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P4C Research

Download SAPERE's research brochure for a summary of research into P4C

Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) Trials

A 2015 Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) Efficacy Trial carried out by Durham University into SAPERE P4C showed that:

  • SAPERE P4C has the biggest positive impact on disadvantaged children (those eligible for free school meals). These children made 4 months' additional progress in reading, 3 months' additional progress in maths and 2 months' additional progress in writing.
  • Overall, Key Stage Two pupils taking part in the trial made two additional months' progress in reading and maths.
  • Teachers and pupils reported that SAPERE P4C had a positive influence on wider outcomes such as pupils’ confidence to speak, listening skills, and self-esteem.

You can find more information here. The EEF's full report is here.

Following this study, the EEF named SAPERE P4C as one its Promising Projects and is funding a larger Effectiveness Trial in more schools over a longer time period. The primary outcome measure will be attainment measured by combined Key Stage 2 maths and English scores. The trial will also look at the impact of the programme on a character measure, likely to focus on social skills (such as asking questions and taking turns). Some 200 UK schools are taking part in the trial, which will be evaluated by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).


Nuffield Foundation research into non-cognitive benefits of SAPERE P4C

Using data from the 2015 EEF Efficacy trial, research funded by the Nuffield Foundation found that:

  • Pupils who received the P4C intervention were ahead of their counterparts in the comparison schools in the study in self-reported communication skills, teamwork and resilience.
  • Though the effect sizes are generally small, they are larger for pupils living in relative poverty.
  • On the whole, teachers reported positive effects in pupils' confidence in questioning and reasoning.
  • Interviews with and observations of pupils confirmed that pupils enjoyed P4C and actively participated in the sessions.

You can find more information here. The Nuffield Foundation's full report is here.

Other P4C research

Our Research Summary Document has 18 further examples of research in P4C. Examples include:

University of Dundee research with schools in Clackmannanshire

In 2001, Professor Keith Topping of Dundee University and educational psychologist Steve Trickey published the results of a large scale study in which children experienced one P4C session a week. The research showed pupils achieved significant gains in verbal and non-verbal reasoning, as well as improvements in listening, communication, behaviour, questioning, reading and understanding. It also showed a statistically significant increase in children's IQ scores over a period of a year, compared with no increase in the scores of the control group.

  • A whole population of children gained on average 6 standard points on a measure of cognitive abilities after 16 months of weekly enquiry
  • Pupils and teachers perceived significant gains in communication, confidence, concentration, participation and social behaviour following 6 months of enquiry
  • Pupils doubled their occurrence of supporting their views with reasons over a 6 month period
  • Teachers doubled their use of open-ended questions over a six month period
  • When pupils left primary school they did not have any further enquiry opportunities yet their improved cognitive abilities were still sustained two years into secondary school
  • Pupils increased their level of participation in classroom discussion by half as much again following 6 months of weekly enquiry. For further information click here to read an article on the research by Dr Steve Trickey

Better Thinking for Better Learning Project, funded by the SHINE Trust

This year long programme of weekly enquiry sessions used Philosophy for Children to teach reasoning, higher order and independent thinking with primary school children in Wandsworth, London.  Pre and post intervention testing and teacher assessment indicated reading improvement beyond teacher predictions for 88% of pupils and improvements in speaking, active listening, question posing, reasoning, thinking and social & emotional interaction.

Sample findings:

  • 88% of children in the year 6 class improved on the Teacher Prediction for their end of Year Grade at KS2 Reading. 94% achieved or exceeded this with only 6% not achieving their predicted grade  
  • 26% of children achieved level 5 in Reading 69% of children achieved level 4 in Reading and 5% of children achieved level 3 in Reading from the children who attended the philosophy sessions throughout the project
  • 62.5% of children exceeding the teacher's prediction for achievement at Maths SAT. The focus group achieved 24% at level 5 in Maths, 64% at level 4, 6% at level 3 and 6% at level 2. The focus class exceeded the National Average score for level 4 attainment as nationally 43% of children achieve a level 4 at Maths and in this class it was 64%
  • 51% of the school population were on free school meals and 49.5% of the children had English as an additional language

RAIS (Raising Aspirations in Society) Project 2003-2006

A £1.7 million project using P4C as the central strand of the project.  Click here to read the evaluation by the Centre for Learning and Teaching at the University of Newcastle.

Evidence supported the claim that the Philosophy for Children (P4C) intervention in the form of Community of Enquiry (CoE) has significant positive impact upon teacher and pupil creativity, builds the confidence of both teachers and pupils and encourages and develops children's capacity for independent and critical thinking and powers of reasoning. Evidence supported the claim that the Philosophy for Children (P4C) intervention in the form of Community of Enquiry (CoE) is particularly powerful in developing teachers' planning for use of questions and in encouraging teachers to critically revisit their practice. 

Philosophy for Children Journals

IAPC Research Database that lists:

Research on Cognitive Skills

Research on Affective and Social Skills

Research on Both Cognitive & Affective Skills

Research on Methodological & Theoretical Aspects

Studies Not Yet Reviewed