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Term Two Philosophical Inquiry

We will conduct a philosophical inquiry into a big question

  • To deepen our own understanding of the question
  • To build new knowledge for ourselves, our community and potentially develop new theory
  • To learn how to think like a philosopher

This will be what we call a Philosophical knowledge building inquiry. A mouthful, I know, but that is the best description.

A Philosophical inquiry will involve the following sorts of activities

  • Questioning 
  • Stating problems / propositions
  • Theorising
  • Developing ideas in response to questions / inquiry
  • Developing explanation and evidence to support these ideas
  • Critically examining the ideas of the community (this means ALL ideas, not just yours) / Challenging and/or refuting ideas
  • Improving ideas – seeing how you can develop them
  • Engaging in discourse / dialogue / discussion with other students
  • Developing argument
  • Synthesizing ideas
  • Drawing conclusions

I have used the term ‘Knowledge Building’, because it represents a collective endeavour. You are responsible for not only improving your own ideas but also for contributing to advancing the ideas and knowledge of the community as a whole. For a community of learners, the creation of new knowledge constitutes any collective knowledge advances that are new to that particular community. You community is your group, but we also want to pull together ideas across groups. 

A distinction between Knowledge Building and many other approaches is the importance of every member of a class community contributing and advancing collective, public knowledge, rather than just their own individual learning.

We ultimately want this to lead toward developing original, new knowledge. So in essence that you are able to propose some new theory. A tall task when only just learning, but still worth aiming for.

Knowledge Building will provide a useful framework to guide your philosophical thinking. In essence it will help you think like a philosopher. It also allows you to learn on an individual level and to connect with others.

The Plan

Each group has a big question to explore. Our job is to commit to in-depth critical inquiry of this question. Examine our own, and existing ideas, consider possibilities, analyse, to question and reflect. At the end of it all (and during) we need to be able to draw our own conclusions based on all the evidence we have been presented with.

You will be developing your own theory and ideas, but also, importantly  researching and examining existing theory. Each one of you needs to contribute research and information on these theories so we all develop a full picture of each. What are the key components?

Analyse and critically evaluate these theories and ideas. This means you need to visibly critique them. Look at similarities and differences across theories. Look where there are holes. Where one theory seems to refute or possibly disprove another. Look to think beyond the obvious.

Visibly draw conclusions from what you examine. Think about the wider implications of what you have found out. These implications may be social or political, or even personal. Ensure conclusions are supported by evidence.

The process is outlined above. It begins with a big question and then from initial ideas and theories proposed that relate to the question. Then each student gathers new ideas and information and brings it back into knowledge forum as build ons to relevant posts. They ensure they read through all new posts and engage in those posts by developing the information, proposing an idea, questioning or discussing ideas. This continues as an ongoing process until we get to the point that ideas need to be synthesised or pulled together.

Ensure you complete the ‘test’ in the first welcome page.

Everyone needs to create a build on note to mine or a related post explaining your own theory on the question. Use the scaffolds to guide the content of your post. Don’t just put your theory. Explain it. Think about what we don’t know. What you don’t know. The problems. Etc. there are lots of possibilities. Just ensure that you don’t repeat other ideas – build on them. Your first note needs to have some depth to it. It can’t just be a sentence.

Once you have done that you need to ensure you continue to check in and read new posts. You also need to go and find new information that you can bring in. In particular information on existing theories that support or refute the question. Ensure you do more than just provide that info (and don’t copy and paste whatever you do). Reflect on the information. How does it help? What new questions does it raise? Look at the scaffolds again.

Aim for a minimum of three posts for the week – and don’t wait to do them just before the VC. Do them on an ongoing basis. They don’t have to be complete when you post.

Also look to engage others. Propose ideas. Ask questions. Build!

I will be ensuring the relevant standard(s) is provided over this week. Any NCEA standards are used to align with what you are doing. Evidence against these standards is gathered over time and in multiple ways.

There is plenty of general reading around, but sometimes it is useful to have a bit of depth. Ensure you use the reading I provided at the beginning of the course. You will also need to think about curating resources as a group.

The video below was used to help last year’s students with the process in knowledge forum. The content may not be directly relevant, but the process is. Have a watch.