The If Machine: Philosophical Enquiry in the Classroom

Provider: The Philosophy Foundation
£14.99 (no VAT on this item)

No reviews yet

Provider Rating (from 9 reviews)
Description Can computers think? What makes something human? How big is infinity? From Sartre to Searle, this practical book is rooted in philosophical theory, and introduced at a level suitable for children. Each session offers an imaginary situation, followed by a series of questions to encourage children to challenge key philosophical ideas such as values and ethics, gender and identity, and existence and beauty. All the enquiries have been tried-and-tested in the primary and early secondary classroom, and a handy star system is included to indicate the difficulty level of each one, enabling quick ability differentiation.

The Philosophy Foundation's website
Categories Primary, Secondary, Teaching and Learning, Sciences, Mathematics / Numeracy, 14-19, KS1, KS2, KS3, KS4, English / Literacy, Humanities, Management, Teaching staff, Assistant Headteacher, CPD Leader, Deputy Headteacher, Headteacher, Head of year / Pastoral leader, Special Educational Needs Coordinator, Advanced Skills Teacher, Excellent Teacher, Main-scale (core) teacher, Newly Qualified Teacher, Non-practising teacher, Post-threshold Teacher, Supply / Peripatetic teacher, Trainnee (pre-QTS) teacher, Teacher trainer, Head of Department / Faculty, Cross-curricular Themes, Assessment, Behaviour for Learning, Diversity, Gifted and Talented, Inclusion, Personalised Learning, Book, Collaborative Learning, Gifted and Talented, Meta-cognition and Self-regulation, Gifted and Talented Coordinator, PSHE, Skills taught directly linked to learning in schools, encouraging pupils to apply the skills they learn, There are approaches to support pupils working together, Tasks are designed carefully so that working together is effective and efficient, There are opportunities to make use of competition between groups to support pupils in working together more effectively within their group, Provides approaches that encourage lower achieving pupils to talk and articulate their thinking in collaborative tasks , Provides teaching approaches which encourage learners to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning with careful implementation, Provides teaching approaches which encourage pupil engagement in planning and best approaches to tasks, Raising Aspirations/Expectations, Hidden category
Learning outcomes for participants/users and, where relevant, pupils or students
Evidence underpinning this approach

Over the last five years research  (Including Ofsted, The Rose Review (2006), The Cambridge Primary Review (2009) and a report by the Confederation of British Business (2010).) into children and education has consistently highlighted the effects of communication difficulties on behaviour, learning and emotional relationships.  Reports indicate that this is due to emphasis being placed on teaching to test rather than deepening understanding.  Memorisation and recall have been valued over enquiry and creativity and children are leaving school without the skills necessary for them to be able to actively participate in society. 

Using the Enquiries in this book develops speaking and listening skills that will impact across the curriculum and also on confidence and communication skills.


"The best book of its kind currently available, an invaluable resource for teachers wanting to try out some philosophy in their classrooms and a significant contribution to educational theory. Buy it!"

Dr Michael Hand, Reader of Philosophy, Institute of Education London

"One of the most striking things about this book is its intellectual rigour, its grounding in the work of real philosophers and its implicit belief that children will respond to big and important ideas if they are simply given the opportunity and their discussion is appropriately focused."

TES Magazine (rated 9/10)

How users/participants can evaluate success

Success can evaluated through questionnaires and feedback forms. Pupil progress can be measured via an evaluative form provided by The Philosophy Foundation.

Measureable outcomes for pupils include:

  • Improvements in S&L
  • Improvements in levels
  • Confidence
  • Concentration
  • Class collaboration

Children should have a deeper understanding of the concepts underpinning curriculum subjects.

Measureable outcomes for teachers include:

  • Confidence in being able to run Enquiries
  • Being able to develop relevant Enquiries and questions
  • Feeling inspired to run more, and can see the impact Enquiries have on pupils learning and development.
Follow-up activities and support
  • Membership to the website and all the resources are free. 
  • Further training avaliable throught the website
  • Further suport  can be sought through the contact page on the website.


The Book provides you with:

  • Explicit and detailed guidance on how to run a Philosophy session.
  • Explanation of specific techniques and strategies to develop thinking skills.
  • A number of tried and tested sessions with tips and extension activities.
  • Free online resources that direct support the sessions in the book.
  • Suggested further reading