Twenty Thinking Tools.

Title: Twenty Thinking Tools.
Author/s: Cam, Phillip
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: ACER Press (2005).
Format: Paperback (121 pages).
ISBN: ISBN 0-86431-501-5
Area and topic: Pedagogical aid and/or resource. Philosophical skills and methodology. Practical philosophy.
Intended audience/ reading level:  School teachers/accessible.
Purchasing and information:
  1. amazon.com
  2. Acer Books’ on-line
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘Twenty Thinking Tools’ is designed for teachers to structure and follow through with a process of philosophical enquiry in the classroom. Specifically, ‘it introduces teachers to the theory and practice of collaborative inquiry [a form of teaching and learning that involves class discussion and small group work], and provides an easy-to-follow guide to the tools that students will acquire as they learn to examine issues and explore ideas’(Acer Books on-line). Although not intended as such, the tools, methods and approaches presented in ‘Twenty Thinking Tools’ may be used at all levels of schooling.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • ‘Beginning with an ‘Introductory Toolkit’, Twenty Thinking Tools shows teachers how to strengthen students abilities to ask insightful questions, to look at problems and issues from various points of view, to explore disagreements reasonably, to make appropriate use of examples, to draw needful distinctions, and generally to develop their imaginative, conceptual and logical abilities in order to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of all kinds of subject matter. The Intermediate and Advanced Toolkits show teachers how to encourage students to make appropriate use of such things as counter-examples, criteria, generalisation, informal reasoning and elementary deductive logic’.
  • Specifically, the book discusses and explores a variety of general tools and procedures for a) identifying philosophical statements, issues and questions (as different from non philosophical statements, issues and questions) b) clarifying and formulating questions and problems such that they are ripe for philosophical analysis c) establishing means and ways  to set up an agenda for the upcoming philosophical discussion and enquiry d) creating hypothesis and conjectures, e) subjecting one’s finding to conceptual analysis, e) bringing to light various assumptions and implications that arise – and finally, f)  subjecting one’s findings to critical analysis and evaluation before bringing the process to resolution.
  • The text also includes examples from the classroom, supporting exercises and activities.
Strengths: The book is designed specifically for classroom philosophical enquiry. Although reasonably short in length, it is an excellent resource and is quite unique in its approach as a teacher’s guide for structuring and practicing philosophy in the classroom. Although the book is primarily created for the PFC (Philosophy for children) programme, it is well suited for general secondary school level philosophy teaching. Importantly, the class structure, learning environment, philosophical approach and model that the book is  teaches,encouragers an atmosphere of participation as opposed to a more ‘teacher, lecturing the student’ approach.
Limitations: Some aspects of the material may have to be modified for older and more advanced students. Although the books is designed for the classroom, the aim is to bring about philosophical enquiry with an emphasis on the students generating and creating philosophical issues and content i.e. there is very little in the way of including or accommodating the more formal approach of presenting philosophy as a tradition with specific issues, problems, core topics and areas, ‘big names’ and so forth – that is then open to assessment and/or examination.

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