirty pupils in the class, why and for how long, deserves their attention. This is why an established and growing body of literature attests to the importance of ethical deliberation in teacher education (e.g. Carr 2000, Hansen 1995 and 2001, Carr 2006, Papastephanou, M. 2006; Campbell 2003 and 2008), pointing to the numerous opportunities for such exposure are widespread in professional formation programmes in other professions (Davis 1999, Russell 2006).
Beginning teachers need opportunities to engage in deliberation on the ethical issues which relate to their practice and from an early stage. This project, in the absence of other sources of such support, promotes discussion and debate highlighting teaching as a moral pursuit. From our earlier work with teacher educators (Shortt 2014, Heilbronn 2013) we identified the pedagogical model of the ‘community of enquiry’ (Lipmann 2003, Dewey 1902) as being particularly well-suited to our work. By this means we stayed true to our belief that developing teaching skills and ethical deliberation are inter-related processes which best teacher education practice will hold together. We planned to deliberate together on issues raised by challenging behaviour in the classroom, as a common preoccupation of early career teachers and to use participants’ own experiences as a stimulus for those deliberations. By this means, we conjectured, we might offer beginning teachers and their tutors a model for developing ethical reasoning given that, as lone practitioners they are likely to find themselves in the future struggling to cope, and without much guidance, with those dilemmas and tensions that surface unavoidably when engaging in the inescapably moral domain (Campbell 2003, pp.138-9) like that of the classroom.
Each 24 hour residential workshop took place in a Quaker retreat centre in the Oxfordshire countryside. Participants represented a range of educational settings from early years trainees and practitioners to those based in secondary/Post 16 settings. While many were PGCE students, the first workshop also recruited some undergraduates in Education Studies who had previous school experience, for example as teaching assistants. This diversity contributed positively to the dynamics of the group and the professional learning of those members of the group who are now qualified teachers.
The workshops focussed in particular on moments of ethical discomfort in the classroom/ educational settings and provide opportunities to position these as moral matters rather than purely psychological/ behavioural ones. These were framed as stories. Participants worked together to develop a focus from the stories on ethical concepts, like fairness, respect, trust, equity. These were “stretched”, meaning they were interrogated slowly and deliberately through debate and their depth and complexity appreciated. Towards the end of the workshop, tutors and students worked in separate groups to consider ways in which they might follow up the forum and what they had learned from it in their future practice and in a workshop at their home institution.
A formal and conventional programme would not capture the schematic nature of the printed programme we provided and which was negotiated with participants at the time and as the workshop unfolded. They followed more or less the same content, but there was necessarily some variation between the two workshops as they were attended by different groups and the precise activities as well as the ‘outcomes’ were particular to them. We have chosen instead to offer below a composite account of the activities undertaken so as to provide an insight into the way in which enquiry was initiated, developed and deepened by session.
Three distinctive features of the workshops warrant particular attention: the skill of our facilitator, the role of philosophers of education in the workshops and finally its residential dimension. Our facilitator (acknowledged below) enabled participants from very diverse backgrounds to create a community of practice within a relatively short space of time as well as modelling to a very high standard indeed a dialogical approach to teacher education through enquiry.
Philosophers of education sympathetic to but not directly involved in teacher education per se were invited to join the community. Their role was to contribute to the discussion, using humour where appropriate, and to intervene if/when challenges were appropriate to develop arguments so that they and enable them to become more nuanced/ avoid ethical “cul de sacs”.
Finally, the residential aspect of the project was significant in helping to form a community of practice quickly with participants from a range of institutions and from socially and geographically diverse backgrounds as well as in relation to their previous educational outcomes. The practice of communal meals, shared within such a calm, rural setting and the peaceful atmosphere of the house was significant too and an important factor in building relationships between tutors and students based on trust, mutual respect and equal status as participants. A space for reflection in confidence was created which, as far as possible, lay outside the bounds of established roles and responsibilities as students and teachers respectively and which modelled democratic values.
The evaluation process was notable in continuing the dialogical nature of the workshop right to the very end. In the final session of each workshop participants were invited in pairs to reflect on what they had experienced, having been given a choice of frameworks with which they might work. One involved drawing while the other allowed for words. After time had been set aside for pair work, reflections were shared with the group as a whole before the session was drawn to a close by the facilitator.
We circulated the report to all participants by email and invited them to comment on the final text, with a particular request to check it for the accuracy of claims that we have made about the workshops. This ‘meta dialogue’ phase helped to make explicit the way in which assumptions have been challenged and a critical approach taken throughout the workshops for, as Knezic et al. have argued, ‘The post-dialogue evaluates the proceedings and sometimes further analyses the question’ (2010, pp.1105-1106).
- There is a need and demand for ethical deliberation amongst teacher-educators and student teachers. Participants valued the space and time for critical reflection away from the 'busy-ness' of their regular programme and reported being able to talk widely about education in a way they had not felt able to do in school.
- Participants felt that talking across phase and across institution in particular gave them a good insight into common issues.
- A form of ethical deliberation using the model of P4C, with an experienced facilitator, based on real experiences in the workplace yield fruitful and enlightening learning experiences. The particular pedagogic model was identified by participants as one they might use themselves in their future classroom practice.
- Making space and time for reflective activity of this kind is difficult but possible; participants nevertheless identified imaginative solutions in the “leaky spaces” to be found in existing provision in which they might develop dialogic teaching within their classroom practice across a range of educational settings.
Both student teachers and teacher educators reported appreciation of an opportunity to learn for the first time or extend their understanding of dialogic teaching methods.
The team behind this project feel that at this pilot stage they have identified sufficiently positive responses to look to develop the workshops in the following ways:
- Workshops on a similar 24 hour model, perhaps with a different focus e.g. inter-cultural understanding in the classroom as this may help to attract funding from charities concerned to support teacher development in this specific area; build in opportunities to work towards a Level One P4C qualification for those student teachers who would value this by following up workshops with SAPERE.
- A 48 hour model called “Reading Education” which extends the ‘concept stretching’ undertaken during the first day with introduction to more substantive readings in the philosophy of education which develop professional knowledge and understanding of the ethical themes identified by the students teachers. Will look to fund this with the ongoing support of the PESGB.
If you would like to hear about any future developments, please contact either Janet or Ruth.
We wish to extend our particular thanks to Steve Bramall, (http: www.philosophyineducation.org) who acted as facilitator for the event and co-planned the workshop with great expertise. There could have been no project without the participants who, without exception, engaged so positively and unconditionally with the enquiry process. Thank you to all of you. We are grateful to Kathy Wright for her constant support, enthusiasm and encouragement for our work on ethical deliberation with teachers/teacher educators over several years and colleagues from Edge Hill, including Damien Shortt, whose own work in this area has inspired ours. Finally, we extend our thanks to colleagues at the PESGB for all their support for our engagement work with teachers/teacher educators, particularly Carrie Winstanley, Morwenna Griffiths and David Aldridge, who was involved in the planning of several key events in the lead up to these workshops.
Carr, D. (2006) 'Professional and personal values and virtues in education and teaching'. Oxford Review of Education. 32:2. Pp 171-183
Campbell, E. (2008) 'Teaching ethically as a moral condition of professionalism'. In L. Nucci and D. Narvaez (Eds.), Handbook of moral and character education (pp. 601-617). New York: Routledge.
Campbell, E. (2003) The Ethical Teacher. Maidenhead, Open University Press.
Davis, M. (1999). Ethics and the university. London: Routledge.
Dewey, J. (1902). The Child and the Curriculum. Chicago; University of Chicago Press.
DfE (2011) Teachers’ Standards, updated 2013.DfE https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teachers-standards
Hansen, D. T. (1995) The Call to Teach. New York: Teachers College Press
Hansen, D. (2001). Exploring the moral heart of teaching. New York: Teachers College Press
Heilbronn, R. (2008) Teacher Education and the Development of Practical Judgement. London: Continuum.
Lipman, M. (2003). Thinking in Education. (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mahony, P. (2009). 'Should “ought” be taught?' Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 983-989.
Maxwell, B., Filion, M., Daly, C., Heilbronn, R., & Walters, S. 'Ethics and values curriculum in initial teacher education in Canada, England and Wales: findings of a survey' . Contribution to the COPA/Ethics SIG Joint Panel. Philosophy of Education Society Annual Meeting. Albuquerque (NM), Friday 14 March 2014.
Papastephanou, M. (2006) 'Education, risk and ethics', Ethics and Education, 1, no.1: 47-63
Russel, J. (2006). 'Breaking into the mainstream : the rise of ethics education'. Ethical Corporation, European Academy of Business in Society, May, 4-6.
Shortt, D., Reynolds, P., McAteer, M., Hallett, F., (2014) 'To believe, to think, to know - to teach? Ethical deliberation in teacher-education', chapter 6 in R. Heilbronn and L. Foreman-Peck, (Eds) Philosophical Perspectives on Teacher Education Oxford: Wiley Blackwell (in press)
Winch, C., Oancea, A., Orchard, J. (2013) ‘The contribution of educational research to teachers’ professional learning - philosophical understandings’ in Research and Teacher Education: the BERA-RSA Inquiry, BERA/RSA, London