• Henrik Madsen
4. term, Applied Philosophy, Master (Master Programme)
Titel: When Questions are the Answer!
- Philosophical Dialog as General Didactics in the Danish Elementary School.

Theme and aim:
The overriding theme of this thesis is to create a more equally balanced relation between the pupils learning goals and the overall purpose of the national curriculum in the Danish elementary school through a method of philosophical dialog as a general didactic. At the same time, the study, inspired by Gadamer's magnum opus “Truth and Method,” examines the role that qualitative methods play in revealing the truth about the correlations between philosophical dialog and learning/formation. The challenge of combining political demands of teachers accountability with a new almost untested philosophical method is here particular analyzed in the perspective of Gadamer's hermeneutics even though other philosophers also contributes to locating the truth.
The aim is to examine the extent to which philosophy as a teaching tool on one hand can live up to the demands of learning efficiency that international educational research presents through evidence of best practice. On the other hand, the intention is to provide the pupils, not only with ‘controlled’ content knowledge and skills, but also with a deeper existential meaning and understanding of the truth of the matter according to their lives. That means a lasting ethical formation that expresses itself in a character of practical wisdom that can be associated with Aristotle's concept of phronesis. All this relates to the following question:

How do philosophical dialogs as a general didactic contribute to learning and formation in the Danish elementary school? And which role do qualitative empirical methods like observation and interview play in providing the truth about this question?

The questions are addressed both theoretically and empirically. The main theory is, as mentioned, Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics, supplemented by other important philosophers as Schleiermacher, Dilthey and especially Heidegger who in general has founded that hermeneutic tradition that Gadamer builds his theory on. Based on these theoretic frames the also interpreted empirical results provided from an interview and from classroom observations are analyzed. The chosen qualitative methods are both a reaction to, and a possible fulfillment of, the quantitative methods historical connection to the objective sciences hegemony when it comes to the truth. Even though the whole truth according to Gadamer never can be achieved and controlled by methods or expressed in its finality through language, the purpose of the qualitative methods is still to provide a greater deal of understanding as an alternative to an explanation of the kind of truth that belongs to the human sciences.

The results of this thesis are naturally in its hermeneutic sense interpretations of correlations, and therefore they cannot be considered as objective truth. However, the main outcome of the analyzes indicates that learning goals can be reached through philosophical dialog, but with the modifying note that the pupils learning level according to a controlled goal might be superficial and without the sufficient depth that leads them to an adjusted renewal of their prejudices and a formative fusion of horizons. Following international research this thesis furthermore concludes, that philosophical dialog increases engagement and commitment and supplies the majority of pupils, but not all, with sustainable experiences that they can build a character of phronesis on. Philosophy as a general didactic is therefore a game changer compared to ordinary teaching. That is mainly because it asks genuine questions that force the pupils to produce durable arguments and critical thinking before they select their way of understanding by choosing the most legitimate prejudices according to the subject matter.

In a future perspective, the results of this thesis urge to an understanding that is not merely cognitive but also applicable to teaching practice. The results also point out that any teacher can learn how to complete a philosophical dialog, and with an increasing interest in implementing philosophy in teacher education there is hope that this didactic concept can be spread out in order to increase learning and general formations in the Danish elementary school.
Publication date31 May 2017
Number of pages87
ID: 258696472