The Harkness® Method

The Harkness® Method promotes student-directed, discussion-based learning.  Students own the process and the responsibility of understanding.  The Method originated at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire in 1932 when philanthropist Edward Harkness challenged the Exeter faculty to create an innovative way of teaching. Exeter decided to replace traditional, teacher–led classes with small classes where discussions around the whole table were the focus.

How Harkness Works

Typically, 15 students sit around an oval “Harkness” Table, and the teacher guides and promotes discussion. Harkness teaches students to collaborate rather than compete, to come to class prepared, and to use critical thinking skills to come to a better understanding of the material at hand.  The most obvious element of Harkness is the table, which is designed to allow teachers and students to be visually and verbally engaged with one another. This interaction is the primary element of Harkness.

Harkness Effects

The Method fosters learning through discussion and discovery, the development of a student's individual voice and academic confidence.  With Harkness, students are challenged to actively discuss rather than passively digest, to discover answers and defend conclusions. While the hard math and English skills are learned, so are the soft skills of communication and poise.  The Harkness Method creates creative, confident and articulate learners.