Philosophy of Education

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Philosophy of Education is concerned with asking: What is a good education? This relates to a series of other questions, such as: What are the benefits of education for the individual, and for society more generally? What is the place of the state and other social institutions in structuring and controlling education? How should teachers be trained, and how should they see their role, and their relation to their students? And are there any particular benefits to studying philosophy in particular, as a subject to be taught in schools and within wider society? This is an exciting time for philosophy of education, with a growing appreciation for what philosophy has to offer in this field.

The Department at Sheffield has a group of researchers who engage with this topic, both at the level of their research, and their teaching, making it an excellent place for those interested in this area.

Joshua Forstenzer’s research focuses on democratic education and related epistemic and civic virtues, as well as Pragmatist conceptions of education, philosophy for children, and pedagogies associated with the teaching of philosophy at all levels of education (having received training from both SAPERE and The Philosophy Foundation). He also regularly delivers pedagogic training to lecturers, teacher-trainers, and community organisers across Europe and in the United States. Ryan Byerly has worked on the value of educating for intellectual virtues, including other-regarding intellectual virtues. He has also published work evaluating strategies for educating for intellectual virtue and a textbook introducing critical thinking to undergraduate students. Angie Hobbs writes about the value of philosophy in education and Plato’s conception of education. She also plays a leading role in the national campaign to increase the provision of philosophy in schools.

Joshua Forstenzer and Vachararutai Boontinand (University of Mahidol) won a two-year Newton Fund Fellowship and a Thai Research Fund grant to study how effective pedagogies associated with philosophical inquiry can be in teaching critical thinking and democratic citizenship in Thai Higher Education. Ryan Byerly won a 3-year Academic Cross Training Fellowship from the Templeton Foundation to develop his research skills in psychology on topics related to the philosophy of education.

In partnership with Ansgar Allen from the Sheffield School of Education, we run a trimesterly Education and Philosophy seminar funded by the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain, where we invite external speakers to present their latest research. Our own researchers maintain strong relationships in the field with, for example, Bologna University, Biola University, Tufts University, the University of Crete, and the University of Birmingham. The award-winning outreach programme, Philosophy in the City, maintains a strong link with local schools and Joshua Forstenzer teaches the second year Philosophy of Education module, which ends with a 3-day conference, The Examined Life, involving 250 local pupils in philosophical conversations. Students from this course have a strong track-record in becoming teachers of Philosophy and Religious Education in secondary schools. Finally, there is also a growing community of postgraduate students interested in the field of the philosophy of education.

Representative publications:

  • Byerly, T. R. (2017). Introducing Logic and Critical Thinking. Baker Academic.
  • Byerly T. R. (2019). “Teaching for intellectual virtue in logic and critical thinking classes: Why and how”. Teaching Philosophy.
  • Byerly, T. R. (forthcoming). Intellectual Dependability: A Virtue Theory of the Epistemic and Educational Ideal. Routledge.
  • Forstenzer, J. (2012) “Education, active citizenship and applied social intelligence: Some democratic tools to meet the threat of climate change”, in P. Almlund, P. H. Jesperesen & S. Riis (eds.), Rethinking Climate Change Research Clean Technology, Culture and Communication. Ashgate.
  • Forstenzer J. (2018). “The Teaching Excellence Framework, epistemic insensibility and the question of purpose”. Journal of Philosophy of Education.
  • Forstenzer, J. (2020). “Transformation or barbarism: Pragmatist education in the face of catastrophe”. Education in the Face of Existential Threat blog.
  • Hobbs, A. (2017) “How teaching philosophy could help combat extremism”. The Conversation.
  • Hobbs, A. (2018). “Philosophy and the good life”. Journal of Philosophy in Schools.
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