Dr. Gretchen Kellough, Head of English and IB Coordinator has been implementing a new methodology in her International Baccalaureate (IB) English classroom. We had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Kellough to get the inside scoop on this approach to global learning.
Please describe the Harkness Methodology.
Harkness Methodology is a bottom-up, discussion-based form of teaching. I use it in my IB English classes. It puts the responsibility on the students to generate analysis and answer each other’s questions, rather than the teacher doing all the guiding. Instead of directing their questions to the teacher, students challenge, question, and support each other’s point of view. A teacher using the Harkness Methodology easily speaks for less than 5% of class time. The motivation for using Harkness in our English classrooms is it models for students how to learn. It teaches them to stay close to the text and find proof in the written word for their inferences and literary investigations. It also teaches more vocal students to encourage their quieter peers to speak out, and it requires active listening from all participants. Harkness teaches students to engage with their education. Students who learn via Harkness methodology are more likely to retain information after the tests have passed because they relate it to knowledge they are requiring in other classes or to ideas that already interest them.
Can you describe the look of your classroom while using this style of teaching?
We reconfigure the chairs and tables to make an O-shape. The idea is to have all the students facing each other, rather than all the students facing a teacher. I generally sit outside of the circle and take notes, so that I can wait until the discussion ends before making any comments.
Where did you first learn about this style of teaching?
I researched it last year when I was looking for ways to better structure discussions and involve the students in my IB English class. I found materials on Harkness Methodology through the Phillips Exeter Academy and learned how to use it in my classroom in a way that incorporated the desired outcomes of the IB curriculum. I created a handout and guide for other English teachers to use it in their classrooms. Mrs. Porterfield has similarly used the Harkness Methodology in her IB English class this year.
How do the students respond to this?
Students initially said, “Please, don’t ever make us do this again.” They realized how hard they had to work when they were in charge of leading the class discussion. However, I saw that they were better able to internalize information and apply it in testing and essay-writing. Harkness models the adage: “"Tell me, I'll forget. Show me, I'll remember. Involve me, I'll understand.” It makes sense that the students come to a better understanding when they are the ones generating the discussion and figuring out the answers on their own. It’s similar to what happens in the Applied Science classes.
How does this relate to business practices that students will experience outside of high school?
How does the Harkness Methodology connect to the educational philosophy of Quarry Lane?
The philosophy at Quarry Lane School is “I can make a difference” and the mission is to develop a lifelong love of learning. Harkness Methodology gives our students the short-term and long-term skills to be lifelong students. The most effective teaching methodologies are practicing by doing and teaching others. Harkness makes extensive use of these methodologies through its discussion-centered practices. It also fosters a sense of community and connectedness that continue after the class is over.
In line with student-lead discussion, we asked IB students for their input on the Methodology as well as the addition of the new tables.
“I feel that the Harkness Methodology creates an environment in which everyone feels comfortable and free to speak their mind” - Tushar Kundu
“The new tables help convey messages more directly” - Dhruv Gupta
“[I’ve learned] how interacting about the novel with my classmates helps me when I am explaining quotes on a test or taking a quiz” - Zahra Shivji
“The new tables are more comfortable and even professional. They inspire a better Harkness [discussion]” - Vivian Hernandez
“The Harkness Methodology has taught me to look at various elements of books that I would never have considered, as well as to look at the opinions of everyone in the class” - Arnosh Keswani
“The new tables have created a more discussion based classroom environment” - Parker Newton