Harkness Learning Reflections
Parveen Loodu

The nature of Harkness discussions is by far one of my favorite elements of the Southridge community, as it truly teaches everyone the importance of respecting one another's opinions, empowering us to learn from multiple diverse perspectives. We learn to devote ourselves to our peers' learning as much as our own, as, around the Harkness table, each individual switches between the role of both teacher and student in a collaborative manner. When entering a discussion, each person is instilled with a sense of trust and mindfulness, willing to carefully and patiently listen to one another. At no point is there a time throughout one’s life where these skills are not of utmost importance - Harkness is so much more than sitting around a wooden table, it is the ability to approach varying opinions with an open mindset. To find the balance between autonomy and mutuality, recognize the value of your beliefs and those belonging to your classmates, as well. Harkness has taught me so many valuable lessons and skills that I will undoubtedly carry with me throughout my future endeavors!

- Mya Gallant, Grade 12 Student


I really liked the Harkness method, it helped me navigate when to bring forward my point of view, and when to take a step back and let others contribute. During my undergrad, I took a few seminar-style courses, which were similar to Harkness; 20 students around a table and lots of group discussions. I think Harkness prepared me well for that – it helped me be ready to develop multiple, substantive arguments. When another student shared a point that I had been wanting to share, I was prepared to quickly adjust my argument to extend that point. These experiences gave me confidence in grad school, and now in my professional life as well. It prepared me to navigate interdepartmental calls and to know when to interject or provide feedback. I really enjoyed Harkness-style learning overall; it was an adjustment from the separate desks in the Junior School, and there was some apprehension, but it turned out to be really worthwhile.

- Aidan Fehr, Class of 2015


Harkness fosters a sense of community in the classroom and you feel like you’re a team building and learning together. As a teacher, it takes a great deal of thought, creativity, and preparation (to prepare a lesson), and even though you take the lead, you’re a part of the learning journey. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve learned something new by hearing our students’ perspectives which may be something I’ve never heard before.

It’s special because it’s so engaging. The introverted or shy kids can’t hide in the back of the classroom and we’re in a position to look after those kids guiding them to eventually become a part of the discussion. Harkness really helps all students develop collaboration and communication skills that are so important in life.

Even with my own children who are Southridge alumni, I know it gave them the confidence and skills needed as they entered university.

- Kierstan McCaw, Senior School Vice Principal - Learning, Senior School Science Teacher and Alumni Parent


Originally published in Spirit Magazine - Fall 2022