Adopting a Daily Harkness Practice in Upper School History
Q: How does Harkness support Shipley's unique definition of educational excellence?
Gaines: The Harkness method relies on the collective experience at the table, the collective conversation. Because it is a student-centered approach, it also supports individual well-being and student achievement together. A Harkness conversation relies on individual preparation, but also requires and asks students to consider how the collective is experiencing the conversation and beginning to understand the material.
What I've learned about the Harkness discussion model is that it supports the students’ ability to achieve not only for themselves in the moment, but it also gives them the opportunity to be in a space and a conversation where they're able to grow, where they're able to fail, where they’re able to change their opinion based on what their classmates are bringing to the discussion. It really gives them that opportunity to learn in the moment and to experience learning as a collective.
Q: How have you incorporated Harkness in the classroom this year? What has been the impact on your students?
Gaines: Before having this professional development experience, I used Harkness mostly as an assessment tool. After attending the Institute, I've gained some of the skills and knowledge needed to put into place a daily Harkness practice. That has impacted my students in a positive way. It removes some of the performative pressure of being in a Harkness and provides reflective moments of contemplation, moments where students can stretch their thinking.
Q: Why is it important for Shipley teachers to have these kinds of professional development opportunities afforded to them?
Gaines: One of the things that I gained from this experience was the ability to network with and meet other educators from around the country. We had hundreds of teachers from all over the country attend this professional development experience. So, not only networking, but sharing tools, resources, and ideas. That kind of cross-pollination and teaching is a very helpful thing. It also allows me to truly be a lifelong learner, to learn a new practice, to learn a new set of skills, and then to implement. This type of professional development offers not only that the opportunity to continue learning, but it also connects me with professionals from across the world and the country who are also engaged in a similar practice.