The P4T Map of Educational Theory

Metatheory as Educational Synthesis

4 Quests of Developmental Practice

The 4Ps are the four global dimensions of practice which seek to encapsulate the philosophical importance of teaching at different developmental scales. Each dimension is conceived as a quest in the philosophy of education as well as an approach to coherent and comprehensive practice.

P1 is the Quest for personal development

This personal dimension of educational development is the ground of reflective practice in the person of the teacher in themselves as foundational to the other quests.

P2 is the Quest for pedagogical development

The pedagogical dimension of educational development recognises the primary function of a teacher’s work in the development of others. How a teacher teaches provides the basic definition and direction to practice in relation to the other quests.

P3 is the Quest for professional development

The professional dimension of educational development is the means by which teachers organise socially with one another to enable effective teaching. It concerns the organisational and institutional development of the profession as instrumental to the other quests.

P4 is the Quest for planetary development

The planetary dimension of educational development is the goal of teaching in respect of creating a better world and the philosophical influence of teachers on the planet as a whole. This is an aspirational motivation intrinsic to the vocation to teach and culminates the work of the other quests.

16 Metapractices

Each quest for educational development consists of four metapractices, making sixteen interconnected metapractices in total.

P1 Metapractices in the Quest for Personal Development

The P1 metapractices consist of a practical and theoretical balance between Mindfulness, Personality, Spirituality and Way of Life in living one’s personal philosophy. Mindfulness is the grounding activity of personal development; spirituality gives transpersonal direction to personal development as a practice; personality is the instrumental means by which personal development is enabled; and pursuing a Way of Life is the philosophical goal of personal development.

P2 Metapractices in the Quest for Pedagogical Development

P2 metapractices consist of a practical and theoretical balance between the practices of Thinking, Imaginative Teaching, Positive Learning and Curriculum Ideology in one’s pedagogical philosophy. Thinking is the grounding activity of pedagogical/academic development; Imaginative Teaching utilises a culturally intelligent stage theory to give direction to pupil and student  development; a fourfold approach to Positive Learning is the instrumental means by which the pedagogical development of pupils and students is enabled; and pursuing a coherent philosophy of the Curriculum in practice is the goal of pedagogical development.

P3 Metapractices in the Quest for Professional Development

P3 metapractices concern the development of professional association, collegiality, organisation and agency. They consist of a practical and theoretical balance between Teamworking, Professional Culture, Leadership and creation of the Transformative School or University. Teamworking is the grounding activity of professional development in association with colleagues; a dynamic Professional Culture based on the harmonisation of competing values give direction to the development of the profession; a blend of Leadership styles are the instrumental means by which the development of agency, association and organisation is enabled; and pursuing a superordinate philosophy of the Transformative School or University is the goal of professional development.

P4 Metapractices in the Quest for Planetary Development

P4 metapractices consist of a practical and theoretical balance between Worldview, Politics, Peace and Civilisation. Worldview development as the deep reconciliation of diverse world views is the grounding activity of planetary development; a fourfold approach to the global citizenship of world Peace gives direction to planetary development; an educative approach to Politics based on different modes of political engagement is the instrumental means by which planetary development is enabled locally; and the philosophical pursuit of global society in terms of ideal types of Civilisation is the goal of planetary development.

64 Practical Growthpoints

Each metapractice in turn consists of four focal growthpoints which makes an array of 64 growthpoints in total. The multiplicity of growthpoints is indicative of the depth of practice and also illustrates the philosophical precision of the P4T synthesis as a whole. The synopsis mapped below signposts the significance of each individual growthpoint in relation to the whole but for practical purposes P4T focuses on the 16 metapractices. Thus each growthpoint will have resonance and applicability beyond its own metapractice which could be utilised pragmatically in a mix and match approach depending on a teacher’s needs, opportunities and context. However, a growthpoint is most theoretically coherent and practically useful when developed dynamically in harmony with the other three growthpoints in a particular cluster. For this reason the P4T theoretical framework focuses on the 4Ps and the 16 metapractices which are most meaningful and user-friendly for self-authoring practitioners.

Interactive Map : zooming-out for Global orientation : zooming-in for Focal development

Mapping and Navigating the Fourfold Dynamic of Metapractice

Thinking in Fours and Qualitative Systems Thinking

Thinking about the numeric qualities of systems derives from the work of JG Bennett (1897-1974), a pioneer of systems thinking. Utilising Anthony M. Hodgson’s summary of J.G.Bennett’s General Systematics, educational practice can be theorised in terms of ones (monads), twos (dyads), threes (triads),  fours (tetrads), fives (pentads), sixes (hexads) and more. P4T can make use of any of these first six systems as indicated in the table below but is particularly focused on the 4-term system because of its intrinsic focus on appreciating practice as a field of action. The fourfold logic of the tetrad has been used implicitly to construct the P4T map of educational theory.

SYSTEMNameAppreciative QualityCoherence AttributeP4T Applications
1-termMONADTotality without distinction of partsUniversalityWhat's the one thing we are talking about that enables us to appreciate diversity in unity? What's the whole (big) picture which transcends and includes everything else?
2-termDYADDifference without degreesComplementarityWhat is the dilemma here? How do these opposites complement one another? What are the essential differences that we need to recognise?
3-termTRIADRelatedness without relativityDynamismHow can polarisation be made less dysfunctional? How to we balance the opposing forces so that they interact more effectively? How can the positive and negative be reconciled by a neutral force? How can this relationship be repaired? How can the dynamic interaction of these three forces create a fourth at a higher level of practice?
4-termTETRADStructured activity with relatedness and orderField of ActionWhat is the ground, goal, direction and instrument that structures our practice best? How can we harmonise the four key components of activity so that they are generative rather than destructive? How can we create one framework comprised of these four competing values?
5-termPENTADInternal and external potentialitySignificanceWhat significance does this person or entity have within their own inner limits and potential for growth, in the context of what the outer world provides and could fulfil?
6-termHEXADMultiple event manifestation around an identityCoalescenceWhat are the six steps that enable this to be realised? What are the six laws that determine regeneration? What are the six recurrent phases of action which enable transformation?

Integrating Caring, Critical, Creative and Collaborative Thinking

Applying the 4Cs of P4C to the 4Ps of P4T

According to Bennett, the four sources of a tetrad are the Ground, Goal, Direction and Instrument of any activity or practice. In P4T these can be elegantly integrated with the pedagogical metathinking of Philosophy for Children, popularly known as  the 4Cs of P4C conceived by Matthew Lipman and developed by Roger Sutcliffe.

Caring thinking is particularly focused on the ground of any enquiry

Collaborative thinking on the goal of thinking as an enquiry’s cooperative outcome

Critical thinking on the clarity of an enquiry’s direction

Creative thinking on the generative instrument of enquiry.


This fusion of the tetrad with the metathinking of P4C results in an enriched terminology of Bennett’s four terms when applied to educational practice as follows:

caring-ground : collaborative-goal : critical-direction : creative-instrument

As a tetrad these four sources and modes of thinking in a field of practice define the components of any dynamic educative activity and provide an ordering and generative function at different levels of developmental quest, metapractice and growthpoint. The Map’s synthesis of multiple fourfold models in the field is thereby structured by these terms and modes of thinking at different scales of theory and practice.

This is how the map helps to integrate and reconcile otherwise competing and conflicting educational perspectives by transcending and including the polarities of dyadic thinking. The quest for such harmony within and between the 4Ps of P4T is important in a field where many disparate academic disciplines converge on education without a unifying teaching philosophy. It is even more imperative in the context of a world metacrisis  in which polarisation and fragmentation demand educational solutions which embrace all four Ps of P4T.

Thus the synthesis of tetrads also works at the level of a systematic hypothesis in respect of how key educative theories might best be aligned with the four terms to meet different needs of personal, pedagogical, professional and planetary development. However, by definition any such construction of educational theory must in principle be open to continuing enquiry leading to alternative orientations of theory and potentially better maps.

Identifying Four Sources of Activity in Practice

According to Bennett, at any scale of the map there are four sources that order any given activity leading to change: its Ground, Goal, Direction and Instrument.

Being able to discern the four sources serves to distinguish an activity from mere change based on random meaningless happening.

This quest for balance between four sources of activity is also what lends meaning and coherence to the map as well as providing for its usefulness amidst the complexities of practice.

Motivational Axis

The terms Ground and Goal represent the whence and whither of an activity respectively and hence are basically Motivational. They both concern the motives and causes of an activity.


The Ground of an activity includes the initial situation of an activity but is also analogous to the soil in which a plant grows and also the seed potential that contains the separate urges of all the component elements through which they come together in a concerted activity. All  four of the 4Cs can be applied to thinking about the ground but Caring thinking is the mode which best elicits the mental-affective acts of concern, appreciation, loving, minding, tending, nourishing and obliging which motivate an educational activity.


The Goal indicates the ideal pattern which unites all the components of an activity into a structured whole. It can also signify the end-point and fulfilment of the activity: the central theme or motive that sustains the activity as a whole. So too can all four of the 4Cs be applied to thinking about the goal but Collaborative thinking is the mode which best elicits the mental-affective acts of participation, cooperation, intention, common purpose, mutuality, commitment and mission which motivate educational activity.

Operational Axis

The terms Direction and Instrument represent the what and how of an activity respectively and hence are basically Operational. They both concern the operations and conditions required of an activity.


is the cognitive element whereby an activity is ordered and adjusted to all other activities with which it is connected. It provides critical clarity as the ‘right hand’ leading the concerted action, the guiding intelligence of any activity.  Direction is thus also the way in which the activity is focused and can be conceptually recognised as a whole. All  four of the 4Cs can be applied to thinking about direction but Critical thinking is the mode which best elicits the mental-affective acts of judging, defining, balancing, criteria-observing, criteria-observing and sensitivity to context that guide an educational activity.


The Instrument of an activity comprises the inner working of an activity and the mutual adjustments it calls for. The ‘left hand’ as the field of creative action, the vehicle or receptacle within which it proceeds. Again, all  four of the 4Cs can be applied to thinking about the instrument but Creative thinking is the mode which best elicits the mental-affective acts of imagining, inventing, generating, unifying, innovating and crafting which condition how an educational activity progresses (or deteriorates).

Interplay and Balance of Activity in Practice

For example, at the superordinate scale of the 4Ps,  we care firstly about the Personal development of teachers as the ground of collaborative Planetary development. Caring for teachers in themselves is thus a given of educational philosophy.

In turn, Planetary Development is the ultimate goal of Personal development to which we orient ourselves motivationally. Teachers teach not for our own development primarily but for a better world. However, a better world cannot be achieved without valuing the personal development of teachers.

Likewise Pedagogical development provides critical Direction to the profession in interplay with the creative Instrument of professional development. We develop the profession creatively, including the leadership, management and administration of institutions, but always consistently with the direction provided by clear values and principles of pedagogy.

Pedagogical and Professional development are therefore not pursued for their own sake but serve in balance to optimise the realisation of Personal and Planetary development.

Examples of how thinking in Fours helps harmonise Theory and Practice at different scales

Harmonising the four modes of thinking as a metapractice


Whilst thinking can be stimulated by any of the four sources, the ground of the thinking process in Caring Thinking sustains the focus on what concerns an individual or group.


The goal of thinking is effective Collaborative Thinking process of a community of inquiry with practical influence beyond itself


The direction for an inquiry is decided by Critical Thinking which defines the focus of inquiry and provides criteria for judging the progress of an inquiry


The instrument of an inquiry is the Creative Thinking process of an individual or group generating creative solutions to problems

Interplay and Balance

Thus motivationally (along the motivational axis), Caring thinking grounds Collaborative thinking; and the outcomes of Collaborative thinking fulfil Caring thinking.

While operationally (along the operational axis), it is the interplay of Critical and Creative thinking which facilitates Caring and Collaborative thinking.

Harmonising the four curriculum ideologies as a practice


The ground of P4T’s curriculum theory according to the synthesis is the Scholar Academic ideology which forms the historic basis of the curriculum in terms of the school’s purpose, role of teacher and theory of learning, conception of childhood and approach to assessment.


The goal of P4T’s curriculum theory, as determined by the synthesis, is the Learner-centred ideology which prioritises the personal development of pupils via a personalised curriculum


The direction of P4T’s curriculum theory is provided by the Social Efficiency ideology which seeks to prioritise the needs and enhance the functionality of current society


The instrument of P4T’s curriculum theory is the Social Reconstruction ideology which seeks to prefiguratively and creatively educate for the emerging ideal society of the future

Interplay and Balance

Thus motivationally (along the motivational axis), the Scholar Academic philosophy grounds the Learner-centred position; and the Learner-centred philosophy fulfils the Scholar Academic position;  two approaches that are often opposed rather than combined.

While operationally (along the operational axis), it is the interplay of the Social Efficiency and Social Reconstruction positions, which are also often dysfunctionally opposed to each other, that facilitates the Scholar Academic/Learner-centred dynamic

Harmonising the four components of a way of life as a metapractice


Whilst the catalyst for a way of life can come from any of the four sources dynamically interacting with one another, its motivational ground is perhaps best conceived  in terms of the feelings and emotions of one’s subjective state on a scale of wellbeing and general happiness.


The corresponding goal of a way of life is existential Depth. Depth is the particular wisdom you acquire learning from life’s trials so as to appreciate its beauty, mystery and tragedy. This deepening of character involves mediating our lowest and highest states on the journey towards more ecstasy relative to agony.


The direction of one’s way of life is largely determined by the literacy of the symbolic Code we have developed through immersion in particular forms of culture.


The instrument of a way of life, the means by which we develop a philosophical lifestyle,  is our capacity for solving real-world problems on a scale of increasing cognitive complexity.

Interplay and Balance

Thus motivationally (along the motivational axis), our sense of wellbeing in subjective State grounds our quest for existential Depth; and the Depth of our lived wisdom fulfils the quest for our happiest State.

While operationally (along the operational axis), it is the interplay of rich symbolic Code and creative problem-solving of Complex challenges that enable us to achieve a productive way of life in the world around us.

Harmonising the four worldviews as a metapractice


The ground of P4T’s worldview theory as mapped in the synthesis is the Traditional worldview which forms the historic basis of the other worldviews, caring about what matters universally and conserved in particular traditions (though a strong argument could also be made for the traditional being grounded itself in a pre-traditional/indigenous worldview).


The goal of P4T’s worldview theory is the Integrative worldview which by definition seeks to integrate the best of all the other worldviews, getting them to work together collaboratively and reconciling their multi-perspectival complexity


The direction of P4T’s worldview theory is provided by the Postmodern worldview which seeks by default to continuously critique and deconstruct the modern worldview


The instrument of P4T’s worldview theory is the Modern worldview which is primarily concerned with creatively developing the capacities for unlimited progress in any field

Interplay and Balance

Thus motivationally (along the motivational axis), the Traditional worldview helps grounds the Integrative worldview in particular traditions; and the the Integrative worldview fulfils the Traditional worldview beyond particular traditions;  neither are permitted to be reductive but rather the traditional can be better appreciated as generative and the integrative as regenerative.

While operationally (along the operational axis), it is the interplay of the critical Postmodern and creative Modern worldviews that facilitates the motivational Traditional/Integrative dynamic. When polarised and totalised these worldviews are destructive of tradition and ecological integration but when brought into play constructively and deconstructively oscillating between one another they critically and creatively enable their generative and regenerative intentionality.

Alternative Personalisations of Theory – the case of Civilisation

As the map of tetrads also works at the level of a hypothesis in respect of how key theory can best be aligned with the respective four terms, it is accepted that any such construction be open to enquiry and capable of alternative orientations. Indeed P4T is interested in stimulating teacher philosophy with the help of a good map, even striving for the best of maps, but never at the expense of teachers knowing themselves, self-authoring their own personalised theory, developing their own transformative practice and teaching for a better world wherever they are situated.

For example the theory of Civilisation is construed as being grounded in Religious civilisation with its goal in Ecological civilisation, with Revolutionary civilisation providing critical direction and Political civilisation creative capacity. As a hypothesis this theory should itself be open to discussion in a community of inquiry inviting dialogue on which of Religious, Political, Revolutionary and Ecological civilisation appropriately forms the Ground, Goal, Direction or Instrument in relation to any particular field of educative practice. A practitioner’s personalised theory might see that a new kind of religious civilisation is better conceived as the goal and a more sustainable ecological civilisation as the ground, with the political clarifying direction and the revolutionary becoming the instrument for change. This interchangeability of terms applied to fourfold theoretical models of course applies to all the other tetrads which might take on a different dynamic within communities of inquiry in alternative contexts.

© 2020 Tim Saunders PhD


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