Nouveauté: Collection Les Apprentis-Sages conforme au nouveau programme d'Éthique et culture religieuse MELS 2008 / Collection Wisdom Quest in accordance with the new Ethics and religious culture program MELS 2008

>> Projets spéciaux

Des projets de recherche-action pour faire le point sur des pratiques pédagogiques efficaces en regard à l'identification des problèmes liés à l'apprentissage, à la persévérance et l'assiduité des élèves ( les forces ou vertus, valeurs fondamentales contribuant à la résilience) avec des outils diagnostique à la recherche et évaluation de solutions de la stratégie d'intervention pour la réussite d'élèves en milieu défavorisé
( dans le cadre du projet Agir Autrement du MEQ 202).

Des cliniques de développement des habiletés et forces d'esprit en vue de prévenir le décrochage et des situations d'élèves à risque basées sur la nouvelle psychologie positive des vertus ( mon ouvrage SOS Bien-être et le cahier d'exercices) feront partie des projets spéciaux pour dépister le profil des élèves et évaluer le progrès dans les apprentissages.



Résultats de recherches sur les compétences transversales et le développement des valeurs fondamentales
(traduction française en pr�paration)

Results of the Study  Implementing cross curricular thinking skills competencies and Habits of mind through philosophy for children : What the Assessment Found and What the Results Mean ( From Infusing positive character strengths and cross curricular competencies : A research study ,

( Ghanotakis, CFB, 2002 ).

The most straightforward way to present the results of the present study as summarised on the tables and figures, herewith provided (Appendix A), is to discuss each of the research questions by reference to the test data analysed with respect to both the primary and junior levels of the pedagogical intervention.

Question 1 : What has been the impact of the study on higher order cross-curricular competency thinking skills?

Junior Level: Gains in Higher Order Thinking Skills

Table 1A reveals that the implementation of philosophy for children enriched classroom activities produced in the experimental group a significant 56% improvement in higher order thinking skills (critical and cognitive) as compared with 17 % improvement for the control group as measured on the 23 domains of the New Jersey Test of Reasoning Skills.

These results represent gains equivalent to more than three times (or 300%) of improvement for students having received the philosophy for children program.

Alternatively, by consulting Table 1B we find that students participating in the philosophy enriched language arts program have achieved a highly significant improvement of an average of 18.35 as compared with an average improvement of 8.55 in higher order thinking skills. The Figures 1 and 2 graphically represent these improvements.

Primary Level: Gains in Higher Order Thinking Skills

Table 2B shows that students participating in the Philosophy for Children activities achieved a significantly higher improvement of an average gain of 9.00 as compared with 5.00 for the control group on the Canadian Cognitive Abilities Test (The NJTRS cannot be used below the grade four level). Figures 4 and 5 graphically display these improvements with reference to other subjects measured. The abbreviation TCK stands for Thinking / Cognitive Skills.

Let us note that the philosophy for children implementation at the early primary grades provides a foundation for the development of skills at the junior level by focusing mostly on listening and concept development through dialogical inquiry skills.

Question 2: At what statistically significant levels have the improvements in higher order cross-curricular competency thinking skills been registered?

Junior Level: Significant Gains in Higher Order Thinking Skills

Table 1 B and 3A reveal that the gains in reasoning or higher order cross curricular competency thinking skills on the NJTRS measures were registered at the highly significant level of .0020, that is, that there are two chances in one thousand that the gains occurred by accident

These results seem all the more significant in the light of the fact that the pre-test difference between the experimental and control groups is not statistically significant (0.1315) Whereas both the pre-test and the post-pre-test difference is highly significant.

Table 3A presents all the pre-post and post-pre �tests differences in average scores on the Mann-Whitney U-Wilcoxon Rank Sum W. Test.

Primary Level: Significant Gains in Higher Order Thinking Skills

Table 4A reveals that the difference in the post-test scores between the experimental and control groups is significant at the level of .0452 whereas the pre-test difference between the two groups is not statistically significant at 0.1961. The difference between the post-pre test scores does not seem to be significant (0.1309).

These comparative results in the significance levels of the difference at the pre and post tests, in terms of achievement, point clearly to the fact that the philosophy for children intervention has had a significant impact (especially at the junior level) in improving higher order thinking skills.

Question 3. What has been the impact of the philosophy program on overall academic achievement? Has any transfer occurred?

Junior Level: Evidence of Skill Transfer in 100% of the objectives

Tables 1A and 1B (and Figures 1,2 3) reveal impressive gains registered by the experimental philosophy group as compared to the control group in 100% of the educational objectives measured by the CTBS battery of tests.

Figure 3 shows the impact of the program on the improvement of the basic skills of reading (16.34 vs. 8.95 or 50% of increase) and mathematical computation (56%).

Significant gains also occur across other academic skills measures such Vocabulary, Reading , Spelling, Usage, Mathematical Problem Solving.

Here is a summary of the percents of increase on basic curriculum skills of the experimental group  as they may be extracted from Table 1A:

  • Vocabulary increases: 34%
  • Reading increases 50%
  • Spelling increases 25%
  • Capitalisation increases 16%
  • Punctuation increases 23%
  • Usage increases 73%
  • Visual Materials increases 53%
  • Reference materials increases 43%
  • Mathematical Concepts increases 17%
  • Mathematical Problem Solving
  • increases 40%
  • Mathematical Computation increases 56%


The results are particularly encouraging in revealing that the participants in the philosophy program have not only improved in a single educational objective such as thinking skills.

They they have registered gains in all the educational objectives thereby lending credence to the philosophy for children program's power in activating transfer and integration in learning experiences at a generalised scale.

Primary level evidence of skills transfer

Table 2B shows gains also in 100% of the learning objectives with evidence of transfer and generalisability being suggested. The gains in basic skill achievement are consistent with the gains in thinking skills as shown in Figure 5.

It is noteworthy that this evidence of transfer is in continuity with previous results from experimental research conducted by Educational Testing Service in the US where highly significant gains (.0001) were registered in reading (83%) and mathematics (61%) by students having followed the Philosophy for Children Program developed by Matthew Lipman. The ETS study was conducted by Dr. Virginia Shipman (see Lipman, Philosophy in the Classroom (1980), pp 217-224).

Other research studies with five thousand students aged 10-12 years old have reported 80% improvement in reasoning.9

More recently in Quebec a number of short studies reported in 1989-90 show improvements in self esteem, creativity and autonomy (Anita Caron) linguistic and thinking performance in establishing logical relations (Louise Courtemanche), induction and syllogistic deduction (M. Schleifer) having been reported by Laurendeau (1996: 133-159).

An attempt to apply the concept of the community of inquiry in mathematics has been undertaken by Louise Lafortune, Marie France as members of a research team from CIRADE at the University of Quebec in Montreal (Lafortune, Daniel et als, 1996).

Findings from qualitative sources of assessment

During the monitoring of the project and curriculum development, for use in kindergarten through sixth grade, over 300 strategies and activities have been evaluated. In this regard, the implementation of the philosophy program has been qualitatively measured at three stages.

Stage 1. At the beginning of the research project

One month into the implementation of the project an external consultant and co-ordinator of learning activities from another large School Board in Ontario interviewed teachers implementing the philosophy program about changes in attitudes experienced as teachers.

It was found that teachers were now focusing more on concepts and ideas as opposed to facts. Teaching the program also significantly improved their questioning along the higher order thinking strategies by drawing out students.

Stage 2: Observations midway the project implementation

An internal curriculum consultant from the ORCSSB who had previously worked with the teachers undertook an assessment midway through the project. The focus of this consultant's observations was changes in teachers' thinking and attitudes towards teaching as result of having been exposed to the program.

The internal consultant reported that all the teachers had gained dexterity and versatility in reasoning skills and that in this area the program produced the desired results. The teachers exhibited enthusiasm and enjoyed thinking with the students.

Stage 3 Observations at completion of the project implementation

A third level of qualitative assessment of the program was undertaken at the end of the research study, based on an examination of student's work and portfolios.

Teachers' comments revealed that students showed thoughtfulness that extended beyond the classroom setting, whether in the hallway or playground. Junior level students had achieved a level of inferential skill rarely displayed by senior level students.

Videotaped interviews conducted during the last day of class showed that 100% of the students expressed enjoyment with both the novel reading and the follow up exercises.

Students, reported that, overall, the program reduced impulsive behaviour and stimulated self-awareness, to think through things. A student in grade 5 said that he liked the program because it «  made him smart! ».

Another interesting reaction from students was the positive impact the philosophy program had on interpersonal relations and in generating constructive conversations with peers and parents alike.

All the students confirmed that the program increased their self-esteem, insight, and problem solving skills and better communication with others.

H Summary recommendations and questions for future challenges

Based on data findings, this researcher proposed the following recommendations to educators particularly concerned about «  at-risk » student population, who are lowest in higher order thinking skills, good judgement, academic achievement and self-esteem.

  • First, that cognitive based activities through the philosophy for children program be cultivated early, comprehensively and sequentially through the system using the model developed at the experimental school site proven to help strengthening cross-curricular competencies and reducing declining self-esteem since the intellect and the emotions are inextricably intertwined (Borba, 2001).

  • Second, since infusing thinking skills
    through the philosophy for children is teacher sensitive the teacher being expected to facilitate the building of community of inquiries in the classroom, this researcher recommended the extending of professional development across the school board with exemplary demonstration classrooms being set up for observation of the program in operation.
  • The cultivation of self-corrective
    communities of inquiry is most suitable for enhancing   reflective intelligence or the good use of the mind by artful deployment of faculties of thinking and for developing social/ moral intelligence by learning empathy, respect, reciprocity, Cupertino through dialogue about interaction with others.

  • Third, it is recommended that skill based activities for forty minute sessions two times a week (or thirty minutes sessions three times a week) involving novel reading, discussion and follow up exercises and co-operative games such as The Game of Wisdom can be effective in developing critical stances, thinking flexibly, learning from one another's perspectives and encouraging ways students produce knowledge rather than reproduce it ( Costa & Kallick, 2000).
    Such philosophy enhanced activities do not take away from class time but provide the foundational competencies for all learning especially as they are curriculum based and subject level correlated.
  • Fourth, since the principals of the schools play
    an important leadership role in the effectuation of educational change it is recommended that principals be provided an opportunity to apply the philosophy approach within their own school settings by ensuring minimally at the beginning that at least one teacher per school be designated for the training session, who would then be assigned to the teaching of the program for an extended time period.

This approach has produced a positive impact on the attitude of teachers and appropriate climate for carrying through the implementation across the school system (Ghanotakis, 2002).

Certainly there remain gaps to be filled in our understanding of the long-term effects of the application of philosophy not only in the area of cognitive modifiability but also with respect to all types of intelligence predictive of success in later life. We refer here to the analytical, creative and practical types of intellegences (Sternberg, 1996) and the multiple forms of intelligence: verbal, logical/mathematical, kinaesthetic, musical, spatial, naturalistic, interpersonal or interpersonal ( Gardner , 1999) and to habits that help student to continue to grow in these domains.

Lastly, in the face of today youth's moral crisis (Borba, 2001) 11 and increases in the at-risk student population researchers may be well advised to explore whether the cultivation of communities of inquiry should not be undertaken with a view to « creating  communities of virtue » (Ryan & Bohlin, 1998) as an effective and realistic way to enhance students' success in and out of school.

It would be important, in this regard, to follow subjects in a longitudinal study to assess if the gained habits of mind, dispositions of good thinking and doing good, are maintained for leading a meaningful life with others. For as Horace Mann, once observed, «  Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it ». 12

George Ghanotakis, Ph.D.

Copyright 2002



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