philosophy (and argumentation) for children: some reflection for primary school


  • lucia scipione University of Modena and Reggio Emilia



philosophy for/with children, argumentation, discussion, Primary School.


Through the exercise of inquiry and thinking together, a number of studies promote philosophy at school within the dialogical context. The Philosophy for Children curriculum and other Philosophy with Children experiences all around the world spearheaded on promoting dialogical contexts in school with the aim of foster a high-order thinking. The P4C became the standard reference for revision of curricula and teaching practices, on the one hand, through enhancing thinking and reasoning skills, and, on the other, by promote a democratic space and the exercise of citizenship. With a complex - thinking model and with a community of inquiry framework, Lipman (2003) upholds the idea that thinking does not consist of just reasoning or logic itself, but it is performed by different dimensions of thought, intra- and inter-personal. The thinking space that a philosophical discussion could in fact open supports the exercise of reasoning in communities of inquiry that promote cognitive, social and civic competence. Acknowledging the crucial role of the rational and social dimensions of thinking, scholarly research that investigates “argumentation” in children and in school settings is growing. Consistently with studies in Argumentation and Education, in this paper we will refer to “argumentation” as a fundamental way of reasoning and a social practice which finds the ideal context in which it can develop in the discussion (Mirza, Perret-Clermont, 2009). Philosophical and psycho-pedagogical studies recognize argumentation as an essential actor in the construction of thought and in the structuring of new knowledge, in content understanding and in the creation of contextual connections, in the dynamic of relationship, in the engagement of various metacognitive processes (Rapanta et al., 2013). Rational and social aspects of argumentative competence could be fostered in a philosophical context at primary school age. In consideration of the need to promote social and civic competences and based on the definition of discussion as the ideal context to promote argumentation and to practice democracy, it becomes important to raise teacher’s awareness of the key importance of argumentation. Recognizing some relevant perspectives in Argumentation and Education, this paper attempts to highlight several theoretical and methodological questions that are relevant to Philosophy for/with Children and to teacher and facilitator training. 

Author Biography

lucia scipione, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia

Reserch Fellow, Department of Education and Humanities, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.


Alexander, R.J. (2005) ‘Talking to learn: oracy revisited’, in Conner, C. (ed) Teaching Texts, Nottingham: National College for School Leadership, pp 75-93.

Arcidiacono, F., & Bova, A. (2015). A study of the arguments used by undergraduate and graduate students during disciplinary discussions in the classroom. In R. V. Nata (Ed.), Progress in Education. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Bova, A., & Arcidiacono, F. (2013). Investigating children’s Why-questions. A study comparing argumentative and explanatory function. Discourse Studies, 15(6): 713- 734.

Camaioni, L. (2001). Psicologia dello sviluppo del linguaggio, Bologna: il Mulino.

Daniel, M.F., Gagnon, M. (2011). Developmental Process of Dialogical Critical Thinking in Groups of Pupils Aged 4 to 12 Years. Creative Education, 2 (5), 418-428.

Dovigo, F. (2016). Argumentation in preschool: a common ground for collaborative learning in early childhood. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 24(6), 818-840.

van Eemeren, F.H. (2017). Argumentation Theory and Argumentative Practices: A Vital but Complex Relationship. Informal Logic, 37 (4), 322-350.

van Eemeren, F. H., Grootendorst, R. (2004). A Systematic Theory of Argumentation: The Pragma-Dialectical Approach (Vol. 14). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

van Eemeren, F. H., Grootendorst, R., & Snoeck Henkemans, F. (2009 [1996]). Fundamentals of argumentation theory. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Eisenberg, A. R., & Garvey, C. (1981). Children’s use of verbal strategies in resolving conflicts. Discourse Processes, 4(2), 149-170.

Felton, M.; Kuhn, D. (2001). The development of argumentative discourse skill. Discourse processes, 32 (2&3), 135-153.

Garvey, C. (1984). Children's talk (Vol. 21). Harvard University Press.

Giolo R., (2010). Argomentare a scuola. Aspetti didattici e valutativi. Padova: Cleup.

Goodwin, C., & Goodwin, M. H. (1987). Children’s arguing. In S. Philips, S. Steele, & C. Tanz (Eds.), Language, Gender, and Sex in Comparative Perspective (pp. 200-248). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Goucha, M. (Ed.). (2007). Philosophy, A school of freedom: Teaching philosophy and learning to philosophize: Status and prospects. Unesco publishing.

Greco, S., Perret-Clermont, A.-N., Iannaccone, A., Rocci, A., Convertini, J. & Schär, R. (2018). The Analysis of Implicit Premises within Children’s Argumentative Inferences. Informal Logic, 38 (4), 438–470.

Gregory, M., R. (2007). A Framework for Facilitating Classroom Dialogue. Teaching Philosophy, 30 (1), 59- 84.

Kuhn, D. (2019). Critical Thinking as Discourse. Human Development, 62(3), 146-164.

Kuhn, D. (1991). The skills of argument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lipman, M. (2003).Thinking in Education (second edition). New York: Cambridge University Press. (Trad. It., Educare al pensiero. Milano: Vita e Pensiero, 2005).

Mercer, Neil (2002). Developing dialogues. In: Wells, Gordon and Claxton, Guy eds. Learning for life in the 21st century. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, pp. 141–153.

Mercer, N., Wegerif, R., & Dawes, L. (1999). Children's talk and the development of reasoning in the classroom. British educational research journal, 25(1), 95-111.

MIUR (2018). National guidelines and new scenarios (Indicazioni nazionali e nuovi scenari). Nota Miur prot. 3645. Available at:

MIUR (2012). Italian Curriculum National Guidelines (Indicazioni nazionali per il curricolo della scuola dell'infanzia e del primo ciclo d’istruzione). Decreto ministeriale n° 254 del 16/11/2012. Gazzetta Ufficiale n. 30 del 5 febbraio 2013. Available at:

Muller Mirza, N., Perret-Clermont, A-N. (2009). Argumentation and education, Theoretical foundations and Practices. New York: Springer.

Nielsen, J. A. (2013). Dialectical features of students’ argumentation: A critical review of argumentation studies in science education. Research in Science Education, 43(1), 371-393.

O'Keefe, B. J., & Benoit, P. J. (1982). Children's arguments. Advances in argumentation theory and research, 154-183. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Pr.

Pontecorvo, C., (a cura di) (1999 [1991]). Discutendo si impara, Roma: Carocci.

Pontecorvo, C., & Arcidiacono, F. (2010). Development of reasoning through arguing in young children. Cultural-Historical Psychology, (4), 19-29.

Rapanta, C. (2019). Argumentation Strategies in the Classroom. Wilmington:Vernon Press.

Rapanta, C., & Macagno, F. (2016). Argumentation methods in educational contexts: Introduction to the special issue. International Journal of Educational Research, 79, 142-149.

Rapanta, C., Garcia-Mila, M., & Gilabert, S. (2013). What is meant by argumentative competence? An integrative review of methods of analysis and assessment in education. Review of Educational Research, 83(4), 483-520.

Reznitskaya, A. (2012). Dialogic teaching: Rethinking language use during literature discussions. The reading teacher, 65(7), 446-456.

Reznitskaya, A., & Wilkinson, I. A. (2017). The Most Reasonable Answer: Helping Students Build Better Arguments Together. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press.

Reznitskaya, A; Wilkinson, I. A. G. (2015). Professional development in dialogic teaching: helping teacher promote argument literacy in their classroom. In D. Scott & E. Hargreaves (Eds.), Learning, pedagogy and assessment (pp. 219-232). UK: Sage.

Rogoff, B. (1995) Observing sociocultural activity on three planes: participatory appropriation, guided participation, and apprenticeship. In J.V. Wertsch (a cura di), Sociocultural studies of mind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 139- 164. (cit. in Lipman 2003).

Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context. New York: Oxford University Press.

Santi, M. (2012). Towards “Complex Evaluation”. A Short Review and a Triple-Perspective Framework to Evaluate Philosophical Argumentation Activity in the Community of Inquiry. In M. Santi, S. Oliverio (a cura di), Educating for Complex Thinking through Philosophical Inquiry. Models, Advances, and Proposals for the New Millennium. Napoli: Liguori.

Santi, M. (2007). Democracy and inquiry. The internalization of collaborative rules in a community of philosophical discourse. In: D. Camhy (ed.). Philosophical foundations of innovative learning. pp. 110-123. Saint Augustin: Academia Verlag.

Santi, M. (2006 [1995]). Ragionare con il discorso. Il pensiero argomentativo nelle discussioni in classe. Napoli: Liguori.

Scarpini, M. (2018). Critico, creativo, caring, cosmopolita. Bambini, 32-36.

Schwarz, B. B., & Baker, M. J. (2016). Dialogue, argumentation and education: History, theory and practice. Cambridge University Press.

Stein, N.L. , & Miller, C.A. (1990). I Win - You Lose: The Development of Argumentative Thinking, in J.F. Voss, D.N. Perkins, and J. Segal (eds.), Informal Reasoning and Instruction (265-290), Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Volzing, (1981). Kinder Argumentieren. Die ontogenese argumentativer fahigkeiten. (Tr. It. La capacità argomentativa nel bambino (1985). Firenze: Giunti- Barbera (1981).

Wilkinson, I. A., Reznitskaya, A., Bourdage, K., Oyler, J., Glina, M., Drewry, R., & Nelson, K. (2017). Toward a more dialogic pedagogy: changing teachers’ beliefs and practices through professional development in language arts classrooms. Language and education, 31(1), 65-82.

Zadunaisky-Erlich, S., (2011). Argumentative discourse of kindergarten children: features of peer talk and children-teacher talk. Journal of research in Chilhood Education, 25: 248-267.




How to Cite

scipione, lucia. (2020). philosophy (and argumentation) for children: some reflection for primary school. Childhood & Philosophy, 16(36), 01–25.



philosophy and childhood: theory and practice: presentation