Expanding the Facilitator’s Toolbox: Vygotskian Mediation in Philosophy for Children

  • Jacob B. Castleberry
  • Kevin M. Clark


Philosophy for Children (P4C) is an educational program founded by Matthew Lipman and Ann Sharp in the 1970s to improve judgment in children by sharpening their critical, creative, and caring thinking skills. As children’s engagement in philosophical dialogue is an essential component of the program, the teacher has a facilitative, rather than an instructive, role. The goal of this paper is to provide new and experienced facilitators with conceptual tools for critically reflecting on and improving their facilitative practice. The paper first develops a Vygotskian interpretation of P4C facilitation, applying Vygotsky’s theory to P4C’s Community of Philosophical Inquiry structure and David Kennedy’s “toolbox of philosophical moves.” We contend that Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory provides a useful lens through which to view facilitation as assisted or mediated learning. The concept of facilitation as mediational assistance is then extended by drawing on Gallimore and Tharp’s neo-Vygotskian framework and their six means of assistance. Finally, we further extend these ideas by turning to Lakoff and Johnson’s theory of conceptual metaphor. Metaphors expand the “facilitator’s toolbox” by providing additional conceptual tools for facilitation as well as varied ways to conceptualize the facilitation process through a Vygotskian lens.