Results-boosting primary-school philosophy lesson to be trialled across 200 schools

21st October 2016 at 00:01
philosophy, sapere, education endowment fund, eef, kevan collins, maths, numeracy, literacy, randomised controlled trials
Education Endowment Foundation to fund philosophy programme along with five other trials

A low-cost philosophy programme that was found to improve the reading and maths skills of primary pupils is now to be tested across 200 schools.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has allocated £1.2 million to allow the programme to be tested by 9,000 Year 4 and 5 pupils.

The Philosophy 4 Children sessions have been designed by the Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education. Teachers use a prompt, such as a short video clip or story, to generate structured discussion on topics such as truth, knowledge and fairness.

The aim of the sessions is to help children learn to ask questions, construct arguments and engage in reasoned discussion.

An earlier and smaller randomised trial of Philosophy 4 Children found that it had a positive impact on primary pupils’ maths and reading: their attainment in those subjects improved by two additional months over the course of a year. Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds benefited even more, with their maths results improving by three additional months.

Sir Kevan Collins, EEF chief executive, said that the new trial would allow teachers to see whether the initiative proved as effective on a large scale.

And Sir Peter Lampl, EEF chairman, added: “Evidence is teachers’ greatest ally, when it comes to deciding between different programmes or interventions.”

The EEF has announced funding for a further five randomised controlled trials today. All are designed to test the impact of different teaching and learning programmes on pupil attainment.

They are:

  • Crest Awards
    The British Science Association’s awards promote a hands-on approach to science, supporting pupils as they run their own research projects. The grant will be used to fund an evaluation of Crest after-school clubs in 200 schools, with 2,000 11 to 14 year olds taking part.
  • Digital Feedback in Primary Maths
    This programme aims to make teachers’ feedback to pupils more specific and relevant, by training them to record videos of themselves explaining problems. Pupils will also be able to replay the teachers’ comments. The trial will involve pupils in Years 4 and 5, in 60 schools.
  • Reciprocal Reading
    Teachers help pupils to guide group discussions, using four strategies: questioning, clarifying, summarising and predicting. The trial will run in 100 primaries, to test whether the scheme helps to improve pupils’ reading ability.
  • Learning Together
    Parents and children aged three and four attend one-hour sessions designed to equip parents with the skills and confidence to support their children’s learning at home. The aim is to boost literacy and language skills. 

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