Democracy as Becoming: A Lived Enquiry into Teacher Perspectives of Philosophy for/with Children (P4C) Practice in Irish Educate Together Schools
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This thesis explores the practice of Philosophy for/with Children (P4C) in Irish Educate Together schools through teacher perspectives, encompassing wider themes of education and democracy in Ireland. Within this exploration is a focus on the articulation and analysis of teachers’ accounts of how they reconcile P4C pedagogies with their own educational outlooks within a P4C/Educate Together context, comprised of both their particular Educate Together school and the movement as a whole. The historical, social and political factors that led to the Educate Together movement’s development are charted, alongside other factors related to distinctive approaches to P4C practice in Ireland. The outcomes of this study show that focusing on child-centered perspectives expands and extends democracy as emergent and democracy as ‘a way of life’, particularly in terms of the possibility of democratic education in Ireland, enabled and enhanced through a P4C/Educate Together context. This research is a lived enquiry, involving deep immersion in the research environment as an embedded extern – that is, as both a researcher and a P4C practitioner. The ‘livedness’ of this research incorporates the social dimension of John Dewey’s theory of enquiry, where a combination of lived experiences and dialogic exchanges were fused together by the social relationships forged throughout my research journey. A thematic analysis of participant interviews encase the unfolding events of this reflexive practitioner research. This study reveals an interrelationship between P4C and Educate Together that encompasses the shared territories of dialogue and child. Such an interrelationship enables the creation of democratic spaces, inhabited by both adults and children, and facilitated by Irish Educate Together teachers engaging in P4C within their classrooms, expressed through the idea of democracy as ‘becoming’. Such a contextual space provide opportunities for adults and children to live and learn in and through democratic processes. By showing how democracy can be enacted as a living value in this way, the implications of this study point towards the importance of educational policy and practice at a time when global educational policy seems to be moving further and further towards a market-led consumer-based idea of education, where standards of attainment, centralised models and technical rationality is priority. Further implications of this study relate to educational research, particularly practitioner research, with regard to the depth of insight revealed through a lived enquiry as an embedded extern, and concern the conceptualisation and realisation of an emergent sense of democracy where children are central.
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