I had a great trip to Bangkok for Earcos 2012 and a wonderful time presenting there on Harkness method. My Earcos school rep told me to plan for twenty attendees, and 80+ showed up — I ran out of packets quite fast. I met some wonderful teachers doing really cool things, like Evan Weinberg — a math teacher who is looking for more opportunities for discussion in his classes (always cool to see this happening in math). I was really surprised and excited by how many people emailed me later to ask for help in spreading Harkness method to their schools. I hope to have the chance to travel some more to share this work with educators at conferences and other schools.
For anyone interested in the work I’ve been doing, this is what it is in a nutshell: Harkness method is a specific kind of Socratic seminar that originated at Phillips Exeter Academy in the early 20th century. I learned a version of Harkness at The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, NY, when I taught there, a version that included group grading (the whole class gets an A, or the whole class gets a D, etc.), which in my mind is key to the whole method. I continued to hone my use of Harkness method over the years so that it fostered what I believe to be the most crucial skills for today’s graduates: problem-solving, collaboration, communication, and self-evaluation. I’m really happy with the results, and it’s exciting to share the work at this stage — though it continues to be a work in progress in my classroom.
I have made efforts to address concerns by math and science teachers that Harkness can’t really be done in their disciplines (Exeter has used Harkness exclusively in its math program for 25 years, and there is some interesting data on how discussion improves learning in the sciences), and I have piloted Harkness in two second-grade classrooms at my current school to see how it works at the elementary level (it worked quite well, but the younger students need more structure and scaffolding).
For anyone interested in more details on the particular way I use Harkness method — or what I like to call Harkness 2.0 — please check out the wiki with all the documents, videos, and links related to my workshop.