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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 150-156

The effectiveness of “the philosophy for children program” on the spiritual intelligence of the students

Department of Educational Science, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Science, University of Tabriz, Tabriz, Iran

Date of Web Publication26-Jul-2017

Correspondence Address:
Rahim Badri
Department of Educational Science, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Science, University of Tabriz, Tabriz
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2395-2296.204127

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Aim: The aim of this study was to determine the effect of “teaching philosophy for children program” on the spiritual intelligence of the female students. Materials and Methods: The methodology of this study is a semi-experimental study with a pretest, posttest, control, and experiment groups. Subjects were 50 guided school students from Mehrban city (East Azerbaijan in Iran), of which 25 students formed the experimental group to receive philosophy for children program and 25 students who received the traditional program. Subjects were selected by available sampling method. The measure was the spiritual intelligence questionnaire (King, 2008) Cronbach's alpha coefficient has been used to obtain reliability, which equals 0.89. Result: ANCOVA was used to analyze the data. The results revealed that training philosophy for children program enhanced the spiritual intelligence on experimental group. Conclusion: These findings suggest that the philosophy for children program can be used as a method of raising spiritual thinking.

Keywords: Intelligence, philosophy for children, spiritual intelligence

How to cite this article:
Badri R, Vahedi Z. The effectiveness of “the philosophy for children program” on the spiritual intelligence of the students. Int J Educ Psychol Res 2017;3:150-6

How to cite this URL:
Badri R, Vahedi Z. The effectiveness of “the philosophy for children program” on the spiritual intelligence of the students. Int J Educ Psychol Res [serial online] 2017 [cited 2018 Jun 23];3:150-6. Available from: http://www.ijeprjournal.org/text.asp?2017/3/2/150/204127

  Introduction Top

Human being needs numerous capabilities to respond to various demands in the current complex world; so, based on requirements imposed on him (or her), spontaneous or self-made mechanisms are formed, which distinguishes him (or her) from other creatures. By a deep and reflective look into our behaviors, we conceive that we have special properties which make easy to adapt to new circumstances. Meanwhile, cognitive characteristics play an unique role in desirable facing a complex world. An outstanding and perhaps unique characteristic of a human is the phenomenon of intelligence.[1]

Extensive studies on the issue of intelligence have led to significant achievements in recognizing different areas of intelligence, including the discovery of “spiritual intelligence.” Interest in spirituality, as a requirement, as well as an inner and perpetual appeal, along with developments in modern psychology science and dynamic complex nature of global village has made people to have a propensity toward spiritual versus material dimension of life. Spiritual intelligence, as a basis for individual's beliefs, plays a vital role in the promotion and provision of mental health.[2]

The concept of spiritual intelligence for the first time in the academic psychology literature was introduced by Stevens in 1996 and then by Emmons in 1999 in a book titled “The psychology of final interest: Motivation and spirituality in personality.” The spiritual intelligence is the adaptive use of spiritual information in order to facilitate daily problem solving and goal attainment.[3]

King defines spiritual intelligence as a set of adaptive mental capacities based on nonmaterial and transcendent aspects of reality, specifically those that contribute to the one's existential nature, personal meaning production, transcendence, and conscious state expansion. These processes have an adaptive role in facilitating personal meaning production, problem solving, and abstract argumentation. King proposes four components of spiritual intelligence:

  • Personal meaning understanding (personal meaning production): The ability to derive personal meaning and purpose from all physical and mental experiences, including the capacity to create and master a life purpose
  • Transcendental awareness: The capacity to identify transcendent dimensions of the self, of others, and of the physical world
  • Critical existential thinking: The capacity to critically contemplate and ponder the nature of existence, reality, the universe, space, time, and other existential/metaphysical issues
  • Expanded conscious states (conscious state expansion): The ability to enter and exit states of consciousness other states of trance at one's own discretion (as in deep contemplation, meditation, prayer, and worship.[4]

There have been few studies on the spiritual growth in children, for instance, Helminiak proposed five stages of spiritual growth, but these stages start from adolescence in his theory.[5]

Coles has published one of the few comprehensive works on spirituality in children. It results from interviews with small children from different countries and different religious backgrounds.[6] He has demonstrated that, despite different religious and cultural backgrounds in these children, they have expressed similar concerns about spirituality and their ambitions. He stated that spirituality in children results from their tendency toward knowing and they are not simply search for “whats,” but they often follow “whys.” Coles used his discussions with children to demonstrate their mind's astonishment in philosophical and verbal issues, regardless of their ability, age, experience, and culture. He concluded that spirituality strengthens humanity in children, and as a result, parents and trainers are obliged to raise spiritual astonishment in children.[6]

Although many studies have not been conducted in the area of development and evolution of spiritual intelligence and it requires experimental-qualitative studies, it can be said that talent of this intelligence varies in different people, and in facing with rich environments, which evokes spiritual questions, it evolves gradually and forms.[7] Spiritual intelligence is promoted by attention, education, and training.[8] Since spiritual intelligence is an innate intelligence, it can grow similar to other intelligence, and this means that it can be described and measured, and thereby it can be strengthened in people.[9] Today, some programs such as life skill training, holding training courses for spiritual intelligence, as well as running religious programs in schools attempt to nourish this existential aspect of human being. In this line, a newly developed program in many countries for nourishing thinking and different types of intelligence is philosophy training program for children.

The philosophy training program for children is the most recent approach in teaching reasoning skills, especially critical thinking to children. This program was proposed by Lipman in the early 70s, which bloomed and evolved gradually. Lipman regarded philosophy training program for children as a method for improving different types of intelligence and reasoning. This program has been known by various names, such as “philosophy for children,” “philosophy with children,” “philosophy and child,” and etc.[10]

The purpose of the philosophy training program for children approach is to help children to learn how to think by themselves. At Columbia University, Lipman proposed the belief that if children get involved with philosophical issues from an early age, we can improve their way of thinking to become more flexible and efficient. This program attempts:First, to downgrade philosophy from its abstract and high-rising position in a society; second, to present a new approach to the education system in order to solve fundamental problems and deficiencies in the current education, which appeared to be incurable from long-time ago by underlying modifications in the structure.[11]

There are clear goals for philosophy for children program. One of them is to force the mind to become active and operational. This is performed by challenging self-evident truths, learning principle thinking, structural interaction, and performing it. However, this program also has a social objective, teaching democratic decision.[12]

Lipman aimed to conduct intellectual work with children by talking about stories and writing numerous story books for children on that basis.[10]

In this program, intellectual stories are presented to children with a teacher's guidance. The children discuss the issue with their questions concerning the story and the proposed issues. Intellectual stories are those which encourage children to express their questions about the subjects such as the nature of truth, goodness and beauty, fairness, and being friends; to discuss their experience about time and variation; and to study outcomes and defaults, to use measures, and to explore various views. The authors of these stories are philosophers and principle trainers of philosophy for children from all around the world.[13]

Spirituality or spiritual intelligence is an integrative structure, dealing with our cognitive, emotional, and social dimensions. They provoke cognitive growth in children and consider their purpose is improving committed and responsible reasoning, in addition to innovative and critical one. Participation in this program leads to emotional, as well as cognitive growth in children. On the other hand, the collective and cooperative environment dominated in the circle of philosophical discussion, which accompanies principles such as respect for others, well listening, and straightforward respectful feedback toward other member's results in the improvement of social dimension in the children.[13]

Numerous studies indicate that implementing this program is effective in improving cognitive, social, and emotional skills in children, thereby all these skills improve and develop spiritual intelligence in children.

In an analytic-descriptive study, Hedayati and Zaribaf specified the requirement of spiritual growth and its accessibility through philosophy training program for children, in which this program is an appropriate technique for improving the purposes of spiritual intelligence, both methodologically and principally.[14]

In a study on the influence of performing philosophy training program for children with learning and understanding spiritual issues, Thwaites realized that the children had a better understanding of spiritual concepts after participation in that program, and they had a deeper contemplation about it.[15]

Also, by investigating 10 studies during 1970–2002 in a work titled as philosophy for children, Trickery and Topping refer to the positive influence of this program on reading, critical thinking, reasoning skills, self-esteem, and cognitive capacity.[16]

Cleghorn his studies came to this conclusion that implementing philosophy for children program not only develops emotional intelligence in children, but also improves and develops their spiritual intelligence.[17] Chan Yoke Keng conducted other research in Singapore. The study results suggest that students participated in the educational course of philosophy for children outperformed in the skills related to critical thinking.[18]

Lukey conducted a study about philosophy training for children in Hawaii Region. He concluded in this study that conducting this program and participation of students in discussion and questioning sessions strengthens the group sense and collective belief.[19]

Also, in a study on the influence of philosophy training program for children in the process of adolescent reasoning development, Gruioniu states that philosophy training for children is an ideal means and effective practice to a strengthened mind and intellectual skills in adolescents.[20]

In a research titled “The influence of life skill training on spiritual intelligence of female students in the high schools of Shahreza,” which conducted by Asadi et al., the results showed that teaching of life skills is positively and meaningfully associated with the spiritual intelligence of the female students.[21]

With respect to the theoretical principles of the research on the relationship between philosophy training program for children and spiritual growth and also the findings of different experimental studies about the influence of philosophy training program for children on the possibility of spiritual understanding and intelligence development and efficacy of this method on the social skills and on the reasoning skills, especially critical thinking as a component of spiritual intelligence and the possibility spiritual intelligence development with other programs.[7],[15],[16],[17],[19],[21]

This study was conducted in an attempt to determine the influence of philosophy training program for children on the spiritual intelligence of female students, and the research hypothesis is: Implementing philosophy training program for children is effective on the spiritual development of female students.

  Materials and Methods Top

The methodology of this study is a semi-experimental study with a pretest, posttest, control, and experiment groups [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Pretest, posttest, control and experiment grou

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When test and control groups were selected, the spiritual intelligence test was performed in both groups. Then test group is subjected to philosophy training program for children for 3 months, and then posttest was implemented finally to identify the implementation of the program on the test group.

The statistical population in this study included all female students of a third junior high school in the Northwest Iran (Mehrban Region), which they were studying in 2013–2014 educational year, with a total number of 420.

To select sample in this research, the viable sampling method was used, such that one school was randomly selected from guidance schools of city Northwest Iran (Mehrban Region); in the next step, since it is not possible to appoint students one by one in the school due to administrative restrictions and to avoid irregular training process, two classrooms were selected as samples from all guidance schools, one of them as the witness, and the other as the control group. The number of selected samples in both the test and the control groups is 25.

Ethics: It should be noted that before the intervention and the implementation of questionnaires from students and their parents and school principal permission to them are also aware of how the program.

In this research, King's inventory has been used to measure spiritual intelligence.

King has reported the inventory reliability of symptom inventory (SI) with Cronbach's alpha = 0.92 and split-half reliability = 0.91. In this research, Cronbach's alpha coefficient has been also used to obtain reliability, which equals 0.89.[4]

When subjects randomly assigned to experimental and control groups, SI inventory was implemented on the students, and then philosophy training program for children was implemented in the experimental group, such that students of this group were trained for 12 90-min weekly sessions.

To carry out philosophy training program for children, the collected stories were used in one, two, and three intellectual story collections. This collection includes those stories written by Philip Cam, a professor of “philosophy for children” for this purpose. For selection of stories, it was attempted to use those stories with required spiritual meaning for the research purpose.[22],[23],[24]

The first, the elementary, and other 11 sessions are considered as main sessions. In all the sessions, the students were sitting in exploratory circles around the researcher; the text of preset philosophical story is read on the basis of manuals for the student, and then, it was discussed among them. Participants were sitting in front of each other to see and hear others. The intervention program is presented in [Table 1] by session separations.
Table 1: The session of philosophy training program for children

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  Results Top

In this section, the tables for study findings are presented on the basis of findings of experimental and control groups in the SI test.

[Table 2] shows that SI mean scores of the experimental and control groups in the pretest were 52.24 and 56.48 respectively; also, these scores on the posttest were 62.76 and 75.84 in the experimental and control groups, respectively.
Table 2: The description of (total) SI scores in experimental and control groups

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For studying this hypothesis, the semi-experimental design with pretest/posttest has been used, therefore, the covariance analysis method has been used to analyze the results from this design to control the pretest effects as a supportive random variable through this method. Along with using this method, the assumptions of covariance analyzes were studied for using the above method for investigation and data analysis related to this hypothesis when these hypotheses are achieved. The first assumption for using covariance analysis is that parity and homogeneity of the error in the studied groups are achieved. In order to investigate this assumption, Leven Test is used, which its results are shown in [Table 3]. As the results of this test suggest, variance error in the studied groups is homogeneous and well-fit, because the calculated F-value is not significant at 0.05 level.
Table 3: The comparison of variance error in the groups

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The second assumption for using the covariance method is the homogeneity of regression slopes. This assumption has been analyzed in [Table 4]. The results of this analysis indicated that the homogeneity of regression slopes has been achieved, and the calculated F-value (1.32) is not significant in P < 0.05. So, it is concluded that the interaction between supportive variables (SI pretest) and independent variable (group) has not been significant.
Table 4: Linear and homogeneous regression slope in SI test

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The third assumption in using the covariance method is that linear relationship between supportive random variables (pretest) and the dependent variable is achieved. To study this assumption, the dispersion diagram of the regression line was used [Figure 2].
Figure 2: Distribution of the regression line (spiritual intelligence)

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As indicated in [Figure 2], the third assumption is that the linear relationship between the variables has also been achieved.

Since the assumptions for using covariance analysis method is achieved on the research hypothesis, we discuss and study this hypothesis using this method in what follows:

With respect to [Table 5], it is seen that implementation of philosophy training program for children has improved SI in the experimental group, because the calculated F is significant at 0.05 level, and this significance suggests that average control and experimental groups are significantly different.
Table 5: Covariance analysis for SI test scores in testable of experimental and control groups

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  Discussion Top

This study aims to determine the influence of implementing philosophy training program for children on the SI growth in female students. The research results showed that implementation of philosophy training program for children has promoted SI in the students of the experimental group. This finding suggests that in the students who experienced discussion sessions about philosophical stories and deep thoughts and also explorations about the proposed subjects, the deep understanding growth about spiritual questions and insight with consciousness has been increased, and this method has enabled students to solve the value-led and conceptual issues. This program also made students to put their own life works in a much more extended, rich, and meaningful context.

The findings of this research are consistent with the research findings by Thwaites, Cleghorn, Hedayati and Zaribaf, Lukey, Gruioniu, and Chan Yoke Keng.[14],[15],[17],[18],[19],[20] In their descriptive analytic study, Hedayati and Zaribaf investigated the requirement for SI growth and its viability through philosophy training program for children, in which this program is a good technique for fostering the SI goals, both in terms of methodology and in principle. The results of the present study are considered experimental findings for Hedayati and Zaribaf survey on the possibility of SI growth by implementing philosophy training program for children.[14]

The findings by Cleghorn also confirmatory of the present research.[17] His research findings indicated that implementing philosophy training program for children not only grows SI in children, but also improves and develops their SI. Also, the results of Thwaites research indicated that implementing philosophy training program for children had a significant influence on the learning and understanding of spiritual affairs, such that they significantly had a deeper reasoning after participating in this program.[15]

An approach by which we can explain the result of this study is “constructivism,” which emphasizes that people understand a subject in the best way if they are actively involved with it.[25] The work process of philosophy training program for children is also similar to active attempts by the children in the sessions linked to this hypothesis. One of these constructivist approaches which particularly related to the way of philosophy training for children is Vygotsky's constructivist theory. A number of main subjects in this theory, growth proximity region, platform-making, and mediation are seen in the training process of philosophy for children.[25]

Philosophy training program for children involves multiple points, such as improving debate skills, tendency to question, search for events, and employing measures judgment and decision-making about them by children. Also, the differentiation among different events, their analysis, and understanding of their cause and effect relations are also considered as parts of philosophy training for children. In philosophy training for children, some concepts such as fairness, friendship, beauty, reality, and goodness were discussed through stories (as the main training tools) and by the teacher (as a mediator) with children. In the above procedure, guidance and supervision by teacher, question proposing, and orientation to these questions are fundamentally important.[26]

Fisher believes that mediators (adults or peer groups) make the world meaningful for children.[27] In other words, the teacher or mediator plays the role of world-maker for a child, and his (or her) orientation and guidance in the philosophy training program for children classrooms are considered as motivators by which the ideological issues and life's deep spiritual beliefs are transferred to children. Furthermore, philosophy training (program) for children motivates them to contemplate and concentrate on those events related to their own experiences, and as a result control over what happens around them. As mentioned above, philosophy training program for children mediated by a trainer or an adult responds to many children's questions and also allows growing and fostering of SI.

The growth proximity region refers to the distance between the child's capacity doing work under the supervision of an adult and with the participation of the peers and his capacity of problem solving independently.[26] Vygotsky believes that children who are not able to do some works, such as problem solving, memorizing, or remembering their experiences, and also unable to find concepts for the life are able to succeed in these works with the help of adults.[25]

When adults help children in their works are unable doing it by themselves, they, in fact, help them to foster knowledge and their abilities. They control the motivators received by the child and through this, the child uses models, similar to the adults' in determining the global structure. As time passes, what children learn during social interactions transforms to a part of their independent capacities, that is social environments form growth proximity regions, and they gradually make their commitments and works alone.[27] As it was said, participation in philosophy training program for children and listening to stories make children to solve their inner ambiguities regularly and form a specified spiritual identity. In other words, children cannot solve ideological and spiritual issues, and the existed “whys” in children's mind can be solved from the very childhood through programs represented by adults and holding sessions with their peers, and their spiritual intelligence and spirituality can be fostered.

The obtained results can also be explored by Carlsson–Paige. He argued that since children have many questions about God by the age of 5 in their minds, they start to compile and formulate the theory of life meaning; they need spirituality to be fostered within them from the very childhood, which requires implementing programs by adults. Children are required to discuss their ideological and spiritual questions with others, and they reach spiritual growth when they form this belief within themselves and since philosophy training program for children provides this relation, it can be an appropriate program for spiritual growth within the students.[28]

Therefore, it said that one of the programs for children to communicate others conveniently, to express their ideas, to contemplate about their beliefs and form them within themselves is philosophy training program for children. The philosophy for children is the missing part between philosophy and training, and philosophy cannot achieve any of its goals without training, because emotional and intellectual traits can be modified by training, which makes them ready for different reasoning and actions in everyday life. Considering the conclusion of this study, it can be said that an intervention can be performed from the childhood to promote spiritual intelligence and dimension is philosophy training program for children. Every aspect of children's mental life is linked to their spiritual reasoning, the basis of their primary understanding consists of spirituality, children are inclined to spiritual, as well as spiritual and existential subjects by nature, and they often search for existential subjects. On the other hand, researchers have represented that spiritual training leads to the development of cognitive, physical, social, and emotional viewpoints, and also abilities, capacities and skills of children. Therefore, it is necessary to follow in implementing programs in line with the growth of this dimension from the very childhood.

Despite the limitations of this study, like testable method and restrictions of sample to the female population, this study proposes to the teaching specialists and planners to include philosophy training program for children along with formal teaching programs in order to foster spiritual aspect and intelligence in the children. Also, it is proposed to future researchers to study the influence of this program in other fields, such as growth in psychological well-being and health.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]


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