Facilitation is No Mere Technical Skill: A Case Study of a Small Group of ‘Different’ Students
It is generally recognized that any inquiry must be sensitive to context and that facilitation is never simply a matter of following a set of rules. In this paper I list and discuss the particular challenges of facilitating an inquiry with a small group of adolescent boys, all of whom had difficulty in learning despite being of at least average intelligence. I describe some adaptations to the classic P4C model of inquiry that I found helpful and refer briefly to the progress made by the boys. I conclude that, although research suggests that children and young people who learn differently may be those most likely to benefit from P4C, we should not underestimate the facilitation challenges they present or the time it takes for cognitive and social gains to influence performance in school. The inclusive education movement, with its emphasis on accommodating diversity, implies that such children are increasingly present in regular classrooms. It is important that trainers are aware of this and ensure that teachers who are eager to create classroom communities of inquiry have sufficient quality training and support. My final comment is that, if facilitation is an art, we should not expect all teachers to become, or to wish to become, highly effective facilitators of philosophical inquiry after a brief training.