Assia Buono


Q: How did your introduction course come about?

I was really fortunate the principal at my own secondary school was very positive about the idea of philosophy from the start. But, there were three key arguments that helped me bring the course to life:

  1. The Young Philosopher Awards is based in University College Dublin. This can be used as an anchor to encourage students who otherwise wouldn’t aim for university.

  2. The skills of critical thinking and persuasive argumentation are relevant to many other fields of study like Law, Business. They are highly transferable.

  3. Teachers are sick to death of teaching ‘to the test’ for terminal exams where students rote learn and repeat remembered answers. Philosophy is the paradigm way to prepare students for university-style independent thinking and learning.

Q: How does the course work?

I deliver 1-hour sessions for 5 consecutive weeks to the class. I give the students a broad introduction to key Philosophical ideas (including Identity, Morality and Metaphysics) and encourage them to submit a poster for the Young Philosopher Awards. I then run 1:1 follow up meetings with each student who decides to go forward to the competition.

Initially I leaned very much on pre-canned presentations as this was safest, but once I discovered the P4C student-led approach – I’ll never go back. I tend to shy away from Philosophy of Religion or Politics. It’s great to let students lead the inquiry but it can get very tricky very quickly tackling things like Repeal the 8th

Q: How did students react to trying philosophy for the first time?

There were of course a lot of misconceptions about what philosophy was – Harry Potter’s Philosopher Stone was not a great help here! Some key lessons I learned were:

Keep it simple and avoid complex terminology. Sometimes a simple story book is a good start as warm-up exercises.

Instead of approaching it like a “History of Ideas” session – focus on thought experiments (like Kant’s Axeman). This is much more engaging as students can express themselves personally, creatively and critically.

You can keep students on-task by asking “Tell me why you think that…” “Give me a reason to support that idea…”. This is helpful to avoid a talking shop of opinions.

Keep the guiding questions relevant to their lives and experience. Issues like “Should you always keep a friend’s secret?” and “Do addicts have free will?” have worked well with my classes.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

The course was a big hit at my first schools, so I have increased from 20 students to 50. I’d love to have brand new schools involved and that’s what I’ll be working on.

5 Week introduction course


If you can’t commit to the full Short Course our contributor, Assia Buono, has delivered a 5-week taster which brings students through some key ideas in philosophy. At the end of this course, students pick a key idea they can develop independently to create a poster to submit to the Young Irish Philosopher Award held annually at UCD.

> Interview with Assia Buono here


Introduction To Philosophy – Course Outline PPT

Introduction To Philosophy – Class Lesson Plan here


Fate, Determinism and Free Will – Class Lesson Plan here


Moral Philosophy and Ethics – Class Lesson Plan here


Happiness and the ‘Good’ Life – Class Lesson Plan here


Love and Death – Class Lesson Plan here