, ..

v \177V/

Fonning Philosophical Communities of Inquiry in Early Childhood Classrooms
Understanding a Tale in Sweden, Japan and China 17
.......8)2 ..
Evaluation of Early Childhood Enrichment ?rograms 29
Preschool Children's Sleep and Wake Behavior: Effects of Massage Therapy 39
ar.d Purents of Special 45
Maternal Sensitivity: A Review of Attachment Literature Definitions S5
The Pattern of Development from Non-communicative Behaviour to Language
by Hearing Impaired and Hearing Infants 67
(Continutd on back cava)

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ge, Wimbledon Parkside,
Early Quid D<wIofnnml and car.. 1996, Vol. 120, pp. 1-15
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Forming Philosophical Communities of
Inquiry in Early Childhood Classrooms
Western Carolina University
(&uived 1 FebruLJry 1996)
A community of inquiry (CI) describes any group of people who communicate together
regularly, whose common project is to make a critical and/or creative inquiry into a lield or
discipline. Cllheory understands knowledge as communally constructed and emergent,
proceeding through the interaction of critical and creative thinking. Philosophical CI is a
controlled, communallorm of wondering which focuses on the larger meaning 01 human
experience, and a continual, logical dialectical process of exploring the conditions 01
knowledge. Using familiar stories as texts, and facilitated by a leader who is sensilive both
to the philosophical preoccupations of young children and to their ways 01 thinking and
talklng, young children are both interested and capable, at their level, of philosophical CI.
Beyond its philosophical implications, the process of group dialogue is a training ground
lor the skills and dispositions associated with the autonomous, democratic personality.
Key words: Community of inquiry, critical thinking, philosophy for children, child
It is circle time at a child care center somewhere in the midweSL The teacher is telling
a story to fifteen rapt four and five yeac-old.s - a somewhat zany. magical tale that
she made up herself, about a boy whose father is an inventor, and constructs a robot
who looks and talks and walks and behaves exactly like his son, and the troubles that
everyone has telling them apart. As she weaves the spell of the story through voice
and gesture, she illustrates with two identical feltboacd figures on a board.
She follows her brief, intriguing narrative with a lead off question - is the robot a
person? When one child answers "NoR, the teacher asked her why nOL "Because he's
a robot", is the answer. The teacher asks. "What is the difference between a robot
and a person?R Another child chimes in, "A person sleeps!R "But animals sleep too",
says another child, "because I have a hamster in a cage and he sleeps a lot!" "Are
a.nimals persons?"' queries the ever-alen teacher. "Nol"' is the chorused reply. The
teacher presses on: "What can we find that just persons, only persons do or have?"
she asks. "They have anns and legs!" shouts an excited child; but almost immediately
another child points out that some animals have anns and legs.
A discussion ensues about whether animals have "all anns" or "all legs" or both.
Monkeys ace mentioned. Now the children ace addressing each other directly, as
they have become used to doing. The teacher asks whether there is anything else
·;·· .... ': .. • .


.110 .'."Ili ,,.,.Jt1
which only persons have or do. bursts Out a young child. animals talk",
offers another child. talk" repeats the teacher, looking around the circle
for a response. not like people", says the same child. Yet another child asks her
to clarify how the talk of animals and of humans is the same and different. And so
By the end of the session, which could last anywhere from five to thirty or more
minutes, the group may have established - with helpful summaries by the teacher
- one or more necessary conditions for calling someone (or thing!) a uperson",
or they may not have decided on any. In either case, the teacher summarizes, and
suggests they talk about it again. She then suggests that some people may wish to
draw and dictate the robot story, or one like it. Perhaps she also has some props in
the dramatic play area which encourage playing stories with robots in them. For next
week's discussion she may tell the same story with other materials - for example
doll house figures, or puppets - or she may tell another story. She may pick a
children's book with a related theme - The Rabbit (Williams, 1975), for
example, or Pinnochio (Collodi, 1991), The Steadfast Tin Soldier (Andersen, 1953), or
The Gingerbread Man (Hauge & Hauge, 1973) - or act out a short skit with another
teacher (Edwards, 1986). She may stick with persons as theme, or present something
which suggests another topic. She may solicit direction from the group itself.
The teacher in £his classroom is conducting a philosophical community of inquiry.
A community of inquiry describes any group of people who communicate together
regularly, and who take it as their common proj ect to make a critical and!or creative
inquiry into something: to find out how things work, to discover the meaning
in things, to make judgments about something important to £hem - in shoft,
to create knowledge together. Scientists working on £he same kinds of problems
form communities of inquiry, as do artists who follow each other's work and share
Plato's Academy was a philosopilical community of inquiry, and £he salons of
18£h century France were literary ones. Any classroom, in that it is a group of
people brought together to inquire in a specific field ofstudy, represents a potential
community of inquiry. But what distinguishes a classroom that is a community of
inquiry frem one that is not?
The distinction begins wi£h our idea ofhow knowledge is generated and acquired.
Community of inquiry is associated with two ideas of knowledge. One is that
knowledge is communally constructed through the process of dialogue between
persons. One person does not bring it and deliver it to the whole group; rather, it
through £he interaction of group members. The other is that it is emergent.
It is never complete. No individual or group will ever have the whole picture. When
we apply £hese ideas to £he classroom, we get a model of the class as a working group
in which each individual contribute.> in some way to the knowledge being created
.? : l
'-,: ,',
"_ ..
i. "But animals talk",
ng around the circle
nother child asks her
md different. And so
five to thirty or more
naries by the teacher
,r thing!) a "person",
her summarizes, and
e people may wish to
Iso has some props in
DOts in them. For next
erials - for example
,tory. She may pick a
(Williams, 1975), for
'(Andersen, 1953), or
hort skit with another
or present something
:he group itself.
:ommunity of inquiry.
ommunicate together
ri tical and!or creative
iiscover the meaning
to them - in short,
ne kinds of problems
,ther's work and share
liry, and the salons of
that it is a group of
, represents a potential
hat is a community of
and acquired.
lowledge. One is that
5 of dialogue between
whole group; rather, it
r is that it is emergent.
e whole picture. When
lass as a working group
owledge being created
there, and each individual benefits from the knowledge of the whole group. The
discourse structure of the community of inquiry encourages each member to both
think for herself and to think as a member of the whole group, and it offers the
possibility that the themes or agenda of the group are being shaped and can be
shaped by each individual within it.
Another characteristic of community of inquiry is the kinds of thinking going on
in it. Inquiry involves at least two styles of thinking - the critical and the creative
(Lipman, 1991). Critical thinking is based on an ideal of reasonableness, which
assumes that it is of the highest value to be able to give reasons for our beliefs and
ideas. Critical thinking is rule-governed, meaning we follow the rule of logic, for
example taking care not to contradict ourselves, and holding arguments up to the
scrutiny of whether they follow logically from each other. The minute, for example,
one child generalizes that people have anns and legs, the arms or legs of other
animals spring to the listener's mind, and she finds herself comparing the arms and
legs ofanimals and humans. Are they alike enough that we can say they are the same,
or are they different enough that we can call them something else, and say they are
in another class altogether - neither arms nor legs, but just "limbs"?
Creative thinking does not contradict critical thinking - in fact the two are not,
ultimately, separable - but it reflects a less linear process. Creative thinking often
involves seeing the larger picture intuitively, and proceeds by imaginative leaps,
hunches and connections. When we think creatively, we imagine things in new ways,
generating counterfactual notions - for example, if humans had just four arms or
just four legs, howwould they be different? - or look for connections which are not
immediately apparent, as well as thinking in other symbolic systems like art, stories,
drama, movement, or music.
High quality early childhood settings - to the extent that they are developmentally
focused environments with a rich materials base, and individualized, interactive
teaching and learning strategies, provide an ideal structure for the formation of
community of inquiry (Kennedy, I994b). In such a learning community, each
individual in the group is, to greater or lesser degree, in a process of co-<onstruction
of knowledge with each other individual, and each individual is in a continual
process ofintemalizinF; the characteri'Stic knowledge, skills. and dispositions ofother
individuals, and of the group as a whole (Vygotsky, 1978).
There are many overlappingforms ofinquiry going on in an active early childhood
setting, in different "intelligences", or symbol systems (Gardner, 1985), and in
different representational forms - or, to use Malaguzzi's (1987) term, "languages".
Let us return to our midwestern child care center during its two-hour long morning
period called "Centers": those three young children building a city in the block area
are busy replicating the social world through modelling its built environment, so
they could be said to be engaged in sociological inquiry. But unit blocks can also
0.0 :l,.i'
, . . u . _ , . ~
be the vehicle of architectural as well as mathematical inquiry. The four children
acting out a story theme in the dramatic play area are also involved in sociological
inquiry, but in a different modality. They are thinking verbally, kinaesthetically, and
interpersonally, where the children in the block area are emphasizing the spatial and
the logical mathematical (Krechevsky, 1992). The child painting in bold strokes of
line and color in the art area is involved in an inquiry into art, the child at the sand
table into physics, but both of their inquiries could have social science or literary
dimensions as well: the child painting could be depicting her family, or a character
from a book; the child at the sand table could be working through the problems
of familial conflict and the reality of aggression in social life, through representing
"monsters" or dinosaurs locked in combat. As part of all this, the teachers circulate,
interacting with individuals and small groups. They are in dialogue with each child
at his or her particular developmental level, and work tirelessly to promote and
integrate the themes of inquiry they see unfolding around them, to extend and
enrich each inquiry, and to put these creative, excited inquirers into dialogue with
each other.
The inquiry going on here is rich and varied, but very often sporadic and episodic.
Is there one location where all ofthese active inquirers come together as a group, and
take up one inquiryin particular? The project method (Katz &Chard, 1991) provides
such a location, in the fonn of a teaching and learning structure which allows and
encourages a theme for inquiry to emerge from the interests of the group itself,
and is pursued in a relatively systematic way by all or some of the group members.
Then there are the daily large and small group times, where events like reading
and story telling, dramatizations and puppet shows, musical listening and playing,
demonstrations and focused exploration of materials, center the whole group in one
shared experience. Then there is the planned group discussion, like the one about
the boy and his robot double referred to above. This fonn of inquiry is specifically
The discussion about the robot story deserves to be called "philosophical" for two
reasons. First, because it is a kind of inquiry which focuses on the larger meaning of
human experience - how our thoughts work, what is and what has to be, the nature
of persons, how to define right and wrong, the good, the fair, the beautiful, and
50 on. It is a controlled, communal fonn of wondering about the "big questions".
We are also justified in calling it philosophical because It is, with the help of lhe
teacher-facilitator, a continual process of exploring the conditions of knowledge.
Carl we give reasons for what we think? Are there good reasons and not so good
reasons, and howdo we detennine? Howdo we knowwhat we know- what "person"
means, for example? What son of evidence is necessary to make a claim that so and
so or such and such is a person, and what would it take to discount it? Philosophy has
to do with how we know what we know, and what we mean when we say something
is "true" or not.

iry. The four children
\Volved in sociological
y, kinaesthetically, and
lasizing the spatial and
ting in bold strokes of
t, the child at the sand
ciat science or literary
r family, or a character
through the problems
, through representing
the teachers circulate,
lalogue with each child
to promote and
i them, to extend and
.rers into dialogue with
1 sporadic and episodic.
together as a group, and
Chard, 1991) provides
Icture which allows and
ests of the group itself,
of the group members.
.ere events like reading
ulistening and playing,
. the whole group in one
sion, like the one about
of inquiry is specifically
"philosophical" for twO
III the larger meaning of
rhat has to be, the nature
fair, the beautiful, and
lout the Whig questions".
_is, with the help of the
onditions of knowledge.
-easons and not so good
ve know- what "person"
make a claim that so and
scount it? Philosophy has
1 when we say something
The kind of thinking, talking, and feeling which is going on in this discussion
circle is associated with verbal, logical-mathematical, and personal modalities, or
intelligences. Through their own participation and the teacher's skilled facilitation,
young children are practicing dispositions like valuing taking turns, feeling
responsible for giving reasons and offering evidence for one's beliefs, detennining
to respect persons even if we disagree with their ideas, and wanting to build on
each others ideas. The skills of philosophical community of inquiry are those
usually associated with critical thinking - classifying and categorizing, fonnulating
hypotheses, working with criteria, working with consistency and contradiction,
grasping part-whole connections, predicting consequences, defining tenns, etc:
(Lipman, 1991).
Critical thinking in the collaborative, dialogical setting of the community of
inquiry, typically moves along through people making generalizations, and then
evaluating them through offering and evaluating confinning or disconfinning
examples, using criteria to guide theirjudgements (Lipman, 1988a). In the example
above, the child who bursts out "Talk!" when the teacher asks what only persons do, is
making a generalization which could be more fonnally stated as the proposition: "All
persons talk". As like as not, this proposition may immediately bring to the mind of a
child sitting across the circle someone she knows who is deaf or an elective mute, or
a T.V program or movie she saw in which a deaf or elective mute played a pan. Then
thejob is to decide whether that constitutes a disconfinning example, i.e. whether
it proves that "all persons talk" must be changed to "some persons talk". Another
child may point out that deaf mutes can talk with their hands, leading us to call for
an expanded definition of talking. This could lead to exercising the major critical
thinking skill of evaluating analogous relationships. Is talking with your hands just
like talking with your voice? Are the singing of birds and the talking of humans the
same or different? Can we say that birds "talk" the way we say humans talk? Ultimately,
through this often meandering process of comparison and exemplification, we are
working towards identifying some necessary conditions for being a person. If, for
example, a person could not talk and still be a person, then talking is not a necessary
condition for being a person.
Community of inquiry theorists speak of the group discussion "following the
argument where it leads" as it moves through numerous bifurcations, then circles
around in a recursive movement and gathers up the themes which it has generated
intO a larger theme. The movement of the "argument", or the sum of what has
been said about the issue under discussion (say, what makes a person a person) is
also said to be "self-correcting". in that in dialogue, 3. to ;j, statement more
often than not offers a correction to the original statement. For example, when you
make a generalization and I think spontaneously of an example which disproves
it, your generalization is being corrected, but this correction occurs through
the spontaneous play of our dialogue. Through self-correction, the argument
becomes more complex and better organized - it builds. But the structure of
the argument is emergent; and what drives this emergence is the self-correcting
play of the perspectives of each participant (Lipman, Sharp & Oscanyon, 1979;
Lipman, 1991).
-, .
...... -.....
.....111....... '-4
There is a strong prejudice in early childhood circles against the notion that
young children can think logically/dialogically. This prejudice seems to arise from
a combination of two assumptions. First, there is a lack of appreciation of the
categorical logic which is found in perception, experience, and language itself
(Nelson, 1985). Second, the stereotypical way in which Piaget's thought is grasped
in educational circles leads many to interpret his notion of "pre-operational" to
mean "non-logical". In fact Piaget's theory places the origins of logic in action, and
if that is the case, then the young child is operating with logical or proto-logical
structures from the beginning, whether in the form of sensory-motor schemes or
concepts (Piaget, 1954; Langer. 1980). We have long understood perception itself to
be implicitly rule-governed (Kant, 1965), so thinking with rules of thought certainly
is not a style of experience which must be learned from scratch by young children.
If rule-governed thinking goes on even at the level of perception, then categorical
thought may even be characterized as a "primitive psychological function" (Mandler,
1983, p. 466). Cognitive scientists have been arguing for at least 20 years that a
fundamental logic is in place from infancy (Fodor, 1975; Chomsky, 1985; Bower,
This is easy to say about children who are hardly speaking yet; but what about 3
and 4 year olds? Are they able to apply general rules to specific cases, or evaluate
general rules by considering specific cases? Consider a 2-year old who lives in a house
with a dachshund, and sits for the first time, safe in her mother's arms, before a Great
Dane. She shouts, in awe and delight, "Doggie!" In doing so she is implicitly applying
a general rule to a specific case, as follows:
General rule: All dogs have four legs, hair of some kind, a head shaped in a certain
way, and a certain manner of self-presentation ("dogginess").
Particular case: This creature before me has four legs, hair, a head shaped that
certain way, and a "doggy" self-presentation. Therefore, although it is bigger
than any such creature I've ever seen, it is probably a dog.
Another example: a father stands before a fence, holding his child of three, and
examining a horse, who is standing on the other side of the fence. The horse lifts
his head over the fence and towards the two humans, and its lips draw back slightly,
exposing large teeth. The child asks her father, "Does he eat people?" In this case
the child appears to be thinking. albeit unconsciously, in classic syllogistic form, if!
which there are two premises and a conclusion, and a carry over relationship from
one class to another:
All animals with large teeth are carnivores.
All carnivores are potentially dangerous to people.
Therefore: All animals with large teeth are potentially dangerous to people.
nst the notion that
· seems to ,arise from
appreciation of the
and language itself
s thought is grasped
"pre-operational" to
f logic in action, and
or proto-logical
ry-motor schemes or
d perception itself to
; of thought certainly
h by young children.
ion, then categorical
I function" (Mandler,
least 20 years that a
.omsky, 1985; Bower,
tet; but what about 3
fic cases, or evaluate
d who lives in a house
i anns, before a Great
· is implicitly applying
\d shaped in a certain
· a head shaped that
although it is bigger
lis child of three, and
fence. The horse lifts
ips draw back slightly,
people?" In ibi.s case
sic syllogistic form, in
,ver relationship from
mgerous to people.
The little girl's infonnation is incorrect - she has not yet made the critical
distinction between the sharp teeth of carnivores and the blunt teeth of herbivores
- but her reasoning is not. It is spontaneous and unreflective: ifyou asked the child
to state the syllogism, she would not have a clue what you were asking for, but this
fact does not make the pattern of her reasoning any less syllogistic. This is possible
because the basis of reasoning is the spontaneous mental activity of assimilating
individual cases to general categorical schemes and rules (Dewey, 1991; Piaget, 1952),
and thereby continually accomodating as well, i.e. reconstructing those schemes to
approximate better the way things are since the new case was assimilated. If we
think of these schemes as theories, or pieces of theories, then we see that young
children are just as spontaneously theory-driven as adults (Carey, 1985; Wellman,
1990). The research even points to the capacity of young children to fonnulate
verbal syllogisms apart from any empirical situation, using make believe animals and
things in reasoning games (Hawkins et al., 1984).
The tendency to characterize young children as illogical is especially difficult to
overcome because it is associated with a noble cause, which is the effort to protect the
young child from the oppression of curriculum (Elkind, 1993). But the
essential difference between children and adults is not so much about logic as lack
of experience, and the child's weaker or more rudimentary conceptual framework
in which the experience is organized. And this weakness is made up for by the fact
that, as Tizard and Hughes (1984) have pointed out, children aged 3 to 5 years
old are characterized by a "persistent intellectual curiosity". Tizard and Hughes
explain this as the result of "the flexible and incomplete structure oftheir conceptual
framework, and also because of [their] growing awareness of the many confusions
and misunderstandings that occur". They emphasize the importance of "the role of
verbal exploration - that is, puzzling and thinking - in 4-year old children, "as well
as" the child's interest in the social world of adults, and the role which adults can
play in helping the child toward understanding through dialogue" (p. 126).
Young children are already, on the level of perception, action and language,
making the fundamental logical moves associated with critical thinking. When they
practice these skills, which they already have in some degree, in the controlled
environment of the philosophical community of inquiry, the difference is twofold.
First, it is a situation where language rather, than action becomes the exclusive
medium of thought; second, it is a group dialogue situation. In dialogue, the other
person, in responding to my statement, provides the contradiction or limitation
which leads me to refonnulate it. Each reformulation by members of the dialoguing
group offcrs thc possibility ofkading a dea.:er topic arour.d which
the dialogue is taking place, without the personal threat which often accompanies
dialogue. If, for example, I have the more or less unconsciously held
assumption (as some 4-year olds do) that all doctors are men, and I never bring
that assumption into dialogue with others, it remains in an unreflective state. If in a
group conversation about doctors, medicine, hospitals, etc., I am moved to state my
assumption, and someone in a flash returns, "Vh ub! My doctor is a woman!" the
example has just been offered which disproves it. Therefore I must reorganize my
proposition from an "all" to a "some" statement, i.e. from "All doctors are men" to
..... "
. .... .. .
• -';'ll'.• , .'1m,.f
.. .
"Some doctors are men". This self-coITection is less likely to happen ifi t is not brought
into dialogue, but when it is, it happens quite naturally. And if it is brought into a
group dialogue like the community ofinquiry, itfonns part of a collaborative inquiry
into the necessary and sufficient conditions for being a doctor, and is internalized
as knowledge by each member of the group, at his or her own level.
Another common belief among early childhood practitioners is that young children
do not really care about the "big questions", such as how to define a person, how
thinking works, what language is, whether there is such a thing as magic, etc.
Ever since the reaction against Froebelian curriculum at the tum of the century,
practitioners have been encouraged to begin with the concrete and close-to-home
in children's experience, since they were assumed either to be confused by or not
interested in abstract concepts, ideas, or a larger framework of issues (Shapiro,
1983). But in fact the child's first fonn of deliberate abstract conceptual work is
dramatic play. Vygotsky (1978) offers the example of two sisters who decide to play
"sisters", and thereby enter a conceptual world where they are acting according
to their generalized ideas of how brothers and sisters act, and have risen beyond
their own relationship, into the realm of universal categories (p. 95). Likewise,
Egan has pointed out that young children think in "powerful abstract oppositional
concepts ... that they use to explore and organize the world and experience" (1994,
pp. 28, 29). He refers to binary concepts like security/danger, courage/cowardice,
and hope/despair, which act as scaffolds in children's continuous construction of
But even if young children are moved by "powerful abstract concepts", which
are felt as much as thought, are they really interested in discussing them? In fact,
wondering - questioning the world and one's experience - is a natural activity, as
natural as pLaying, or making music (Matthews, 1980, 1994), and more characteristic
of the young child than of older children or adults (Tizard & Hughes, 1984). The
young child's drive to "puzzle and think", fueled by a greater state of intellectual
disequilibrium than most adults experience, is regularly overlooked by adults,
especially in early childhood settirlgs, where teachers often encounter children on
the level of management statements and requests (Wood, McMahon & Cranstoun,
1980). Tizard and Hughes (1984) have demonstrated experimentally that young
children actually do more thinking and puzzling at home with a parent, even when
the latter dnesn 't rut that great ::l \'a!uc on that kind of thinking and talking.
When young children's tendency to puzzle and think is allowed to take place
on a regular basis in a community, facilitated by a leader who is sensitive both to
the philosophical preoccupations of young children, and to their ways of thinking
and talking, the educational implications are significant. Through an internalization
process which Vygotsky (1978) has characterized as the "intrapsychical reproduction
of the interpsychical", the individual appropriates the critical thinking skills and
dispositions which are occuring in the group as a whole. To the extent that the group,
n ifitis not brought
it is brought into a
:>Haborative inquiry
and is
chat young children
:fine a person, how
ling as magic, etc.
urn of the century,
· and close-to-home
confused by or not
of issues (Shapiro,
work is
·who decide to piay
"e acting according
have risen beyond
; (p. 95). Likewise,
bstract oppositional
experience" (1994,
ous consttUction of
ct concepts", which
ssing them? In fact,
a natural activity, as
more characteristic
i-Iughes, 1984). The
state of
by adults,
:ounter children on
lahon & Cranstoun,
nentally that young
i parent, even when
f and talking.
lowed to take place
· is sensitive both to
eir ways of thinking
;h an internalization
thinking skills and
nent that the group,
led and encouraged by the teacher, regularly asks for reasons for statements or ideas,
the learns to question her own thinking. To the extent that members of
the group build on each others' ideas in their the learns to
sequence and connect her own ideas in her own thinking. To the extent
that the group as it grows and changes, is self-correcting, the individual is
increasingly freed from the need to always be right. And so on. The modeling and
practice from an early age of the skills and dispositions of the community of inquiry
give children powerful basic tools in their own search for meaning, and in the skills
of dialogue.
Since young children are novices in community of inquiry, a large
proportion of time in early childhood settings is spent familiarizing children
with the implicit rules of group discourse. Two bodies of research shed light on what
is being learned here, and how. First, researchers in school discourse (Ripich &
Spinelli, 1985; Willes, 1983) point out that children must learn classroom discourse
patterns like the "cue-bid-nomination" move, that is, the call for an answer to a
question, a raised hand, and the on the one cued of the right to speak.
The discourse patterns of the community of inquiry are less dependent on a single
adult than the traditional classroom model. The teacher's goal is to get group
members talking with each other, so she functions, not so much as group center and
authority, as arbiter of turn disputes, maintainer oftopic across turns, and initiator of
conversational repairs when necessary - i.e., as moderator. She models and coaches
children in skills and dispositions like addressing the point which was just
made, taking care to criticize ideas rather than persons, not interrupting, asking
for restatements and clarifications, and thinking to return to the subject after a
Second, young children are learning what researchers refer to as the "script", or
"general event representation" (Nelson et aL, 1986) of community of inquiry. The
adult general event representation of community ofinquiry would go something like
this: we all sit together in a circle and there is a text of some kind, which is shared
communally; after it's shared, everybody shares the questions that the reading made
them think of; then we talk about the questions. They are "big" questions, which
usually don't seem to have anyone right or answer. We talk in a certain way, which
involves above all expecting that what we say conforms to logic - Le. is reasonable,
"makes sense", "follows", or is "W3ITantab!e". In urder to do this, we mus.. be open to
being corrected in our thinking by member of the group, or the group as
a whole, since we recognize that each of us represents only one perspective among
all the perspectives of the group members, and the group as a whole represents one
large, emerging perspective. The goal of the process is to come to agreement about
the answer to some of these questions, we recognize that these questions
are not the kind that have one right answer, and therefore can be talked about again
and again.
• . :


This is quite a complicated script, with many slots, default values, and fillers,
and is learned over time, through reinforcement and repetition, and a teacher who
models and coaches the skills and dispositions involved. N, with any script, it grows
more flexible and more inclusive with time and use. The skilled teacher learns to
identify when children operate spontaneously in the skills and dispositions of the
discourse model, and she reinforces them. For example, when the child in my group
offers the coumer-example mentioned above - "Uh uh! My doctor's a woman!" the
teacher might say, uSo Joanna just gave an example that shows not all doctors are
men. That's all it took -just one example to make the whole idea not true! But we
can say some doctors are men The skillful teacher maintains the scaffolding of the
discourse model, confident that, as each individual in the group practices the skills
and dispositions of community of inquiry, the group learns to regulate its inquiry
The materials for doing community of inquiry with young children, because they
are stories, are abundanL Many children's books lend themselves to philosophical
inquiry with young children, especially those which evoke the "powerful abstract
oppositional concepts" to which Egan (1988, 1994) has referred. Beatrix Potter's
Peter Rabbit (1902), for example, evokes a number of these concepts - for example
good and naughty, accidents and things on purpose, animals and humans, children
and grownups, danger and safety (Kennedy, 1993). Teachers can prepare discussion
plans which focus on these issues, which they can use to steer, to clarify, or even to
redirect the discussion. The question of what's an accident is an important one for
young children, whose concept of causality is still closely tied to purpose (Piaget,
1929; Carey, 1985). The following discussion plans, taken from a set developed for
PeterRabbit (Kennedy, 1994a) focuses on this issue. The teacher holds these questions
in reserve, and uses them only when they seem appropriate, whether because the
issue of accidents has been raised by the children themselves, or because she feels it
is worth introducing the issue herself.
Was an ;:.ccident that Peter's was kiHc>d ande:uen by Mr. McGregor-
Was it an accident that Peter went to Mr. McGregor's garden?
Was it an accident that Peter lost his coat and shoes?
Did Peter go to Mr. McGregor's garden on purpose?
How can you tell if something is an accident?
How can you tell if something is on purpose?
t values, and fillers,
1, and a teacher who
h any script, it grows
ed teacher leaI1ls to
~ dispositions of the
he child in my group
Ictor's a woman!" the
,s not aU doctors are
dea not true! But we
he scaffolding of the
Lp practices the skills
) regulate its inquiry
The sun rises in the morning
The sun comes out from behind a cloud
A train wreck
Someone gets angry
Just when you are about to go swimming, it starts raining
A doctor hurts someone with a needle
You were born
lildren, because they
lves to philosophical
e "powerful abstract
Ted. Beatrix Potter's
cepu - for example
nd humans, children
LIl prepare discussion
to clarify, or even to
in important one for
l to purpose (Piaget,
n a set developed for
holds these questions
whether because the
>r because she feels it
I by Mr. McGregor?
It gets dark
You think a bad thought
Numerous other children's books lend themselves to philosophical inquiry
(Matthews, 1980, 1988), in particular the works of Arnold Lobel (1971, 1975,
1977, 1978, 1979). In addition to such texts, teachers can make up stories
and skits themselves which evoke the questions they are interested in having
children explore together, for example the story which focused on the notion
of persons above, or the skits developed in Edwards (1985). There are also texts
with accompanying discussion plans developed specifically for purposes of doing
philosophical community of inquiry in early childhood, (Lipman, 1988b; Lipman
& Gazard, 1988). For example The DoU Hospital (Sharp, 1994). developed for
young children in preschool settings, tells the story of Jesse and her doll. The
story is arranged in short episodes, which are designed to stimulate wonder about
philosophical issues. The teacher typically reads to the children, solicits questions,
and writes them on chart paper or chalkboard. which is an opportunity for
experience with language in prinL Through collecting the questions in this way,
the children themselves are constructing the discussion agenda, and the teacher
encourages children to decide which question to start the discussion with.
In the dialogue that follows the gathering of questions, participants ask for and
give reasons for their thinking, built on each others ideas, and, with the help of the
teacher, "follow the argument where it leads", through its self-correcting movemenL
The teacher introduces all or parts of discussion plans (which focus on specific issues
which have been raised by the text) which move the group toward the examination
of overarching regulative ideas. I Finally, the teacher encourages further response
to the questions in other ~ 1 ) o l i c languages, such as the telling or writing of stories,
drawing and painting, dramatic play, puppetry, music, model play with sand or
blocks, block building, and so forth.
I McCall (1988) includes an extended lTaIlscript of a discussion among second1r4ders. based on a
reading of a short section of Upman's novel Elfie (I 988b).
wit .....: ~ l i l l . ~
Every classroom, from early childhood to postgraduate, has the potential for
becoming a community of inquiry. Developmentally appropriate early childhood
settings are structurally closer to communities ofinquiry than traditional classrooms.
because they operate according to individual student initiative and principles of
emergent cWTiculum, rather than exclusive teacher control and pre-set curriculum.
The early childhood educational model is a dialogical, horizontal structure. rather
than a one-directional, vertical one, and this is also the discourse structure of
community of inquiry (Kennedy, 1994b).
Every community of inquiry - whether of art, history, dance, science, politics.
economics, etc. - has the potential for becoming a philosophical community of
inquiry, because every discipline has a philosophical understructure, a set of "big
ideas", which can be explored. The philosophy of art has to do with what art means
to us when we make or behold it, how we define art, how we judge good and bad
art, and so forth. The philosophy of science concerns how we determine what a
scientific "fact" is, admissible and unadmissible evidence in making scientific proofs,
the larger, non-scientific paradigms which guide scientific practice. and so forth.
In other words, the philosophical dimension of any field of inquiry has to do with
its larger meaning-dimensions, the big questions which it inspires in us when we
really try to inquire into what it is and how it works. In keeping with the concept
of the "spiral curriculum", or the proposition that "the foundations of any subject
may be taught to anybody at any age in some form" (Bruner, 1966), the "philosophy
of" this or that can be done by young children at their particular level. So, in a
discussion about the nature of persons, children are doing the philosophical work
which underlies any psychology or sociology. In discussing magic, which young
children are very interested in. they are doing philosophy of science, because they
are concerned to evaluate claims about the power to manipulate nature through
technologies of one sort or another.
Above and beyond the philosophical implications of community of inquiry. the
process of group dialogue is a training ground for the skills and dispositions
associated. not just with creative and critical thinking, but with the autonomous.
democratic personality (Sharp, 1991). The constant dual encouragement both to
think for oneself and to think "in community" forms the basis for a way of solving
social problems and dealing with conflict which is both autonomous and socially
engaged. The high value placed on working through issues as a group, on giving
and asking for reasons, and the emphasis un evaluating logical argumer.t.>, not thc
persons who hold them, provides a fundamental context for the learning of tolerant,
non-biased attitudes ·towards others, and for the formation of healthy self<oncept
(Lago, 1990). As children become skilled in the discourse of community of inquiry,
they are able to apply its form of problem solving to issues of fairness, equity, or
2For examples of young children discussing magic philosophically. see Vivian Paley. Wall)'5 Slarns
(1981). esp. pp. 198-200.
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personal conflict which arise in the community of the classroom. Community of
inquiry provides the discourse setting for the ongoing process of building and
maintaining a moral communiry.
Community of inquiry theory and methodology represents a form of pedagogy
and a model of classroom practice which is both consonant with the most advanced
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citizen who is capable ofwhat Barber (1984) has characterized as "strongdemocracy".
The "strong" democratic personalityis individuated and autonomous, but also highly
collaborative, and holds a "conflict model" rather than an "order model" of social
process (Chesler & Crowfroot, 1975), meaning she feels it is possible to use conflict
in the interests of positive change and development. The community of inquiry's
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than given; its emphasis on group process, on collaboration, problem-solving, and
emergence, make of it a developmentally appropriate form of education for the
cultural and social goal of the democratic personality. Recent advances in our
understanding of children's thinking have allowed us to see that it is not too early,
provided we are sensitive to young children's limitations and lack of experience,
to start toward this goal in the early years. Nor should we forget how deeply we as
adults stand to be enriched in our understanding, as we assist at young children's
collaborative construction of meaning.

lIe potential for
: early childhood
tional classrooms,
and principles of
re-set curriculum.
structure, rather
urse structure of
, science, politics,
:al community of
cure, a set of "big
th what art means
1ge good and bad
:letermine what a
sscientific proofs,
ice, and so forth.
iry has to do with
es in us when we
with the concept
)DS of any subject
), the "philosophy
1ar level. So, in a
hilosophical work
gic, which young
nce, because they
e nature through
tiry of inquiry, the
and dispositions
the autonomous,
ragement both to
Ir a way of solving
mous and socially
group, on giving
rgumer.ts, net
aIning of tolerant,
:althy self<oncept
munity of inquiry,
airness, equity, or
to Paley. waUys StQries

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