By Yizhou Zhao, Contributing Writer
As we all know, Harkness is the heart of Exeter. However, based on my observation and experience, there are different ways to apply this method in different classes.
My format A is Advanced Chemistry. This is an interesting course that focuses on experiments, on solving problems. In my opinion, the traditional role of teacher doesn’t necessarily change in these courses. The teacher knows which experiment is the right approach and often has already prepared the equipment. Also, when it comes to science, usually only one method appears best. As a result, I suggest that the teacher get involved relatively frequently and that students bravely point out others’ misunderstanding and faults and use proof and calculation to support your ideas.
Exploring American Culture is a completely different case. Just as Ms. Parris said, “You need to look at the other students, not me,” the role of teacher in a class of humanity is simply like a TV presenter. We the students are the teachers of each other. More importantly, I believe we had better not refute others’ ideas, unlike the former case. We can share different ideas, but everybody is free to keep his opinion as the speaker’s background and experience influences his idea. So basically, in a humanity course, Harkness is like everyone throwing something of his own into a boiling pot and we’ll see what we get from that colorful soup, definitely no need to filter something you don’t like out.
Modern Astrophysics is my C class. It may sound like the same kind as Chemistry, but it isn’t. This course is mainly about book-based Harkness. In this case, the teacher and the students are both crucial to the discussion, only with their joint effort can the discussion be something. Refutation is also unnecessary, but more professional insights have to be provided by the teacher. That is to say, students are welcome to ask and answer questions, but the teacher is responsible for correcting and encouraging more discussion in the part he or she wants to address. The teacher controls the pace, but the students are free to walk in their own way. Another important point is that all the conclusions and opinions have to be made from the book directly and the book alone is the judgment as to whether an idea is reasonable.
To sum up, in experiment-based Harkness, the teacher ought to be active, refutation is acceptable, and all refers to the proof; in humanity Harkness, students are the protagonists, refutation is not suggested and all comes to yourself; in book-based Harkness, combined efforts of the teachers and the students are essential, refutation is not suggested, and all is based on the contents of the book. When I say refutation, I don’t mean that you can’t disagree, just don’t say someone’s idea is bad and you have a better one. If we can try to apply these different ways of Harkness to our studying life, I believe classes will be even more effective and beneficial. And I hope every student in Exeter can accomplish something amazing through Harkness.