Edexcel Level 2 Higher Project Scheme of work for a Higher Project
aimed at students with an interest in Philosophy
Level 2 Project Philosophy Scheme of Work Course structure
The scheme of work is divided into 2 sections. The first addresses the taught-course element of the Level 2 Project Programme. It is recommended that 20 hours are devoted to teaching designed to prepare students for project work. In the case of this philosophy-based programme, this means introducing students to a range of philosophical questions and giving them an opportunity to explore these through class discussion. The aim of this part of the programme is to provide students with some stimulating ideas so that they can then make an informed choice of title when they begin their project. The taught course element also provides an opportunity to teach students some of the skills that they will need for their project (for example, skills in research and critical analysis of argument and counter-argument).
A small scale pilot project provides a good setting within which to teach these skills, and the scheme of work includes guidance on running a pilot project as part of the taught course, prior to the commencement of the project itself.
The topic areas addressed in the taught course element of the programme have been selected to provide an engaging introduction to philosophy, and because they lead naturally into fruitful project work. These are not the only possible topic areas that could be used and teachers may prefer to select others.
Most of the resources cited in this Scheme of Work are freely available online (the underlined resources are all clickable hyperlinks).None of the commercially available sources are required for delivery of this Scheme of Work. Other resources are available from those awarding bodies that offer the Level 2 Project. You do not need to purchase any paid for resources to deliver this course
Whilst this scheme of work is planned to last around 27 weeks (i.e. one teaching year), it could be scaled up to run over two years, or over 4 terms
Managing classroom discussions The role of the teacher during class discussions is that of a facilitator. Since the purpose of the lessons is to encourage students to engage in philosophical discussion and begin thinking for themselves, it is not expected that there will be much didactic teaching of philosophical material (though some may be needed in order to provide a framework of background knowledge to inform discussion).
The following dialectical model informs the assessment criteria for the Level 2 Project:
Point of view The proposition being defended in the argument
Argument The chain of reasons that support the point of view
Counter-argument Criticism of the argument, showing that it does not succeed in supporting the point of view (the argument is invalid and/or contains unwarranted assumptions).
Response Defense of the original argument in the light of the counter-argument.
Managing discussion This model can be used to inform classroom discussion, to assist when analysing sources and to provide a framework for writing the discussion section of a project.
Consider room layout (Circle? Horseshoe? Small groups?)
Introduce the philosophical question, using stimulus material (e.g. a video clip or a short text extract)
Ask clarificatory questions to check comprehension of the stimulus material.
Invite students to respond to the question by expressing their point of view.
Challenge students to support their point of view with an argument.
Encourage the class to engage in a process of evaluation of argument, with consideration of counter-arguments. The sort of comments the facilitator might make include:
'What is your point of view about the question being discussed? What do you think?'
'Can you support that with an argument?'
'Who agrees with that view? Who disagrees?'
'If you disagree, what do you think is wrong with the argument we've just heard?'
Introduce the programme, explaining that philosophy involves asking questions such as: what is knowledge? What makes me me? Why should I be good? What is the mind?
In this programme, after discussing some of these questions, students will have the opportunity to produce a project exploring a philosophical topic for themselves.
Introduce the problem of knowledge by asking students for things they know.
Ask what we mean by 'knowledge'. This may lead into a discussion of the need for knowledge claims to be justified, and with this, the possibility of scepticism.
Then explore sceptical scenarios - illusions, dreams, hallucinations, brain in a vat.
Should these lead us to withdraw our claim to have knowledge? What possible responses are there?
Depending on the level of the students, it may be helpful to introduce realism and idealism as frameworks and explore how idealism is a response to the problem of scepticism.
A general moral which can be drawn from the discussion involves relating the problem of knowledge to the context of inquiry: things are not always as they appear, so inquiry is needed in order to find the truth.
As well as looking at the problem of knowledge in general, a more specific question can be asked; how do we know that what we read, watch or hear is true? This can lead into a discussion of the credibility of sources. Point out to students that they will be expected, in their project work, to show awareness of the distinction between more and less reliable sources. Looking at the credentials of the source is important here.
Students can be asked to look at an article and discuss whether it contains any facts or opinions, how they can distinguish between them, and how they could go about checking the reliability of the source.
Nigel Warburton's OU Exploring Philosophy series Derren Brown interview on ‘Appearance and Reality’ Clips from the Matrix AC Grayling 10 minutes on Theory of Knowledge Images of optical illusions. Extracts from Descartes' Meditations 1 and 2
Begin by defining metaphysics (the branch of philosophy which explores questions about general features of reality e.g. what is space? what is time? what is the mind?)
Explain that the problem of personal identity is a metaphysical one.
Distinguish between accidental and essential properties. The question is: what properties are essential to your continuing to exist as the same person?
Look at the Ship of Theseus Problem (BBC ‘What makes me me?’ video).
Discuss the link to the problem of what makes me the same person at different times.
Explore physical continuity, psychological continuity and soul theories. Introduce thought experiments to challenge these theories (see the clip from Parfit)
Watch the Baggini clip and end with a class debate on the proposition 'there is no such thing as the real me'.
Link to possible projects:
What makes me the person I am?
Is a person defined by the role they play in life?
Can personal identity survive memory loss?
BBC ‘What makes me me?’ video Clip from documentary with interview of Derek Parfit
BBC History of Ideas ‘What does it mean to be me?’and ‘Locke on Personal Identity’
Baggini: Is there a real me?
Shelly Kagan’s Open Yale course: lecture on personal identity
Begin by defining ethics as the branch of philosophy which explores questions about goodness.
Ask the class to identify a number of ethical issues.
We believe that we should be good - but why? Is it because we don't want to get caught?
Tell the story of the Ring of Gyges and watch the BBC clip 'why should I be good?'
Discuss the questions raised in the video.
A further thought experiment (derived from ideas in Jana Mohr Lone’s Philosophical Child:
Suppose you want to go to a cinema but find you don't have enough money to get in. However, there is a sign saying ' under 15s get in free''. You recently turned 15. Is it OK to lie about your age?
After some discussion, the general question, ‘why is it wrong to lie?’ can be explored.
The reasons that are offered may lead to discussion of common ethical frameworks; for example:
‘It is against God’s law’ (a divine command perspective)
‘People are upset when they find out they have been lied to’ (reasons which locate the badness of an action in its consequences)
‘It is a way of manipulating people’ (an appeal to the Kantian idea that people should be treated as ends, not just as means to an end).
The may be opportunity for critical reflection on the merits of these frameworks. It is worth pointing out that ethical questions make excellent starting points for project work, and that using a variety of frameworks can enrich the discussion of such questions. Point out that though there may be more than one framework, this does not mean that they are all ‘equally valid’ – there may be stronger arguments for certain ways of thinking about ethics.
BBC video 'Why should I be good?'
Jana Mohr Lone's book 'The Philosophical Child'
Plato’s Ring of Gyges from Republic Book II
Peter Worley’s The If Machine
Remind students that in the previous lesson, ethical questions were explored. Discuss the fact that people approach ethical questions from different points of view. One important difference is that which distinguishes the theory that some actions are right or wrong in themselves (a categorical theory) from the theory that the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its consequences (consequentialism).
Watch the opening 10 minutes of Michael Sandel's Justice lectures.
Discus the thought experiments and the difference between consequentialist and categorical answers to the question 'what is the right thing to do?'
Link to a clip about Peter Singer discussing the shallow pond thought experiment.
The BBC clips provide an accessible way into the topic, with questions for discussion.
There are many fruitful ideas for projects here: are rich people morally required to give to the poor? Should we show the same regard for the suffering of non-human animals as we do for humans? Should we allow genetic modification in sport? If there are some things that are wrong regardless of their consequences, what makes them wrong? Some of these could be discussed in small groups, with feedback.
Michael Sandel's Justice at Harvard lectures Peter Singer on an ethical life BBC History of Ideas ‘What is justice?’David Edmonds ‘Would you kill the fat man?’
BBC 'What’s fair?' and 'Who owns the sky?'
Introduce physicalism and dualism.
One way into the discussion of dualism is to ask whether out of body experiences are possible.
Define dualism as the claim that a person contains two parts - a physical body and non-physical soul. Define physicalism as the claim that a person is made up purely of physical stuff.
Ask the class to identify themselves on an opinion spectrum between the poles of dualism and physicalism. Discuss reasons for these positions.
Is consciousness something more than a physical process? Is there more to be said about consciousness than can be said in the language of science? If so does this support dualism?
Consider other physical processes (e.g. playing sport) which can be described in more than one way. Does this make the process non-physical?
Listen to the Philosophy Bite podcast with Tim Crane.
As the class is listening, invite them to think about the differences between dualism and physicalism.
David Papineau’s talk on ‘Can science solve every mystery’ provides an argument for physicalism
You may want to introduce short extracts from Descartes' Mediations 6 (the conceivability argument) and a summary of Nagel's ‘What is it like to be a bat?’
Invite the group to prepare 2 minute speeches for a final class debate on the proposition 'we are purely physical beings'
Links to possible topics for projects: is love a purely physical process? Is the mind the same as the brain? Do dogs dream? Can deaf people appreciate music?
Descartes' Meditations 6 David Papineau ‘Can Science solve every mystery?’ A summary of Nagel’s ‘What is it like to be a bat?’
Begin with an open discussion of whether or not we have free will
Link to theories of moral responsibility
Introduce determinism: the claim that there is a sufficient physical cause for all physical effects.
Watch the history of ideas clip on Libet and discuss the growing evidence for choices being pre-determined by physical events in the brain.
Explore the apparent tension between freedom and determinism
What do we mean by a free choice?
You may wish to listen to part of Julian Baggini’s or Peter Millican’s talks.
Discuss Hume's definition of free will. Is there more to freedom than being able to do as you please?
A challenge for compatibilism: are you free as a drug addict?
Discuss second order freedom. Do we have freedom to choose our desires?
This is an excellent topic for a class debate.
There are links to projects on topics such as moral responsibility, whether scientific advances have made it harder to believe in free will and questions about the causation of behaviour (which may be expressed by students in terms of ‘nature versus nurture’)
BBC History of Ideas: The Libet Experiment Sam Harris on “Free Will” Julian Baggini ‘Do we have free will?’ Peter Millican’s Oxford General Philosophy lecture on Free Will, Determinism and Choice
Begin with a brief explanation of the background to Zeno's development of the paradoxes of motion (Parmenidean monism). Does anything move? What could be more obvious than that things move? Yet Zeno had some intriguing arguments against the possibility of motion.
Introduce the idea of paradox (The liar paradox is a good example to use). What is a paradox? How might we respond? (By denying one half, or by searching for an assumption which can be questioned e.g. with the liar, bivalence)
The 60 second adventures in thought clip is an excellent way into discussion of Zeno’s paradoxes.
Explore why there is a paradox here (it is common for students to assert that obviously Achilles will win; explain that the reason that there is a paradox is that there is also a good argument for saying that Achilles cannot overtake.
Discuss the question: can you do an infinite number of things in a finite time? (Would it be fair for the teacher to ask the class to write out every digit of Pi for this week's homework exercise? Could you do this even with infinite time?)
Discuss possible resolutions: perhaps time / space cannot be infinitely divided?
There are further interesting games and questions in the Patrick Honner article ‘Teaching the mathematics of infinity’
The discussion of Zeno’s paradoxes may lead into a more general discussion of the relationship between scientific and philosophical questions.
Is time a problem for science, philosophy or both? There is a lively debate on the IAI video with Angie Hobbs, Lawrence Krauss and others, exploring the difference between scientific and metaphysical problems.
60 second adventures in thought: Achilles and the Tortoise IAI video with Angie Hobbs and Lawrence Krauss Jonathan Tallant: the Philosophy of Time Patrick Honner: Teaching the Mathematics of Infinity
8 - 10
Explain to students that having learned about various central ideas and debates in Philosophy, they are going to begin the process of project work with a short pilot project.
This should be based on a topic that they chose based on the subjects they have studied in the course so far.
They are expected to produce a powerpoint presentation and a summary of 4 research sources to introduce your topic. This research may form the basis of their full Philosophy Project, though equally, they may find as a result of having studied a topic for a few weeks that they would prefer to do something different.
The pilot project is an excellent context for teaching students basic research skills (e.g. summarizing sources in their own words; creating citations and bibliographies) and skills in argument identification and presentation.
The notes below are in the form of guidance that can be given to students.
Make a list of 3 or 4 topics of interest which touch on philosophical themes (e.g. ‘the mind’, ‘free will’, ‘justice’, ‘identity’)
Search for specific questions within these areas.
Your question should be one that leads into a possible debate (e.g. ‘Could the mind survive the death of the body?’)
When you have made a list of around 6 – 8 possible questions, decide which you would like to use as the starting point for your pilot-project.
Your aim is to find out arguments on either side of the debate you are looking at.
You should identify 3 further research sources which can supply further arguments that are relevant to your chosen question.
Writing up research
Begin summarizing the information from your sources in your own words.
Put a title before the summary of each source.
At the end of the summary, insert a citation which includes the source details (you can do this using the ‘References’, ‘Insert Citation’, ‘Add new source’ buttons, or, if you are a Mac User, go to ‘Document Elements’)
A conclusion in which you evaluate which side wins the debate.
11 - 12
Project proposal and initial research
Following the pilot project, the first stage in the creation of the Philosophy Project proper is writing the project proposal form. It is worth spending time guiding students carefully at this stage, as clearly the choice of title influences the shape of the project to a considerable extent.
Here is some guidance that can be given to students:
This week, you should begin work on your project proposal form. As with the pilot project, it is best to generate a number of possible questions, then do some initial research to see if you can find sources. Bear in mind the following rules when choosing your question:
Try to be specific. Pick a question, not just a theme.
Pick something that interests you. You will do a much better project if you choose a topic that engages your interest.
Check that you can find suitable sources for your project. Some titles are too complicated. Others are too simplistic. Pick something that you can manage to research.
Pick something controversial. It needs to be a question about which you can argue.
In the proposal form, you need to include a plan of activities. This should be based on the deadlines in the powerpoint. Please add some more detail to the plan, based on what you will need to be doing for your project.
Some further points about the proposal form:
Check carefully that you have answered each of the questions. For example, in the objectives section, you are asked about the skills you would like to develop. It is worth having 3 or 4 specific objectives listed, so that you can evaluate your success in meeting them at the end of the project.
Check that you have a full plan of activities.
You should list specific resources you are going to use – e.g. details of books or websites you will be researching. Don’t just say ‘I will use books and the internet’ – give examples.
There is an exemplar proposal form on a philosophical theme available here. (This was written to exemplify a proposal for a Level 3 project but many of the features it contains illustrate points about Level 2 proposals)
13 - 17
Once a title has been chosen, students should begin work on their review of research. Explain to students that the point of the research review is to gather information about their chosen question. The research review will typically take up around 1000 – 1,200 words
A good first step is to make a plan of research, using broad headings (e.g. ‘History’, ‘Theories’, ‘Case Studies’), then begin to search for sources which can be written about under each of these headings.
Remind students that whilst they can use websites, you cannot get into the higher mark band unless you have a range of sources. So they should start to look for books, magazines and / or journal articles. This is a very helpful place to look: www.opendoar.org You may also want to teach students about writing in an academic style.
When using sources, they should avoid using the first person. The focus of their writing should be on the topic. It can help if students ask themselves to identify the main point they have learned from a source. This should be the opening sentence in a paragraph, with supporting evidence from the source following, followed by a citation.
Remind them that they should be updating their activity logs, typically on a weekly basis (at least). The log should not simply contain a record of activities; it should be a reflective journal, in which they record their thoughts about how their project is progressing. What might they try next? What have they thought about and decided not to do? What problems have they encountered and what do they propose to do about them?
There is an exemplar activity log on a philosophical theme available here. (This is a Level 3 log but may still be useful as a way of drawing attention to the need for students to reflect on the ideas they are thinking about, as well as recording their activities)
18 - 23
Discussion of arguments
Once the students have written a draft of their research review, students should write the discussion section of their project. This is the section of the project in which they give their answer to their research question, back it up with arguments, consider counter-arguments and respond to these.
It is worth pointing out to students that they need to actively engage in the process of defending of some particular answer to their question rather than simply reviewing what other people have said. The model of Point, Argument, Counter-Argument, Response is a useful one for structuring the discussion section of their projects. The discussion section should be around 1200 words in length.
Students often find it difficult to decide where they stand with respect to their research question. A peer interview can help them establish their point of view (e.g. students can take turns asking questions such as ‘what is your point of view?’, ‘what arguments do you find persuasive?’, ‘what are the strongest arguments against your point of view?’
Remind students that their arguments should draw on their research; it is not simply an essay in which they voice their opinion, but should make use of the arguments they have encountered when researching.
24 - 25
Completion of draft (introduction & conclusion)
Once the discussion section of the project has been drafted, students should add a short introduction and conclusion to their project. The introduction (which should be around 250 words in length) should give an overview of the topics to be explored, and it should explain the research question. It should also provide a rationale for the project. Why does the topic matter? What will the reader gain from reading the project?
The conclusion should succinctly summarize (in around 200 words) the main line of argument followed in the project.
26 - 27
Re-drafting and evaluation
Before submission, invite students to read through their work and re-draft it.
Is the project in a logical order, with sub-headings, page numbers, good page layout and an appropriate style of writing?
Have they used ‘sign-post sentences’ to help the reader (e.g. ‘In this project, I will explore….’, ‘I will be arguing that…’, ‘Having considered X, we now move on to look at Y’…)?
Have they included a Bibliography (if they have been entering source details into their word processor, they can create this simply by going to the Reference bar and clicking the Bibliography button).
The review of the project is important. Students should write about how the project has gone, asking themselves the following questions:
Did you meet your objectives?
What have you learned about research?
What skills have you gained?
How could you extend your project if you had more time?
What could you have done differently?
As part of their review, they should show your work to someone else and get feedback from them.
Although not mandatory, a short oral presentation can be a good way to finish the project process. The oral can provide an opportunity for students to review their work and discuss how their ideas have developed. It is advisable to encourage them to be brief and to the point (‘Less is more’). They could, for example, use the following questions as a guide:
Introduction: What question did I choose, and why?
Summary of research: What were the main areas I looked at and what did I find out?
Summary of discussion: What point of view did I defend? What arguments did I consider? What What counter-arguments did I consider and how did I respond to them?
Review of project: What did I conclude? What have I learned from the project process? Did I meet my aims? What would I do differently if I were starting again?