Friday, October 18, 2013

Student-centered learning

John '16
Boarder
Activities/Interests: Cross country, track, crew, acting, writing, and photography 

I always knew I loved math, but I never knew that I would be interested in English until I came to Peddie. In middle school, I was a big reader, but I never felt that I gained a lot in my English class because of the way my class was conducted.

My opinion on English class completely changed when I came to Peddie as a freshman and I took Humanities. Mr. Bennett, my Humanities teacher, taught us in a way known as the “Harkness” method. Harkness is a way of teaching in which students sit around an oval shaped table. The oval shaped environment makes the class focus around student centered learning and discussion with the other students. For example, if we were covering The Odyssey, our homework would be to read a chapter or two while actively annotating interesting points or quotes in the book. 

Then the next day, Mr. Bennett would write 2 or 3 questions about the night’s reading on the board at the beginning of class. Mr. Bennett would then sit in the corner of the classroom and wait for us to begin talking about the questions. All the ideas created in class come from the minds of the students, unlike in middle school where the teacher is the source of the ideas. No one can shy away from talking because there is no “back of the classroom” and if someone does not seem to be talking, the other students will encourage him or her to talk more often. Once someone answers the question, the next person tries to build off of that idea and tries to raise the level of conversation in the class. At the end of class, Mr. Bennett gets up and concludes the discussion with tallies on how to improve our comments and some good points that he heard in the discussion. Everyone leaves the class with something to think about and a wider and deeper understanding that they might not have seen before. 

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