Exploring philosophical ideas through organigrams and visual literacy (LS-EU-97)

Context 

In my experience as a philosophy teacher, the introduction to theories and ideas cannot be achieved without the regular reading and analysis of texts, where the student identifies the articulation of ideas, arguments and the path of thought. But if the approach to texts is central and requires methods, the use of visual literacy (non-textual tools) is very rich and makes it possible to diversify the work on concepts to strengthen pedagogical differentiation.

Considering heterogeneous classes and varied intelligence profiles, the visual part has an essential role, as it constitutes a powerful means of exploring ideas, establishing links and stimulating abstract-concrete transition. I also would say that this is part of educational work on the visual, the image, which the philosophical approach helps to question.

In the hereby presented learning scenario, the use of organigrams and visual literacy – via collections of Europeana – is deliberately centred on a research process focused on key concepts (i.e. “state of war” on Thomas Hobbe’s theory) and by association of terms (i.e. “aggression”, “violence”, etc.).

It also encourages our students to practice research through trial and error, which is very beneficial to the initiation to philosophical inquiry, insofar as it allows the student to move beyond the scheme of the single answer by favouring the use of creative tools for questioning text and notions.

Aim of the Lesson

This Philosophy Learning Scenario is intended for secondary school students (16-18 years old) that will be working collaboratively in groups with the purpose of developing their creativity and ability to link philosophical content to visual literacy.

The activity is conducted in groups. The aims is to understand a text and its concepts through an organigram (concept map) containing at least one illustration from the European heritage (via the Europeana website).

By the end of the lesson, students are expected to improve their:

  • Understanding and assimilation of a concept and of philosophical argumentation.
  • Ability to visually represent a concept and/or an argument.
  • Ability to find and use an image to illustrate and interrogate a concept.

After having analyzed a short philosophical text, students have to collect information and share among them in order to create a final task. They share and support different ideas and belongings by means of collaborating with each other. Through the use of Europeana and other online resources, students will develop digital literacy skills.

Lesson planning

These are the 5 main steps of the LS – they are detailed in the downloadable learning scenario file:

  1. Reading,      
  2. Understanding and selecting information,
  3. Researching and creating links,
  4. Integrating the illustration into the diagram,
  5. Presentation of the outcomes to the class.

The overall timing is 2h30 for a class of 20-25 pupils.

Pros and cons

Overall, in the process of building this scenario, I was looking for a creative approach to concepts (out of the text-only focused approach).

The aim is to favour a more intuitive approach to philosophical notions while enhancing knowledge of European heritage. Linking philosophical ideas to visual literacy is incredibly powerful and it widens the approach to philosophical questions. Students feel more involved in the enquiry on concepts and they feel presenting a concept through visual literacy is challenging and, to some extent, more related to their understanding of the ideas than a strictly textual approach.

But for the search for specific illustrations, it proved difficult to find significant elements and transposable to a conceptual level, without mobilising much more time than initially planned.

Would you like to know more about this learning scenario? You can download it below:

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The featured image used to illustrate this article belongs to the public domain. Click here to find it.

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