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Draft Short Course Specification

Philosophy Critical Thinking

1. Introduction to junior cycle

Junior cycle education places students at the centre of the educational experience, enabling
them to actively participate in their communities and in society and to be resourceful and
confident learners in all aspects and stages of their lives. Junior cycle is inclusive of all
students and contributes to equality of opportunity, participation and outcome for all.

The junior cycle allows students make a greater connection with learning by focusing on the
quality of learning that takes place and by offering experiences that are engaging and
enjoyable for them, and relevant to their lives. These experiences are of a high quality,
contribute directly to the physical, mental and social wellbeing of learners, and where possible,
provide opportunities for them to develop their abilities and talents in the areas of creativity,
innovation and enterprise. The learners junior cycle programme builds on their learning to
date and actively supports their progress in learning and in addition, supports them in
developing the learning skills that will assist them in meeting the challenges of life beyond

2. Rationale
Philosophy is a systematic critical inquiry into profound, fascinating and challenging questions
arising out of our everyday experiences. Philosophical tools, such as critical and systematic
thinking, careful analysis, and construction of arguments, provide the means of addressing
such questions. The course emphasis is on doing philosophy, that is, on engaging students
in philosophical activity and encouraging them to develop into independent and critical thinkers
Doing Philosophy reflects the importance placed by many educational experts, universities
and employers, on thinking skills, creativity, risk-taking, problem-solving and critical thought.

3. Aim
The aim of this short course in Philosophy is to support students
in their search for meaning and to enable them to reflect
thoughtfully and critically about lifes big questions.

4. Links
The way in which the short course is linked to Statements of Learning, Literacy and Numeracy,
and Other Key Skills is highlighted and explained here.

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Statements of learning

These statements describe what students should know, understand, value and be able to do
at the end of their time in junior cycle. It is possible for a short course to contribute to the
learning described in a number of statements. For the purpose of providing a clear description
of the short course, developers should identify the statements of learning (3/4 maximum) to
which the course relates most immediately and significantly.

The student has an

Examples of relevant learning in the course

Students examine problems about lying, friendship, values
and explore the possible grounds for making moral

awareness of personal
values and an

decisions, subsequent outcomes and what influences us.

They will be provided with stories and case studies with
classic dilemmas where rules and obligations conflict with

understanding of the
process of moral decision

instinct to protect their peers. Through a variety of tasks,

role-play and thought experiments they will test their own
intuitions about values and think critically about how they

making (SOL 5 )

make decisions and students identify what they mean when

we say something is right or wrong.

The student creates,

appreciates and critically
interprets a wide range of
texts (SOL 3 )

Students will review a variety of classic and modern

philosophical theories and analyse philosophical concepts,
issues and arguments presented in short extracts from
They will explain and analyse different approaches to
philosophical issues, making use of relevant supporting
evidence and examples they find through their research of
philosophical texts.
They will compare and contrast their personal experience of
philosophical activity with the issues regarding philosophical
activity raised in an unseen text.

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The student appreciates

and respects how diverse
values, beliefs and
traditions have contributed
to the communities and
culture in which she/he

Investigation of key concepts such as identity, freedom, and

human nature by using examples from more than one
historical period or more than one philosophical tradition,
and also by using examples from a variety of cultural,
or geographic contexts. This helps them to appreciate the
value of different perspectives.

lives (SOL 6 )


Literacy and numeracy

Outline how the short course will contribute to the development of literacy and numeracy skills.
Literacy : Students today experience a constant stream of ideas and information in a mediasaturated world, whether it is online, in print, through computer games or mass media. As they
move into the junior cycle, they encounter an ever-widening range of texts. They need skills to
determine where to direct their attention and how to interpret messages and use them
appropriately and relevantly. Traditionally in reading, the emphasis has been on the authors
power, but in philosophical literacy, readers actively question the authors message and its
hidden implications.
Numeracy: Helps them to explain the process to show how they found the answer. It gives
them the tools to practice thinking routines. It shifts the emphasis of their work from finding
the right answer to an exploration of how their problem-solving works

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Other key skills

While it is desirable that all key skills have a presence in the course, some will be more
prominent than others. Identify these by providing examples of where key skills element(s)
appear in the learning activities in which a student might expect to participate.
Key Skill

Key skill element

Student learning activity

Being Creative

Analysing and
making good
arguments and

Students explore and evaluate

options and alternatives for
decisions they make. They record
their learning through thinking
routines such as those from
Making Thinking Visible ,
representing thinking visually and
creatively through art, concept
maps, words, images


Engaging in
dialogue, listening
reasoning and
engaging in debate.

Group discussions, interpreting

classical philosophical arguments,
listening to other peoples view
points and gaining confidence in
expressing their ideas clearly.

Gathering and
Managing information and thinking evaluating

Making decisions, providing

evidence and justification orally
and written in response to
philosophical texts or questions

Managing myself

Knowing myself

Group decision-making activities

which lead them to be more
flexible and organise their thinking.


These collaborative activity

encourages students to
consider different points of view by
engaging them in dialogue
with not only those who have the
same opinion but those
who have differing viewpoints

Staying well

Working with others

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5. Course overview
Identify the strands in the short course. Briefly explain why these strands were selected. If
they are presented in a particular order, explain why.
The strands in this short course are:
Strand 1 Being Human
Strand 2 Philosophy of Ethics
Strand 3 - Epistemology
Students learntopic heading

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Students should be able to..seperately

Strand 1 : Being Human

By the end of Strand 1 students will demonstrate an

understanding of some of the main questions

Strand 2 : Being Moral

Strand 3 : Knowledge


What is Being?


Does God exist?


What is the relation of mind and matter?


What is the self?


What is personal identity?


Do persons remain the same over time?


Are human actions free?


What is the meaning of life?

Strand 1 Students focuses on developing selfawareness. They evaluate the positions of major

philosophers ( Plato, Budda, Descartes, Hume ) and

schools of Philosophy on some of the metaphysical
questions and formulate their own clear responses
to some of the fundamental questions of Being
Students defend their responses in discussions with
others and explain how these questions make a
difference in their attitude to practical issues such as
memory and responsibility for past events.

Strand 2
Students identify the main questions of ethics
What are good and evil?
What is a good life?
What is virtue?
Why be moral?
What obligations do people have to one
Students evaluate their responses given by major Philosophers
( eg Kant, Mill, Aristotle ) and major schools of ethics
( Confucianism, utilitarianism ) the questions.
Students use critical and logical thinking skills to defend their
own ideas and to anticipate counter-arguments to their ideas.
Students analyse moral dilemmas that happen in everyday
contexts ( friendship, lying,, media, law, business, medicine )
and describe how problems in ethics arise in novels, stories
and texts relevant to their studies.

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By the end of Strand 3 the students will demonstrate an

understanding of the main philosophical questions in

6 6. Expectations for learners

Examples of student work will be used to illustrate the expectations for learners in the short
course. These examples will be related directly to a learning outcome or groups of learning
outcomes. They will be annotated, indicating whether the work is in line with, ahead of, or
behind expectations for learners.

7. 7. Assessment and certification

Suggestion: 2 Written Tasks

Individual response to two stimulus-based questions on the core theme What it means to be


In groups students are required to complete a philosophical analysis of a non-philosophical

This component is internally assessed by the teacher

8. Resources
This part of the specification will identify resources that will support teaching and learning in
the short course.
No course book required for the students

The If Machine by Peter Worley, Tamar Levi

Ritchhart et al. 2011. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding,
and Independence for all Learners.

Philosophy Classroom / Thinking-Education by Matthew Lipman

Philosophy for Children Through the Secondary Curriculum, Lizzy Lewis

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