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Philosophical Chairs


Philosophical Chairs The Theory Behind It For effective learning to occur, students must become explicitly aware of their own (mis) conceptions about a particular topic. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Philosophical Chairs

Philosophical Chairs
The Theory Behind It
  • For effective learning to occur, students must
    become explicitly aware of their own (mis)
    conceptions about a particular topic.
  • Student "errors" should be illuminated rather
    than avoided and "contradictions" explored rather
    than ignored.
  • Students can resolve cognitive dissonance brought
    about by exposure to
    alternative perspectives or
    errors in thinking.

How It Works
  • As they enter class, hand students an article to
    read on a controversial topic.

How It Works
  • The topic should elicit a mixed response.
  • Some people agree whole-heartedly while others
    vehemently disagree with the premise for many
  • Still others will reserve
    judgment until or unless
    they hear something
    persuade them one way
    or the other.

How It Works
  • Inform students that they will have a chance to
    argue the merits of the topic and will be seated
    according to their views.
  • Sitting on one side of two rows of facing chairs
    indicates one's total support of the topic.
  • Sitting at the other side signals a students
    total disagreement.
  • Students who have
    undecided views or have
    questions to
    ask sit
    behind or at the end of
    the two

How It Works
  • The Moderator
  • Job is to insure everyone gets a chance to speak.
  • May be the teacher or a student.
  • They should allow participants to address a
    statement made by a particular person
  • Be careful that the "pros," "cons," and
    "questions" are equally represented
  • Make sure the discussion is
    not dominated by a few
    eager students.

How It Works
  • Students are able to move about the room during
    the discussion, similar to a game of musical
  • Participants can symbolize their willingness to
    adopt a different point of view even if
    temporarily by moving in the direction of that
    view and assuming a new location.
  • To insure that movement takes
    place, students can receive
    "credit for participation
    or taking multiple

Ideas To Consider
  • Tape the discussion and later have
    students help analyze parts of the
    dialogue for evidence of specific
    reasoning strategies.
  • Large classes have a subsection "take the stage"
    and conduct the discussion while the rest of the
    class listens, takes notes
  • Later decides the "pivotal point(s)" which
    ultimately persuaded them to adopt one
    perspective over another.

Suggested Rules
  • 1. Be open-minded. Listen to all statements made
    and consider both sides.
  • 2. Move to the other side if a particular
    statement or argument seems to sway your
    thinking. Experience the "other side."
  • 3. No one acknowledges any move.
    This is not a team game.
  • 4. Do not raise hands or speak
    while another person is

  • Statement should be written on the board
  • The mediator must be neutral
  • When necessary, mediator paraphrases or restates
    statements for clarification (in an unbiased
  • Modify the statement or switch topics when
    discussion becomes stagnant
  • For closure, allow each student thirty seconds to
    express an opinion
  • Assign a writing activity for follow-up

Sample Topics
  • Movies should not be rated.
  • All schools should require uniforms.
  • Couples should not be allowed to have more than
    two children.
  • Drug alcohol treament should be free.
  • Abortion should/should not be legal.
  • There is more bad than good in the world.
  • Women who damage their babies (before birth)
    should go to prison.
  • No marriage until youre both 21.

  • Smoking should be illegal.
  • People should wait until the age of 21 to get
  • Most people on welfare are lazy.
  • Parents should have to pay a fine when their kids
    skip school.
  • Everyone would be better off without TV.
  • Minors should always be tried as adults.
  • Parents who do not put seatbelts on their
    children should go to jail.

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