Harkness – the fad that’s worth the fuss

Harkness may not be the newest idea in the teaching world, but I feel it is one that has been unfairly overlooked.

It’s an idea taken from Edward Harkness, an early 20th century philanthropist and educational reformer, and the concept is based on Harkness’ own education. He felt that the traditional approach of sitting in rows whilst the teacher taught from the front created a hierarchy which did not support those who had less confidence or needed more support. Harkness came to favour a ‘conference’ pedagogy where students engaged in conversation on a topic they had prepared before coming to lesson, rather than answering specific, narrow questions directed at the few from the front. Harkness ‘gifted’ this idea to Phillips Exeter Academy in the United States, where they developed it and adapted it into a workable educational approach, and now use it as their sole teaching method.

Growth Mindset in PE

Sitting in the growth mindset training at the beginning of term, I realised that this ‘new’ initiative had been taking place in PE for many years; we just call it “coaching”.

In each lesson, we give pupils the opportunity to show resilience, to learn something completely new and even to fail. Our pupils receive instant feedback that they can act upon straight away.

Threshold concepts (4) confidence and retrieval

The confidence measures for individual classes are useful for informing immediate planning, but I also want to understand which of the concepts are more difficult to understand and retain.

So I grouped scores from each class together for every concept tested. I also tabulated how many correct/ incorrect answers there were for each question, to ensure that it gives a similar picture to the confidence measures.