Virtues in the Classroom

Jonathan Beale, Researcher-in-Residence, CIRL

This Saturday, 20 June 2020, CIRL are hosting a free online conference in collaboration with the University of Hertfordshire’s Forum for Virtue and Understanding, on ‘Virtues in the Classroom’. The conference will explore ways in which we can model philosophical virtues in the classroom, such as charitability, logical reasoning, critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, rational judgement, and intellectual humility. In philosophy, we tend to think we’re modelling rigorous enquiry in pursuit of the truth, but students are sometimes exposed to what might just seem to be bullying pedantry. There may be virtues that are invisible, or difficult to model at the same time as others.

To illustrate using an example from another discipline, doctors must be outwardly confident – that’s part of what you get from your doctor: reassurance that your ailment is understood and under as much control as possible. The last thing you need is your physician blowing their cheeks and saying, “um”. At the same time, doctors must have plenty of intellectual humility, because if they get things wrong there are grave risks to the health of patients. How does a medical educator model both? Anecdote suggests that traditional medical training includes florid displays of the former and not much of the latter.

This conference will put on talks and provide a forum for discussion of the theme of how teachers can model philosophical virtues, how such modelling might be skilfully done, and where the pedagogical risks lie. More broadly, the event considers the theme of virtues in education.


All talks are 30 minutes followed by 15 minutes Q&A. The Zoom link will be circulated to registered attendees ahead of the event (register here). Talks will be recorded for the CIRL podcast. All timings are in British Summer Time (BST).

2pm: Welcoming remarks (Prof. Constantine Sandis & Dr Jon Beale)

2.05-2.50pm: Dr Peter Dennis (Stowe School): Teaching Epistemic Virtues

2.50-3.35pm: Dr Laura D’Olimpio (University of Birmingham): Educating for the Future: Being Critical and Kind

3.35-3.45pm: Break

3.45-4.30pm: Prof. Angie Hobbs (University of Sheffield): Virtues, Flourishing and Education in an Age of Uncertainty

4.30-5.15pm: Dr Brendan Larvor (University of Hertfordshire): What virtues do we philosophers model in our classrooms?

5.15-5.20pm: Closing Remarks


Dr Peter Dennis taught Philosophy at the London School of Economics before training as a secondary school teacher at Stowe School. He will be Head of Religion and Philosophy at Brighton College from September.

Twitter: @drpdennis

Dr Laura D’Olimpio is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Education at the University of Birmingham. Laura co-edits the Journal of Philosophy in Schools and regularly contributes to The Conversation, and Radio National’s Philosopher’s Zone and The Minefield. Her first book, Media and Moral Education: a philosophy of critical engagement (Routledge, 2018) won the 2018 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia’s annual book prize. Her second book, The Necessity of Aesthetic Education is forthcoming with Bloomsbury.

Twitter: @Lauradol4

Professor Angie Hobbs FRSA gained a degree in Classics and a PhD in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. After a Research Fellowship at Christ’s College, Cambridge, she moved to the Philosophy Department at the University of Warwick; in 2012 she was appointed Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, a position created for her. Her chief interests are in ancient philosophy and literature, and ethics and political theory from classical thought to the present, with an emphasis on the ethics and politics of flourishing. She has published widely in these areas, including Plato and the Hero (Cambridge University Press, 2000). Her most recent publication is Plato’s Republic: A Ladybird Expert Book (2019).

Hobbs has long worked in a wide variety of fora promoting more philosophy provision in schools and is an Honorary Patron of the Philosophy Foundation. She contributes regularly to radio and TV programmes and other media, and has spoken at the World Economic Forum at Davos, the Houses of Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and Westminster Abbey. She has been the guest on Desert Island DiscsPrivate Passions and Test Match Special.

Twitter: @drangiehobbs

Dr Brendan Larvor studied philosophy and mathematics at Balliol College, University of Oxford before embarking on a brief career as a systems analyst. He quickly resumed his studies in philosophy, taking an Masters from Queen’s University Ontario before returning to Balliol to write a doctoral thesis on the philosophy of mathematics of Imre Lakatos. He taught at the Universities of Liverpool and Oxford before joining the University of Hertfordshire in 1997. He specialises in the history and philosophy of mathematics and science, and philosophy of education.

Twitter: @brendanlarvor

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