Philosophy for Teachers (P4T): Developing new teachers’ applied ethical-decision making

Janet Orchard, Ruth Heilbronn, Carrie Winstanley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
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Teaching, irrespective of its geographical location, is fundamentally a relational practice in which unique ethically complex situations arise to which teachers need to respond at different levels of ethical decision-making. These range from ‘big’ abstract questions about whether or not what they teach is inherently good, through to seemingly trivial questions about everyday issues, for example whether or not it is right to silence children in classrooms. Hence, alongside a wide range of pedagogical skills, new teachers also need to develop personal qualities, knowledge and understanding that will enable them to navigate successfully these professional ethical demands. ‘Philosophy for Teachers’, or ‘P4T’, is one promising approach to teachers’ pre-service professional preparation which has been piloted in England, adapted from the more familiar idea of ‘P4C’ (Philosophy for Children). Drawing on the model of learning through dialogue within a community of fellow enquirers, an ethical retreat was set up which established a ‘community of practice’, comprising new teachers, education studies students, teacher educators and philosophers. The purpose of the retreat was to enable new teachers to think ethically about dilemmas they had faced, based on their early experience of classroom practice. It enabled facilitators to blend theoretical perspectives on education and systematic ways of thinking about it at an introductory level with examples of complex and potentially difficult classroom situations cited by participants. The experience provoked a series of significant insights – in particular, that a characteristically philosophical concern with the ethics of behaviour management offers an important alternative perspective to the psychological approach which tends to dominate conventional teacher education in the English system. We identified an urgent need among new teachers for facilitating space and time for critical reflection away from the ‘busy-ness’ of school, addressing not only practical concerns but the existential anxieties which beginning teachers face when dealing with challenging behaviour by their pupils, including burnout, sustaining motivation and a sense of ‘moral purpose’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-54
Number of pages13
JournalEthics and Education
Issue number1
Early online date24 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


  • Ethical deliberation
  • teacher education
  • philosophy
  • community of enquiry


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