Established in 1936 by Edward Harkness, an innovative and
visionary educational philanthropist, the Harkness method of education sought
to bring the benefits of the House System to the classroom by providing an
intimate environment for intellectual discourse.
Students who are used to a traditional classroom with rows
of individual desks may be surprised at first by Lawrenceville’s
conference-style classroom, as students and teacher sit around an oval table
known as the Harkness Table. The configuration of the classroom reflects a
philosophy of education that values discussion and debate.
Around a Harkness Table, eye contact—between student and
teacher, and student and student—is unavoidable. Students are therefore
challenged to be well-prepared and to participate in the discussion. Classes
become personal, alive, and creative. Students express themselves in a friendly
setting, challenging teachers and each other, gaining in personal and academic
confidence as they do so.
Seventy-five years later, Harkness teaching has reached new
heights as faculty bring an array of educational technology to the classroom,
which facilitate effective collaborations, offer compelling visual aids, and
create even more meaningful conversations. From Smartboard technology, to the
use of YouTube videos and Google Docs, to a radio-controlled overhead projector
in conjunction with a laptop, faculty continue to maintain the integrity of
Harkness teaching while reaching today’s students on a new level. In every case,
however, classes still remain small and intimate, with a maximum of 12