Harkness Learning

The Harkness methodology at Culver points to a transition of the classroom that emphasizes proactive, dynamic learning where the student is the primary actor rather than the traditional model of excessive content and retention.

Harknessing was developed in the 1930s at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H. in an attempt to "move away from the traditional model of teaching: teacher lectures information to students, the students copy the information onto paper, and later, the students 'regurgitate' the previously instructor-fed information back onto tests and essays." (Shapiro, Harkness Learning)

In 1996, after developing a Humanities 9 course, the Harkness approach became a staple for Culver instructors – developing lifelong skills that transcended the curriculum.

 

What does Harkness look like?

For example, a student could be asked to read a chapter on Italian nationalism in the 1030s, examine one chapter from Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front," and also interpret poems by Rupert Brooke and Jessie Pope.

Seated around a large, oval table, Culver students come prepared to engage each other with comments, questions, and textual citations from the assignment. 

Ideally, the process involves students to a greater degree than they are accustomed.

"They must search for the ideas and information and then wrestle with that which they find. Students who engage themselves with the Harkness class will finish with a sense of autonomy and empowerment, knowing how to learn," Shapiro wrote.

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