collaborative problem-solving and citizenship education: a philosophical escape in the age of competencies

marina santi


Starting from the Italian results of the PISA 2015 surveys as regards the competence of young students in collaborative problem-solving, in this paper we conduct a critical analysis of the concept of competence, as seen through the lens of the Capability Approach. The Philosophy for Children curriculum is presented as a pedagogical and didactic proposal capable of re-conceptualizing the constructs of ‘problem-solving’ and ‘collaboration’. In the light of ‘Complex Thinking’ theory and the ‘community of inquiry’ classroom methodology, the general theoretical frame of the PISA and DeSeCo approach to problem-solving has been criticized for its focus on what has been defined in terms of “internal mental structures in the sense of abilities, dispositions or resources embedded in the individual”. The proposal of Philosophy for Children and its ‘community of inquiry’ methodology are considered and discussed.  This educational curriculum provides a real opportunity to rethink citizenship education by concentrating on the value and power of collective agency and the ability to wonder about our world. The pedagogical implications are significant because this means that we should be aiming to align academic education not with what society is, but with what it could or should be. To achieve this, education policies and planning actions need to focus on values and principles, on matters such as freedom, social equity and participation. These matters are not exclusive to the realms of individual endowment and performance. They have fundamental ethical and cultural components. Philosophy for Children can be considered as an opportunity to work towards the educational and political goal of creating “flourishing communities”.


competence; collaborative problem-solving; philosophy for children; citizenship education.

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