Ms. Brown’s Grade 12 AP Literature class had a Harkness discussion during their synchronous learning time this week. The discussion focus was on one essential question (EQ) or one enduing understanding (EU) in their Chaos and Order unit. In preparation for the face-to-face discussion, students crafted a position on either one EQ or EU and then provided evidence from Hamlet and Ian McEwan’s novel, Nutshell (the core texts for this unit) as well as an anecdote or allusion. Most students referenced the chaotic circumstances that the coronavirus was created. Imagine making connections between the chaos created by the characters in two texts (written more than 400 years apart) and to the coronavirus.
Harkness discussions are a particularly powerful way to engage in content and inquiry-rich face-to-face discussion. Harkness discussions are alive and thriving remotely through Learning with Lakefield. The opportunity to create a safe talking and listening space helps students to check in with one another and consider different perspectives. The student-led conversation requires listening carefully to peers, and to mindfully choose when they will offer a contribution. Students are encouraged to rephrase the ideas posed by their peers before sharing their own and to be as specific as possible with their evidence-based observations. Now, more than ever, students need the space and the time to cultivate what it means to be engaged global citizens.