King’s Academy, October 6, 2015 — Classes at King’s Academy got a makeover this fall with the introduction of brand new Harkness tables which have replaced traditional desks in over 20 classrooms.
The oval tables, named after philanthropist Edward Harkness, are designed to encourage inquiry-based learning by allowing students to sit with their peers and teacher and discuss subjects in all fields. With minimal intervention from teachers, who act more as guides, students learn to collaborate and form individual opinions on topics while gaining confidence with critical thinking – all in a relaxed and open-minded environment.
“We want to teach through inquiry and discussion,” said Headmaster John Austin. “These skills are essential for the future of students – this is where they learn civility, respectful dialogue and debate.”
Over the summer and early in the academic year, King’s faculty received extensive professional development training on the unique pedagogy from 15-year teaching veteran and educational consultant Alexis Wiggins.
At King’s, the tables are currently being used for classes in the humanities – Arabic, English and history – with plans to expand to the sciences in the near future.
“There’s no rote memorization with this type of learning,” said Faculty Member Alexander Funnel, who has implemented an approach modelled on the Harkness method in his honors physics class. “Students produce knowledge, and it tends to stay with them longer. That’s much more valuable.”