Earcos 2012 and Harkness 2.0

13 Apr

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.


3 Responses to “Earcos 2012 and Harkness 2.0”

  1. Johnothon Sauer November 11, 2012 at 12:57 am #

    I would be interested in any information you have about Harkness being used in a public school setting or in a math classroom (or both). I am implementing Harkness this year in my classroom, and while things are going very well I’m always looking for ideas from others who have been at it a bit longer than I. If it helps, I am blogging my “adventures” this year at harknessforthirty.blogspot.com.



    • alexisswiggins November 11, 2012 at 1:08 am #

      Hi Johnothon,

      Here is a link to my SPIDER Web wiki http://alexiswiggins.pbworks.com/, with loads of info on how to use it. There is a Q & A with the math department head of Exeter there, a document for math students at Exeter on how to “survive” Harkness, and several articles that show research on how group discussion improves learning outcomes in the sciences (at the college level no less, where discussion is often anathema). The Exeter math model is interesting, because they have done away with text books and they design specific problem sets (available on their web page) for students to work their way through all four years of high school, in growing levels of sophistication.

      In addition, check out this guy’s blog; I met him at an Earcos conference where I presented, and he is experimenting with this in his math classroom. He might be a really good resource for you. http://evanweinberg.com/

      Will definitely check out your blog and would love to follow your progress. I have heard of teachers using this in the public setting, including one Exeter grad doing so in inner-city schools in L.A., but I don’t personally know any myself. Anyone out there? Speak up and let us know!



  1. Goodbye Harkness, Hello SPIDER Web « Models By Design - September 16, 2012

    […] is my dad and a big inspiration to my work as teacher, writer, and consultant). I pitched AE my Harkness workshop and they liked it; they wanted me to present it as a way of “making meaning” within the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: