Year 9 – Harkness Method, by Ms de Souza, Business Department

This year, one Year 9 Economics group (18 students) have been introduced to the Harkness teaching method.  The method allows students to develop discussion skills and promotes independent learning and intellectual discovery.  Harkness teaching is a pedagogical strategy pioneered in the 1930s by the Phillips Exeter Academy (PEA), New Hampshire, USA and adopted wholly by that school ever since.

The class sit around an oval-shaped table (at Beths we didn’t have one and therefore had to be creative).  The purpose for that is to facilitate a Socratic style of learning driven by the students where they are able to share and explore new knowledge, verbalise and communicate their thoughts, accept new ideas and question old ones, consider and analyse a variety of viewpoints, listen carefully to one another and unpack complex concepts through collaboration and deep discussion.

Below is what some students have said:

“Doing the Harkness table exercise has really helped my progress over the past year, it has enabled me to expand my knowledge by sharing my ideas and listening and considering other people’s views. Not only that, I am now much more confident and willing to express my views.”

“It helped as we are able to discuss our ideas and develop concepts of our economy.  We usually come up with solutions to problems our UK government faces and discuss how these solutions will effect different demographics of our country.”

“I think that the preparation of the Harkness table prior to the lesson has helped me increase my knowledge of the subject.  It has also helped increase my economic vocabulary.  During Harkness table lessons we discuss the topic and we all put our points across.  We can learn from other people’s views and learn new information that we did not find.”

“The Harkness table lessons are very beneficial.  They help me share ideas and receive feedback from others.  I can now present to others, with confidence, what my opinion is on different topics. The biggest long term benefit is the knowledge you gain because the preparation you do can lead anywhere and it makes you want to know more.  If I did it in every subject I would benefit greatly!”