Applied Philosophy is part of a suite of Learning Enrichment courses that encourage thinking and comprehension beyond the core range of educational experiences. The objective is to liberate education by teaching our students how to think for themselves and think critically. Because each boy is an individual, we use blended learning techniques that range across the visual and auditory spectrum, from YouTube clips to Haiku. This empowers the students to explore their information preferences and take ownership of their own learning.
Before starting Applied Philosophy, the boys go through Critical Thinking classes in Years 7–9. In Year 7, it’s all about the fundamentals. In Year 8, they’re learning questioning techniques, open discussion to express their point. By Year 9, we explore history and how it impacts on the now, such as The Berlin Wall: what is the impact of a having a wall split a country from North to South?
I love it, because I do love their thoughts and hearing what they’re thinking about. They’re good kids, they’re just loud! They all want to be heard. So that’s why I get them to take ownership, write things on the board. Some are shy still, but if they get things on the wall they can each unpick different ideas.
Scaffolding questions, questioning techniques help. Even though their perspective is individualised, and they’re trying to answer these grand ideas. They get pushed through our questioning and through each other. We end up with an essay or a debate, or something they have to bring their own perspective to. So it’s individualised, but by questioning and guiding them we’re opening up their brains.
Initially this technique really startled them. They just wanted to be given the answer. Now they’re used to it. We ask them to go for it, to figure it out. They’ll Google it, discuss it with each other in class. We’ll always have a brainiac in the group who’ll know the answer, then someone else will say ‘I’m not too sure about that’ and research it themselves.
Everyone learns differently, some are more auditory versus visual. So we have different platforms that we use, such as recording what I’m writing or saying in class, or videoing myself on the computer. Then we can watch it together and have a conversation one-on-one. This means they can watch me at home, turning the classroom into a drop-in centre where we’re working, as opposed to spending 20 minutes up front instructing. It changes your teaching because you get their misconceptions earlier. You can identify which points resonate, or not, and therefore what to focus on. Not every child engages in the same way with blended learning. Some get it and others will resist. But it’s up to me to facilitate that, let them know that being a student is their job.