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P4C Research

A research project into the impact of P4C in 50 primary schools in the UK, over 4 years by the Education Endowment Foundation was published in July 2015.  Click here to read the full report. The results of this research and other P4C studies are summarised in SAPERE's research brochure.

The Nuffield Foundation funded research into P4C’s non-cognitive impact is also under way.  Durham University's Education Department has conducted baseline pupil surveys and are starting classroom observations. 

In a large scale study in Scotland in 2001 conducted by Professor Topping of Dundee University and Steve Trickey, an educational psychologist, children in the experimental group had a P4C session once a week. This modest intervention led to 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. The research showed:

  • significant gains in verbal and non-verbal reasoning
  • improvements in listening, communication, behaviour, questioning, reasoning, reading and understanding

Please see this Research Summary Document for a compilation of 18 examples of research in P4C. This document is not comprehensive but provides a good summary. Here is a synopsis of the best examples:

University of Dundee research with schools in Clackmannanshire

Sample findings:

  • 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. For further information click here to read an article on the research by Dr Steve Trickey

Better Thinking for Better Learning Project funded by the SHINE Trust

This year long programme of weekly enquiry sessions used Philosophy for Children to teach reasoning, 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 & emotional interaction.

Sample findings:

  • 88% of children in the year 6 class improved on the Teacher Prediction for their end of Year Grade at KS2 Reading. 94% achieved or exceeded this with only 6% not achieving their predicted grade  
  • 26% of children achieved level 5 in Reading 69% of children achieved level 4 in Reading and 5% of children achieved level 3 in Reading from the children who attended the philosophy sessions throughout the project
  • 62.5% of children exceeding the teacher's prediction for achievement at Maths SAT. The focus group achieved 24% at level 5 in Maths, 64% at level 4, 6% at level 3 and 6% at level 2. The focus class exceeded the National Average score for level 4 attainment as nationally 43% of children achieve a level 4 at Maths and in this class it was 64%
  • 51% of the school population were on free school meals and 49.5% of the children 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.  Click here to read the evaluation by the Centre for Learning and Teaching at the University of Newcastle.

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. 

Philosophy for Children Journals

IAPC Research Database that lists:

Research on Cognitive Skills

Research on Affective and Social Skills

Research on Both Cognitive & Affective Skills

Research on Methodological & Theoretical Aspects

Studies Not Yet Reviewed