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Dominion Blog

What is the Harkness Method?

Posted by Matt Mitchell on Oct 27, 2021 11:38:14 AM

The Harkness Method is a round-table approach to learning that was developed at Phillips Exeter Academy, a premier New England college-preparatory secondary school founded in 1781.  This approach to teaching emphasizes conversation-based instruction where the text is central to learning, the teacher is a facilitator more than a lecturer, and students are actively engaged in conversations about big ideas. 

What is the Harkness Method?

Every student is expected to participate in conversations, and teachers often set up points of dissonance among conflicting ideas in order to prompt robust discussions.  Students at the Harkness Table are taught to sift ideas and information in pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty.


The Harkness Model provides an opportunity for shy students to learn to speak, for those who are ordinarily quick to respond or answer to learn how to be measured and weigh the importance of their contributions, for collaboration, and for the development of mutual respect among peers.


Dominion begins training students for the Harkness Method as early as kindergarten by teaching students to speak in front of others.  By fourth grade, teachers offer students questions for discussion, and by the end of middle school, students often come to class having generated their own questions after annotating texts.  By the end of the Dominion experience, students are universally able to engage winsomely about important ideas, conflicting worldviews, and opposing opinions.  


Dominion employs the Harkness Method primarily on some level across many subjects, but literature, history, and Christian Studies are where the Method produces consistent and rich conversations.