At BIG each of our classrooms is structured to sit 14 students per class around a Harkness table. For those not familiar with the term, The Harkness method is discussion-based teaching and learning method in which students are seated around a large table with the class teacher.
Of the many different arguments in favour of the method, perhaps the most may be that it goes beyond the traditional approach of teachers transmitting information to students and instead teaches students how to learn. In this way The Harkness method is more of an active, discussion-based learning style that requires students to take the lead and manage the lesson and discussions that follow. This method actually teaches our students how to learn in a way in which they are not just simply sitting and taking in instruction, but rather, are required to listen, observe, analyse, verbalize, and provide visual descriptions and so lessens their ability to simply “parrot” information.
As members of a learning group, each of our students must engage with the rest of their class by asking questions and contributing their own thoughts to the discussion. The general idea being that each student is given the resources in which the information and ideas can be found, rather than simply writing down what their class teacher says.
Since every student learns a little bit differently, this approach allows us to differentiate each of our lessons to fit the needs of the students while helping each one learn in a way that makes sense to them. Students at BIG will learn in a way that emphasizes the power and necessity of listening, as well as the skills needed in order to be effective listeners.