What is the Harkness Method at CAC and what is its impact on learning?
CAC is the first and only school in Egypt to have adopted the Harkness Method of teaching in several classes. The Harkness Method is a method of instruction where the classroom is designed where students sit at a circular table and are encouraged to participate and engage in dialog, rather than sitting at separate desks and being lectured by a teacher. The Harkness allows the teacher’s role to be more focused towards leading and guiding discussions which are run by the students themselves. This is used very effectively in English and Social Studies classes where conversations often take place. Today, seven years after implementation of the Harkness Method at CAC, it is also being gradually rolled out into other departments such as math and science.
Johnny Griffith and Tom Seidenberg are professors from Phillips Exeter Academy with first hand experience using the Harkness Method. Seidenburg has been coming to CAC for 6 years and Griffith for two years to work with faculty and share learning experiences using this method. A common misconception concerning the Method is that it takes too much time for teachers to cover the same material because discussions during classes tend to go deeper into the material presented. When asked about his opinion regarding this disadvantage, Griffith explained, “ In mathematics for example, we do cover less content but what we do cover, we cover in more depth.”
The two professors have been able to see a significant improvement in our student’s learning over the years they have come to CAC, especially Seidenburg as he has seen the evolution of the Harkness Method at CAC from its inception. “As an example, in 9th Grade Mathematics, students think the teacher has all the answers. For that reason they want the teacher to tell them what to do, so it’s a little bit of a battle, but then you get the same student back in 11th grade, and you can easily see the growth in their confidence, and their ownership of the material and their independence.” Seidenberg added.