AuthorsWilliams, Guy, J.
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AbstractThis paper investigates and argues for Harkness learning: an approach to education that inculcates a culture of enquiry, driven by students in dialogue around a table. Tracing the history of the Harkness reforms in education at Phillips Exeter Academy, their pedagogical and philosophical roots are considered. Although partly inspired by the Oxford tutorial system and the Socratic concept of dialogue, Harkness departs from there to a radical classroom dynamic. The teacher is required to be more open-minded and less controlling over outcomes, to take the risk of listening more and saying less. This shift in emphasis fits with a distinctly American philosophical respect for the sanctity of the free thought and originality of the individual, which here is traced to Transcendentalist ideals that have permeated American culture. It can also be compared with Problem-Based Learning and there are certain significant overlaps between these pedagogies. However, Harkness is sometimes narrowly misunderstood as a technique for teaching, which takes the approach out of context. It needs to be understood in the broad frame of cultural reform of an institution – it is a useful symbol for a community committed to student discourse and problem solving. In this respect, Harkness owes a further debt to pragmatism – another great American philosophical-educational tradition.
CitationWilliams, G.J. (2014) 'Harkness learning: principles of a radical American pedagogy' Journal of pedagogic development 4(3)
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
JournalJournal of pedagogic development
Series/Report no.Volume 4
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