The history of the PIPs is rather brief and is inspired by an appreciation of the role of wonder in our life, coupled with a desire to bring about good community (social) interaction for all through shared understandings, which are wide, deep and rich. Philosophy seems well placed to bring such ideals about, because it explores ideas, beliefs and values using a critical and creative thinking method, in order to gain clarity and refinement of thought. In turn, this approach can lead to a refinement in our motivation, in our being and daily living. However, if an individual or a community is to achieve such a state of existence, then it is not enough just to understand the idea of such a life, one has to practice such a life, this means adopting philosophical habits as a way of being. It is this appreciation that motivates the PIPs as a community project, seeking to engage the community by offering opportunities, training, support and guidance for those who wish to gain philosophical enlightenment.
After attending a number of courses in the basics of philosophy, reading quite extensively in the subject and then training as a facilitator of philosophical enquiry a point was reached, about August 2001, when I (Rob Lewis) asked myself a question - Now what should I do with this growing philosophical awareness, with this life? I spoke with a couple of friends of mine, Paul Doran and Mike Naidoo, Both of whom share an interest in philosophy and the desire to emancipate consciousness from false ideas, beliefs and values through developing a consciousness which functions through greater critical and creative modes of thought. We decided to work together to bring about a shift in the role of philosophy, moving it away from the socially disjointed role it has, as commonplace amongst an academic elite and closer to the grass roots of community. I like the idea of philosophy as a kind of feed and weed for the community as lawn, feeding the roots to bring strong healthy growth, a flourishing if you like, and weeding out all that restricts or impoverishes that growth. So, Paul, Mike and myself gave this idea some thought and put together some leaflets and posters, contacted the media and set up the first PIP group using The Community of Philosophical Enquiry model as advocated by SAPERE.
Our first enquiry session was held in The Brewery Pub, Berry Street, Liverpool Town Centre, UK. Mark the manager was very supportive of the idea from its first suggestion and this pub was selected because it has a bit of a history as community spirited venue. Mark has always been open to creative developments springing from the community, with the pub offering comedy, poetry, live music and themed candle lit evenings as the norm. Our first Monday session was both frightening and exciting, we were trying something that was new to us and in that sense, we were all novices, some more than others, Mike and Paul had done some teaching before, although, not in this type of environment. Six people turned up for that session and after a slightly anxious introduction we settled into an enquiry into what we thought philosophy is, whilst trying to practice in an emotionally and intellectually sensitive way. By the end of that session everyone seemed to be on a high, it had worked out well and people stayed behind for a social drink or two as new friendships were formed, whilst old ones were developed further and strengthened.
Continuing To Grow
Following that first session, the group grew to an average of seventeen core members and about ten or twelve others who drifted in and out depending on what was happening in their lives. I think we were then and are now, fortunate to have regular media coverage from The Liverpool Echo and Radio Merseyside, notably, Paddy Shennan and Roger Phillips respectively, this has certainly helped to raise awareness and swell our numbers. A year on from our first philosophical enquiry in The Brewery pub saw two new enquiry groups emerge, one in The Bear and Staff pub, Gateacre Brow, Gateacre Village, Liverpool and the other in Croxteth Communiversity, Altcross Road, Croxteth, Liverpool. In addition, with much support coming from core members, we ran our first conference in Oct. 2002, ‘A Voice in The Factory of Education’ initiated to encourage educators and community protagonists to reflect upon the value for all people but especially children, in having guidance and opportunities to explore and discover as an approach to learning. This placed within a framework, which emphasised the role philosophical enquiry could play as a vital educational component, one that is currently missing from state education and other socio-cultural practices. Following on from that conference, six weeks of enquiry sessions were run at Croxteth Comp. with the lower sixth as well as fourteen teachers and community workers later attending a SAPERE Level 1 course, in The Facilitation of Philosophical Enquiry.
Where Are We Now?
*Fast forward about nine years from the account given above, and you find PIPs has taken on a national character: at the moment (Dec 2012) there are forty local PIP groups up and running across the country.
How to set up your own group: 1) General advice on starting. 2) How to Facilitate. 3) Principles and Practice
1) General advice: preparing to set up a PIP:
The first thing you should know is that PIP groups endeavour to practice their philosophy using the Community of Enquiry method - a method developed by SAPERE (www.sapere.org.uk) which is essentially a method that allows and encourages the participation of everyone involved. Members of the group propose, choose and present topics for the enquiries. Presentations need involve no more than a few lines on a sheet of A4, a poem, a picture, an object, etc - just something to stimulate the enquiry nothing more, as it’s out of the group discussion/exploration that insights or new understanding, if any, are to be had.
Choosing a venue: The fact we are called Philosophy In Pubs doesn’t mean it has to be held in a pub. It could be a coffee shop, a community centre, a library or any public space. Although the pub is the ideal, as it is usually the centre of the ordinary working community. The venue chosen should have a space or area that is conducive to discussion, away from loud music, TVs etc. This is not always possible, and is not too much of a concern as we find it is still possible to have fruitful enquiries in that situation as long as everyone can hear each other. If it’s at all possible use an area that is easily viewed and accessible – so people at the pub/venue can see you, and join in if they want. Try to choose a venue that’s handy for public transport.
Approach the owner or management, explain the PIPs concept - most owners and managers like the idea of a philosophy group, especially if it’s during times when business is slow. Go to website www.philosophyinpubs.co.uk and download whatever you need to take with you. There’s also a leaflet we can e/mail to you (maybe you could use it as a template to produce your own?)
Decide what day and time you are going to hold the meetings (weekly, monthly, twice a month - afternoon/evening?). Decide when you are going to start. Give yourself time to publicise event. Contact local press and media: a photo shoot with manager - staff and group looks good in paper, try for a radio interview or mention on local radio stations. If you can produce s simple leaflet/poster (A4 size) advertising the event, we find local shops, cafes, libraries, Community centres etc, are happy to put them up for you. One of our groups does very well from posters in local launderettes!
On the day/night of first meeting, it would be an idea to have some topics in mind for discussion (What is philosophy? is a good one to start with) But the first thing you might want to do is say a bit about the Community of Enquiry method, along with discussion guidelines handout. This usually takes up an hour of the first meeting along with choosing the topics for coming weeks and socialising. Then after a short break you could discuss what people in the group think philosophy is maybe. To bring things to a close, go around the group for any final thoughts people may have regarding the topic, and also about the enquiry process – thank everybody for coming and close. (there are more stages to the Community of Enquiry method which you will pick up as you develop as a group)
Ok that should do for now - don’t hesitate to contact us for any help about anything. Whether it succeeds or not, the fact that you are attempting this is fantastic. If you get as far organizing a venue and setting a start date, let us know - and if you want - a couple of members from Merseyside PIPS could come along to lend support on the opening night (or day).
Paul Doran, National Co-ordinator (07743 533 509)
2) PIPs - How To Set-Up And Facilitate A Philosophical Enquiry
The following information provides an overview regarding the process of philosophical enquiry. As such it will help to steer you through that process as a facilitator. So, we start with a number of key points designed to help you prepare for enquiry. There are a number of specific stages, but you may not need to use them all, deciding what to use is a matter of judgment - which will depend, to a large extent, on the circumstances and environment you are in, and your motivations regarding which skills, understandings within a general empowering process you are after.
Group setting – Try to use a venue that’s not too noisy, with room to seat 8-12 people. Before the enquiry starts it will help if you arrange the seating, ideally in a circle or around a table so everyone is facing in and can easily see and hear each other.
Stages in the enquiry process – You could write these up in advance and hand them out as copies or just explain them to people. It will probably help if you let people know from time to time, what stage they are at in the process. Doing this helps to prepare people for, and orientate people throughout, the enquiry process—making things easier for everyone involved.
1. Presentation of stimulus – The stimulus for enquiry can be text, images, audio/video, an object, etc. You need to decide in advance how the group will engage with the stimulus. If text, will you read it or will the reading be shared? If artwork or photographs, will people go into pairs or groups, view and discuss what they see or will you provide a summary regarding the image?
2. Reflection on Stimulus – Prepare people in advance of engaging with the stimulus, e.g. taking notes as people view or listen, underlining key words or passages in text that people find philosophically interesting. It can also help to mark-out sections of text that people have some agreement or disagreement with, as well as areas that are confusing or contradictory. These things are worth identifying and recording as they provide fuel for enquiry.
3. Formulation of the enquiry’s focus – Focus can be in the form of a question or an issue that is clarified and prepared, in advance, by the person presenting the stimulus for enquiry. Alternatively you can ask the group to work in pairs or in smaller groups to reflect on and discuss the stimulus - with a view to their discussions leading to a proposed focus for the main group’s enquiry.
4. Agreeing upon a focus for the group – If the original presenter provides the focus then you can move to the next stages more straightforwardly. Otherwise, each of the pairs or small groups will feed back to the main group and propose a focus for the enquiry—this is often in the form of a question, though it needn’t be. Each group or pairing talks about their discussion and how this discussion led to the focus question they are proposing.
5. Announcing the options for focus – as the groups report back their proposed focus/question, the facilitator should record a short summary of each proposal and in doing so ask each pairing or group to explain the thinking behind the question or issue of concern and interest. This way the facilitator can present a clear and accurate summary when members of the wider group come to decide which option to vote for as a main focus. Otherwise, the presenter of the stimulus, with their pre-prepared focus, offers clarity and meaning via a summary of the thinking behind the issue or question they want the group to focus upon.
6. Selecting the focus – This can be done in a few ways, (1) the person who provides the stimulus also provides the focus, either by preparing one in advance or by choosing one of the options put forward by one of the pairings or smaller groups, or 2) focus or questions are written on pieces of paper and chosen from a hat (lottery method), or 3) the group votes for the question they would like to focus on for the main enquiry. 4) the group votes for the most philosophically interesting (which is interesting in itself as people have to say what makes it most philosophically interesting)
7. Starting the enquiry – There are many ways to get things started. One good way is by asking people to address any hidden assumptions or to reflect upon key words for clarification of meaning and definition, which they find in the question or issue that is to serve as the enquiries focus (words such as ‘knowledge’, ‘imagination’, ‘beauty’, ‘goodness’, ‘intelligence’, ‘mind’, ‘consciousness’, ‘existence’ etc.). You might prefer to invite the original questioner to start with a first tentative response or just invite first - knee-jerk - responses from the group. You could go systematically around the group asking each person for their first bold response before opening things out.
8. Facilitating enquiry – each person will have their own style but one needs to consider the extent to which one gets involved; too much input can dominate and stifle the group; too little might leave it inert or in disarray. Is the enquiry aiming for deep linear progression or lateral exploration? Be prepared to encourage both spontaneous intuitive responses and considered statements and arguments. Encourage people who use anecdotes or analogies to explain how such things connect to the enquiries focus and why they might be significant. Call for: agreements and disagreements, for examples and counter examples, connections, analogies and thought experiments—all of this helps people to construct and test their understandings. Prioritise, highlight and return to remarks that stick close to the focus and build on emerging understandings during the enquiry, but; do hold on to new questions and points of interest—record them and bracket them off for later on in the enquiry or for future enquiries. Try to be aware of people who are fidgeting and of twitching fingers, perhaps they are ready to speak and are getting impatient. Remind people that you are keeping a running order of those people who have expressed a desire to speak and you are bringing people in to the discussion in a fair handed way, whilst allowing for a degree of spontaneous interaction, as well as interruptions for points of clarification. Let people know when they are due to speak next (it’s X’s turn now then Y’s, and Z you’re after Y). Be prepared to gently challenge people who may be dominating or misrepresenting others. Be sensitive to those who may be nervous and those who struggle to make their point as well as those who cannot make their point because others are butting in or whispering on the sidelines. Encourage people to stay calm to reduce angry flare ups and to treat each other with kindness and dignity.
9. Useful aids – Clearly the facilitator has much to concern herself with, so it is probably best not to try and participate in the enquiry since this will make it much more difficult to provide the group with quality facilitation. However, one thing you could do to help you with the difficult task of facilitation is to ask more experienced members to assist. They may take on supporting roles such as group-observer, scribe, timekeeper, or summariser, or to take on other important responsibilities that you might think of, such as group organizer.
10. Last word – Bringing the enquiry to a close: Firstly, you can ask members of the group to take a little time to reflect and to offer some final words that summarises where they’ve arrived at with their understanding and a bit about the journey they took during the enquiry. Secondly, you can ask people to spend a little time in a ‘meta-enquiry’, which discusses how the enquiry went and whether everyone fully understands and respects the principles and practices for good enquiry along with suggestions for the facilitator, the group-observer can help here. Also, PIPs have a number of evaluation sheets available to help with this. As a facilitator it is worth critically evaluating your own work as courageously as you can. After the enquiry it’s a good idea to write down the things you think worked well or went awry, alongside some thoughts about how you can prepare better or handle certain situations better, next time around. To help you do this, regularly refer back to this document and the PIPs ‘Principles and Practices’ document. You might also consider some SAPERE level 1 or level 2 training. In the meantime, there are some trouble-shooting tips below that may be of use.
Trouble shooting tips
Are some people finding certain concepts awkward to work with?
If so identify the concepts that are proving knotty and ask how important they are to the enquiry—it might be that they can be dispensed with or replaced with something more familiar? You could look at the way certain concepts are used in different contexts, or one could ask the group to generate a number of synonyms and definitions. Of course, you could use the Socratic method and undermine the concept by feigning or by admitting ignorance by saying—‘well what is… say ‘justice’’? You can then point out any inconsistencies or contradictions as people try to account for a ‘concept’, the aim is to induce deeper reflection.
Some people are acting as an authority or quoting authorities and facts too readily and it isn’t helping the enquiry – perhaps this is intimidating or undermining people.
Many so-called ‘statements of fact’ are questionable and so should not be left unquestioned in a philosophical enquiry since at any given time we are seeking the best account we can gain. However, some facts are difficult to question, if not unquestionable, but still we should ask in what way they are relevant or to what extent do they fit into the enquiry in terms of its focus and direction? Furthermore, just because one fact proves to be highly significant and useful it doesn’t mean that it is beyond being usurped by a better one. Examine facts carefully, what is it that makes ‘a fact’ a fact anyway?
Are people listening to each other, staying focused and building on each other’s ideas?
Remember we are ‘a community’ of enquirers which means caring and collaborative behaviour and attitudes are every bit as important as our critical and creative modes of being—we have to agree to be kind, patient and respectful to each other. In this way we enrich and empower the lives of each other. It might be worth reminding people of the importance of this, such things are highlighted in much of PIPs literature. Also, this may be a time to pause and have a meta-discussion about the important features of good enquiry and discussion, especially when enquiring in a group setting is by its nature social and interpersonal. You might ask – ‘During philosophical enquiries, what social responsibilities do we have’?
There are just too many ideas being put forward
Try to track the key points as they are made during the enquiry along with the names of the people who make them. This way you can pause from time to time and offer a summary of the enquiry and ask; ‘is there a central concern that connects all these points? – should that be our focus? Or are there one or two ideas out of the many that seem to be more significant or philosophically interesting to us? It can be difficult to keep track as a facilitator when you have the demands of so many other responsibilities, so, you could ask an experienced member to help you out by tracking the key points and the line of the enquiry as it develops—feeding these things back to the group at appropriate points in the enquiry. At other times you may prefer to ask the original presenter of the stimulus whether they think the group is getting to the nub of the ideas they presented in the stimulus. Also, you could ask the group in which direction they want the enquiry to go; to continue generating and exploring connected ideas (widening enquiry) or whether they wish to progress more linearly with a single or limited focus being attended to (deepening enquiry).
Do people understand the point that others are making or the central point of the enquiry?
It isn’t always clear that people have understood what has been said, so instead of saying do you understand what x means when they say a, b and c you could just say on behalf of the group ‘I’m not quite sure what you mean x could explain that in a simpler way, or could you give me an example of what you mean. In addition, you could say I’m not sure how this fits with the central discussion given that the focus seems to be in ‘such and such a place’ can you say how your connecting a, b and c with the enquiry’s focus?
People are responding to me (the facilitator) rather than responding to each other
This might be because you are contributing too much. You can get people to respond to each other by saying less and by just guiding in the background, in an almost invisible way. You can ask people to make their responses more directly to each other, this helps to build a dialectical enquiry too, which is what we are aiming for. So, to achieve this you might say, for the next ten minutes can we say whose point we are responding to, and say whether we find that point agreeable or disagreeable—giving reasons why; or can we say whether we find their point interesting, confusing or contradictory—again giving reasons why. So all our responses for the next ten minutes will start with ‘I [agree with, disagree with, find interesting, confusing or contradictory] X’s, Y’s or Z’s point because… [Here are my reasons]’.
Some people just tell their life story, or go on too long in an anecdotal way
The group session does have a sort of cathartic character at times so we need to handle life stories and significant tales with care. But all the same we do need to progress the enquiry and consider other members in the group who are becoming fidgety and wishing to contribute. It can help if people are asked to only offer such anecdotal contributions when it connects strongly and directly with the enquiry, in that it exemplifies and thereby clarifies an issue or it offers a scenario that supports a point, or perhaps it offers a useful counter-example. It will help if the person offering the anecdote can say what sort of work it is going to do at the point of introducing it to the enquiry. Also, it is probably a good idea to encourage all points to be thought through in advance so they can be made both clearly and concisely, this is part of what it means to respect others and to develop rigour in our thinking. Taking notes helps here. It may also be useful to have someone functioning as a time-keeper (limiting time) or point-keeper (limiting number of points made in a single contribution) for the group—reminding you when people have spoken over an agreed limit (in terms of time or number of points).
The group is too large
If the group is very large then it’s worth thinking about asking people to work in smaller groups more frequently, so people don’t get restless or bored whilst waiting to speak. It is important in larger groups that clear guidelines are set out for the enquiry and that everyone understands and agrees to them (see ‘Principles and Practices’ as well as above). Important points to press home are: turn taking, listening carefully without interrupting, requesting a turn to speak through the facilitator and accepting that the facilitator will invite people to speak in turn as fairly as possible, whilst allowing for some spontaneity. It is probably more important in large groups to ask for experienced members to support the enquiry in ways outlined above, as well as any other ways you might think of. Seating becomes more important as the group grows, so try to ensure no one is left on the sidelines or physically outside of the enquiry circle. Also, those who are a little shy find large groups intimidating, hence those who are dominant may need more encouragement that they might be a little more considerate. Try to give everyone a chance to speak at some point, even if that’s just during the final words stage.
Many of the pointers above have been derived from materials produced by the Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education (SAPERE), which they have produced either for purposes of training or conferencing. SAPERE have a team of people with vast experience of facilitating and training facilitators, specifically in the ‘Community of Enquiry’ method (Matthew Lipman). For further insights consider contacting/joining SAPERE or reading Lipman’s ‘Thinking in Education’, but also consider the inspirational dialogues of Socrates, as found in Plato’s ‘Republic’ and his ‘Last days of Socrates’—these offer a great model for the sort of enquiry mode we are aiming at and they also heavily influence the work of Lipman, and in turn SAPERE and PIPs. In fairness, though, it is important that we do not forget the other major source for the key-points and trouble shooting tips, above, which comes from people within PIPs. Within PIPs we have a great bank of experience, either from studying and teaching philosophy or from making philosophical enquiry sessions happen in formal and informal settings. We trust that you find the above guidance useful and that you realise the benefit of having this brief bank of helpful hints available that you may, readily, refer to them, time and again. So, it is with a combination of increasingly refined theoretical knowledge and practical experience that we all become more proficient facilitators of, and contributors to, Philosophical Enquiry.
3) Outline of PIPs Principles and Practice for Philosophical Enquiry
Those who casually participate in PIPs philosophical enquiries and those that take up membership with PIPs can expect standards to be upheld at enquiry meetings (see below). However, both casual participants and PIP members are required to make a commitment to the ‘Principles and Practices’ that exemplify the philosophical enquiry method within PIPs. The main difference between casual participants and PIP members is that members commit to PIP ‘Principles and Practices’ via a formal agreement.
What does it mean to practice the discipline of philosophical enquiry?
Philosophical method has helped humans for thousands of years to make sense of the world and its existence as well as how best to live as a human. The word ‘philosophy’ can be used in a number of ways but within PIPs ‘philosophy’ is used in a particular way - to denote a set of principles that make up a method for enquiring into life’s most challenging questions. These principles are set out below.
Just as emotions and intuitions inform the sense and judgments we make about the world and our existence in it, so emotions and intuitions inform our enquiries too. However, in order to make good sense and good judgments we need to organise our emotional and intellectual responses by critically reflecting on them. In brief we question and analyse the feelings, thoughts, beliefs, values and attitudes—to see if they are reliably and reasonably grounded and, as such, justified.
Thus, it is essential that we continuously strive to develop and adhere to our philosophical discipline in order to ensure standards in PIPs. Here below is an outline of the major principles that guide and define good practice; N.B. these principles are best understood as overlapping and interacting with each other to form a coherent whole.
- The principle of clarification - clarifying what is meant by the questions we raise and by the statements that we make in response to these questions. Also, clarifying the different types of statements being used so that we know how best to evaluate them for both their meaning and their truth. Also, we seek to clarify the development of our understandings and philosophical arguments by recording and tracking the enquiry as it progresses.
· The principle of justification – Often we cannot immediately discern whether a statement is true or false. When this happens we seek to establish the extent of the statements probability or approximation to truth. So, we ask; ‘How good is the reasoning or evidence that supports or justifies a given statement or position?’
· Principle of Strength and Weakness - this means that we consider models, explanations, definitions and so on… to assess the extent to which they may be too strong [(only men write great poetry (forced to rule out great female poets)] or too weak [(everything that is flat is a table (forced to rule in beds)]. When we become aware of an account being too strong or too weak it is a sign that it requires some modification.
· The Principle of Alternative or Creative thinking - this means that we are happy to tolerate and consider the views of others (even if they seem strange to us) since they are often essential to generating a full account. Also, we actively seek to generate alternative, perhaps contradictory, viewpoints and scenarios because they can serve to rebut or refute any mistaken claims that are made or operated with. Alternative or creative thinking also helps us to make our most complex and subtle meanings clearer by use of good analogies, examples taken from life and art or through thought experiments, etc.
· The Principle of Fair-mindedness – We treat each other in a kind and respectful manner. We work towards constructing and working with only the ‘best evidence’ and ‘reasoning’—leading to only the best explanations and arguments. Fair-mindedness also means that we try to avoid confusion—say through ambiguity in our language use. It also means that we work hard when we challenge a position to ensure that we do not misconstrue or misrepresent the position that we challenge. We also aim at being fair minded by challenging first the strongest forms of arguments and explanations before moving to challenge weaker forms. A position cannot be fairly refuted or rebutted by undermining a weaker variation of that position, especially if stronger form is left intact.
Facilitation - What does it mean to facilitate?
Facilitation describes a process of guidance, usually, for a group - so that the members of that group stand every chance of gaining something valuable - often in the form of information, understanding, proficiency, skill and confidence or some other such positive outcome.
Good facilitators guide best when they put the interests of the group to the fore. This means the facilitator does not seek to get involved with the groups activity (the enquiry process), since their role is to observe the group as it practices, looking for and thinking about areas where their expertise, support and guidance might be useful to the group.
Standards and Principles to be adopted by the person facilitating philosophical enquiry
Standards: All facilitators have either received level-one training with SAPERE (Society for Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education) or they have built up enough experience in the practice of philosophical enquiry to warrant them taking on the facilitator’s role. New facilitators usually receive background support and guidance from qualified or more experienced facilitators.
Principles - The main principles adopted by PIPs facilitators are as follows;
· The Principle of Focus – The facilitator works to ensure that the enquiry is focused – this is achieved by taking time to clarify the driving question or issue for the enquiry group at the outset. The facilitator will also remind the group throughout the enquiry of its main concern. By maintaining focus the facilitator helps the group progress their philosophical understanding and discipline. Focus is maintained until such time as the group or facilitator point to opportunities for progress via some other question or issue.
· The Principle of Encouragement – Through encouragement the facilitator ensures that the enquiry participants are employing the features of philosophical discipline (as outlined above). This means making an assessment regarding which feature/s might be most useful to the group or an individual during an enquiry and then encouraging them to consider employing such a principle. This may be achieved by referring to principles explicitly or implicitly by raising questions.
· The Principle of Empowerment – The facilitator is there to help the group members to become more confident and competent in practicing the discipline of philosophy. It is through practicing the discipline of philosophy that the group and the individual become more powerful in their capacity to: analyse, evaluate, reflect, reason and express ideas with clarity. As a result, facilitators will often resist the urge, and the invitation, to get involved directly in the enquiry—looking instead for ways to guide and empower the group by encouraging them to practice philosophical discipline in enquiries.
· The Principle of Collaboration – In order for a group to work well together each person has to be both willing and able to demonstrate sensitivity and respect for each other. As such, the facilitator aims at encouraging people to work and build - together - better understandings and greater respect for each other’s ideas and feelings. The facilitator will therefore frequently ask and remind group members to collaborate with each other and to collaborate with the facilitator via the guiding principles that outline good practice.
We at PIPs recommend that you try to become familiar with the above material and recommend that you read it a number of times. If you need any further assistance then please speak with your facilitator or contact us at the PIPs website. You may need to refer back to this document from time to time, as such it will serve as a useful reminder, so do hang on to it. By agreeing to take up membership you make a commitment to the above but in doing so you gain from the same commitment that is made to you by PIPs (members, facilitators and committee). You might also consider attending an ‘Introduction to Philosophy’ course run by PIPs or other organisations.
Outline of stages of Community of Enquiry method generally used by PIPs
First thing to do is to arrange chairs so everyone is facing each other - around a table is ideal. Any notices regarding admin or anything that may be of interest to the group is given, then the person providing the enquiry stimulus is invited to present.
1) Presenting stimulus: (this usually takes around ten mins) Short talk / text / poem / a photograph / an object / short video / film review, etc
2) First thoughts and clarifications: Go around the group asking for people’s initial thoughts about the stimulus, or if there are any clarifications required.
3) Group or pair’s stage
People go into smaller groups or pairs; first sharing and discussing their ideas, then begin to formulate a question or focus. This is where we are attempting a philosophical analysis of the stimulus; identifying any contentious ideas/concepts and challenging any dubious assumptions or presuppositions involved . Problematising and generally trying to come up with a question or comment that gets behind or underneath the assumptions or arguments involved in the stimulus.
4) Airing focus questions:Groups/pairs come back to main group and a spokesperson from each smaller group tells main enquiry group what the thinking was behind their group’s question
5) Selecting the focus question:
This can be done in a few ways: 1) the person who provides the stimulus also provides the focus. 2) Group votes for a question they would like to focus on for the main enquiry. 3) The group votes for the most philosophically interesting (which is interesting in itself discussing what makes it most philosophical). There are various ways of voting or selecting.
6) Facilitating main enquiry:
Each person will have their own style but one needs to consider the extent to which they get involved; too much input can dominate and stifle the group; too little might leave it inert or in disarray. Is the enquiry aiming for deep linear progression or lateral exploration? Be prepared to encourage both spontaneous intuitive responses and considered statements and arguments. Encourage people who use anecdotes or analogies to explain how such things connect to the enquiries focus and why they might be significant. Call for agreements and disagreements, for examples and counter examples, connections, analogies and thought experiments—all of this helps people to construct and test their understandings. Prioritise, highlight and return to remarks that stick close to the focus and build on emerging understandings during the enquiry, but; do hold on to new questions and points of interest—record them and bracket them off for later on in the enquiry or for future enquiries. Remind people that you are keeping a running order of those people who have expressed a desire to speak and you are bringing people in to the discussion in a fair handed way, whilst allowing for a degree of spontaneous interaction, as well as interruptions for points of clarification. Let people know when they are due to speak next (it’s X’s turn now then Y’s, and Z you’re after Y). Be prepared to gently challenge people who may be dominating or misrepresenting others. Be sensitive to those who may be nervous and those who struggle to make their point as well as those who cannot make their point because others are butting in or whispering on the sidelines. Encourage people to stay calm to reduce angry flare ups and to treat each other with kindness and dignity. Clearly the facilitator has much to concern themselves with, so it is probably best not to try and participate in the enquiry since this will make it much more difficult to provide the group with quality facilitation. However, one thing you could do to help you with the difficult task of facilitation is to ask more experienced members to assist. They may take on supporting roles such as group-observer, scribe, timekeeper, or summariser.
7) Final Comments: (Bringing the enquiry to a close)
This is just to give people the opportunity to say what they thought of the enquiry, whether they’ve moved their position and thinking on the subject, or any other final points they’d like to make. People may want to take a little time to reflect here before they can say where they’ve arrived at with their understanding and a bit about the journey they took during the enquiry. Also, PIPs have a number of evaluation sheets available to help with this. As a facilitator it is worth critically evaluating your own work as courageously as you can. After the enquiry it’s a good idea to write down the things you think worked well or went awry, alongside some thoughts about how you can prepare better or handle certain situations better, next time around.
Problematization (or problematisation) of a term, writing, opinion, ideology, identity, or person is to consider the concrete or existential elements of those involved as challenges (problems) that invite the people involved to transform those situations. It is a way of defamiliarization of common sense.
Problematization is a critical thinking and pedagogical dialogue or process and may be considered demythicisation. Rather than taking the common knowledge (myth) of a situation for granted, problematization poses that knowledge as a problem, allowing new viewpoints, consciousness, reflection, hope, and action to emerge.
What may make problematization different from other forms of criticism is its target, the context and details, rather than the pro or con of an argument. More importantly, this criticism does not take place within the original context or argument, but draws back from it, re-evaluates it, leading to action which changes the situation. Rather than accepting the situation, one emerges from it, abandoning a focalised viewpoint.
To problematize a statement, for example, one asks simple questions:
· Who is making this statement?
· For whom is he or she making it?
· Why is this statement being made here, now?
· Whom does this statement benefit?
· Whom does it harm?
The term is also used in association with Actor-network theory (ANT), and especially the 'sociology of translation' to describe the initial phase of a translation process and the creation of a network. According to Michel Callon, problematization involves two elements.
1. Interdefinition of actors in the network
2. Definition of the problem/topic/action program, referred to as an Obligatory passage point (OPP)