Discussion-Based Pedagogy to Promote Socio-emotional Learning and Well-Being Among Students in a Japan


  • Yoko Kitami
  • Lois A. Yamuchi


The Japanese educational system is highly competitive and applies high stakes standardized admission testing. As this approach has led to student stress and a narrow instructional focus, the Japanese Government revised educational goals toward more holistic development of well-rounded citizens who are healthy, independent, creative, and work collaboratively with others. However, many teachers did not know how to promote these new goals. This study investigated Japanese educators’ application of Philosophy for Children, a discussion-based inquiry approach that has been used to promote socioemotional learning and well-being. Methods included email communications with 29 educators, analysis of Japanese language documents related to the approach in Japan, and observations of meetings of educators who used the method. Educators applied the approach to elementary, secondary, and university settings. The approach was used to promote socioemotional learning and critical thinking among Japanese children. Some have used the approach to facilitate children's healing after the Tohoku earthquake and other trauma. Facilitators applied the approach outside of the classroom in public settings like train stations to promote everyday citizens’ expression and understanding. The results suggest that Philosophy for Children has the potential to promote holistic goals for children and adults.