P4C Research

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SAPERE P4C improves reading, writing and maths: Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) trial outcome

A 2015 Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) Efficacy Trial carried out by Durham University into SAPERE P4C showed that:

  • SAPERE P4C has the biggest positive impact on disadvantaged children (those eligible for free school meals). These children made 4 months' additional progress in reading, 3 months' additional progress in maths and 2 months' additional progress in writing.
  • overall, Key Stage Two pupils taking part in the trial made two additional months' progress in reading and maths
  • teachers and pupils reported that SAPERE P4C had a positive influence on wider outcomes such as pupils’ confidence to speak, listening skills, and self-esteem

Following the study, the EEF named SAPERE P4C as one of its Promising Projects. It is now funding a  larger Effectiveness Trial in more schools over a longer time period. 

SAPERE P4C improves non-cognitive skills: Nuffield Foundation research

Using data from the 2015 EEF Efficacy trial, research funded by the Nuffield Foundation found that:

  • pupils who received the P4C intervention were ahead of their counterparts in self-reported communication skills, teamwork and resilience
  • though the effect sizes are generally small, they are larger for pupils living in relative poverty
  • on the whole, teachers reported positive effects in pupils' confidence in questioning and reasoning
  • interviews with and observations of pupils confirmed that pupils enjoyed P4C and actively participated in the sessions

Other P4C research

Our Literature Review has 18 further examples of research in P4C. Examples include:

    University of Dundee research with schools in Clackmannanshire

    In 2001, Professor Keith Topping of Dundee University and educational psychologist Steve Trickey published the results of a large scale study in which children experienced one P4C session a week. The research showed pupils achieved significant gains in verbal and non-verbal reasoning, as well as improvements in listening, communication, behaviour, questioning, reading and understanding. It also showed a statistically significant increase in children's IQ scores over a period of a year, compared with no increase in the scores of the control group.

    • a whole population of children gained on average 6 standard points on a measure of cognitive abilities after 16 months of weekly enquiry
    • pupils and teachers perceived significant gains in communication, confidence, concentration, participation and social behaviour following 6 months of enquiry
    • pupils doubled their occurrence of supporting their views with reasons over a 6 month period
    • teachers doubled their use of open-ended questions over a six month period
    • when pupils left primary school they did not have any further enquiry opportunities yet their improved cognitive abilities were still sustained two years into secondary school
    • pupils increased their level of participation in classroom discussion by half as much again following 6 months of weekly enquiry

    Better Thinking for Better Learning Project, funded by SHINE

    This year-long programme of weekly enquiry sessions used Philosophy for Children to teach reasoning and  higher order and independent thinking with primary school children in Wandsworth, London.  Pre- and post- intervention testing and teacher assessment indicated reading improvement beyond teacher predictions for 88% of pupils and improvements in speaking, active listening, question posing, reasoning, thinking and social and emotional interaction.

    Sample findings:

      • 88% of Year 6 children improved on their predicted grade in Key Stage 2 SATs, with 94% achieving or exceeding their predicted grade
      • 26% of children who took part in P4C throughout the project achieved level 5 in reading, with a further 69% achieving level 4 
      • 62.5% of children exceeded the teacher's prediction in Key Stage 2 Maths SATs, with 24% achieving level 5  and 64% achieving level 4. The focus class exceeded the national average score of 43% at level 4.
      • 51% of the school's pupils were eligible for free school meals and 50% had English as an additional language

    RAIS (Raising Aspirations in Society) Project 2003-2006

    A £1.7 million project using P4C as the central strand of the project, evaluated by the Centre for Learning and Teaching at the University of Newcastle. Researchers said:

    'Evidence supported the claim that the Philosophy for Children (P4C) intervention in the form of Community of Enquiry (CoE) has significant positive impact upon teacher and pupil creativity, builds the confidence of both teachers and pupils and encourages and develops children's capacity for independent and critical thinking and powers of reasoning. Evidence supported the claim that the Philosophy for Children (P4C) intervention in the form of Community of Enquiry (CoE) is particularly powerful in developing teachers' planning for use of questions and in encouraging teachers to critically revisit their practice.'

    Excellence in Cities Action Zones: South West Middlesbrough Education Action Zone
    Case Study: P4C at Hemlington Hall Primary School

    Read the case study here.

    The IAPC (Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children) maintains a list of research papers on Philosophy for Children. You can also browse the PhilPapers database.