Philosophy@The Virtual Art Museum will let you use works of art as prompts for philosophical discussions among high school students. Each of the units on the website contains 3 or 4 works of art with questions that you might find helpful in getting your students to really look at the works and discuss what they see in them. At the end, there are a series of philosophical questions that have been prepared for by the discussions of the artworks.
In getting your students to discuss philosophy, there are a number of very important pieces of advice to give them. First, LISTEN! This is really important. Too often students do not really listen to their peers, only being concerned with what the teacher thinks. So make sure that they listen to what their peers have to say. You can help them do this by having them focus on AGREEING and DISAGREEING. Suggest that they make up their minds about what they think of what their classmate has said and be prepared to say WHY they think what they do. If your students start focusing on these four basic words, they will be well on their way to having a philosophy discussion.
There is one more thing you can do to help them have their discussion and that is to get out of the way. I hope this doesn’t offend you, but it is often hard for teachers to give their students the space they need to have a productive discussion. We’ve studied so hard and taught so long that we expect our students to listen to what we have to say. But that won’t help them develop their own thinking skills. So give them the space they need to do that.
At the end of each section, we have some suggestions for pursuing the topics in more depth. We hope that you and your students find this useful.
Please let us know if we can do anything to help you and other teachers use this website and to foster philosophical discussions among high school students.