PEER TO PEER PHILOSOPHICAL DISCUSSIONS
Creative and divergent thinking allows you to find new and original solutions in different contexts of life and work. At school, teachers rarely evaluate the originality and creativity, for example in the writing of essays, students are trained to think and to act in an essentially converging way, as if, faced with problems, there was always only one correct solution.
To bridge this gap, since 2004 a group of teachers and psychologists have drawn up and developed an innovative teaching method to make brief interventions to enhance the creative and divergent thinking through philosophy.
What concerns us here is not the history of philosophy nor the theoretical aspect of philosophy, but the discussion to practice in group with the guidance of a facilitator. This type of philosophical practice acts at two levels: introspective (development of thinking and reasoning, critical thinking, education, spontaneous and creative), and socio-communicative (development of a sense of belonging to a community, increasing the active and collaborative confrontation).
Interventions are very light (usually, in a school year, two meetings of two hours each are held), the basic idea is that we should not teach anything, but create a setting that removes the barriers that normally prevent the free expression of creative skills.
The contribution of the facilitator is particularly apparent at the beginning, when the discussion is set starting from the game and from the guiding questions. The facilitator ensures the correctness and effectiveness of the research process: asking questions, asking reasons and examples.
If you create an atmosphere of free expression of thought and mutual credibility, the group aquires autonomy and it doesn't require anymore the contribution of the facilitator, who vanishes and merges with the other members (evanescence of the facilitator). The philosophical discussions are based on a circular model of communication: each member is induced to propose new ideas and reasonings on the reflections of the others. The outcomes of the interventions were evaluated through questionnaires or filming the discussions and analyzing the interventions. Patterns of participation and the role of facilitator were also considered. The results have been very positive: in particular an indicator of success was exactly the evanescence of the facilitator.
The hypothesis that guides this work is that the evanescence of the facilitator is not only the effect on the success of the intervention, but may play an important causal role in facilitating dialogue. Moreover in the group there is greater freedom of expression and members become more aware when they express their opinions, and when they hear those of others.
To test this hypothesis, for the next school year, an innovative project has been conceived: the idea is to let the students themselves have to act as facilitators in discussion groups of peers or younger students. The idea is that a shorter age distance compensates for the less experience of the facilitator, provided that the student facilitator was formed primarily to manage the initial stages of discussion.
Purpose of this paper is therefore to summarize the methodology of philosophical discussions and propose a theoretical framework to explain the effectiveness. Our intention is also to describe the experiments that will take place next school year and the experimental protocol to monitor the results.