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Friday, July 17, 2009

Ann Margaret Sharp - Learning to teach in a new way

Ann Margaret Sharp is one of the founders of the worldwide Philosophy for Children movement, an approach to philosophy teaching that relies on a self-correcting community of inquiry, rather than the authority of the teacher, to provoke and guide philosophic discussion. This is a major transfer of responsibility to the students, a teaching innovation with important implications for philosophy teaching at every level. In this interview, she describes one of her early experiments with turning responsibility over to students.

This story is important partly because it shows how moving among different ways of connecting to students and different kinds of students provokes different thinking about the practice of teaching. Once it was established that students could learn in this new way, could take this kind of crazy responsibility, all sorts of questions were open about the assumptions governing the conventional classroom. But it took a very unusual experience to raise those questions – and a very remarkable teacher to see the implications of those questions.

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