Cranleigh Abu Dhabi to Adopt Innovative Sixth Form Model
New approach will help students hone analytical research and thinking skills, ensuring the A Level years effectively prepare them for their university and professional careers
Abu Dhabi, 28th June 2016: True to its vision of keeping young people’s development at the heart of its pedagogy, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi will be evolving and deepening the focus it already places on learner-centric teaching when it opens its new Sixth Form Centre.
The school’s first A Level students will study using the Harkness Method, a discussion-based learning system first adopted in the United States by Phillips Exeter Academy in the early 1930s. Harkness places the onus on the student to prepare for the lesson and come to class ready to discuss topics in a collaborative, tutorial style that encourages and develops listening skills and interaction with other minds. It is the students rather than the teacher who run the show. Teachers become facilitators, coaches and indeed, learning partners. Classes are small, typically groups of about 12 students, and are held at an oval table allowing eye contact with everyone. No-one sits at the back in this scenario.
The development of Harkness was inspired and funded by wealthy businessman and philanthropist Edward Harkness, whose own schooling had left him so uninspired that he made it his mission to bring about educational reform. Harkness is used in many of the top US schools and also at several British independent schools, notably Wellington College.
Cranleigh Abu Dhabi’s Deputy Headmaster, Matthew Ford, who directs the academic programme in the Senior School, was part of the inaugural Harkness team whilst at Wellington College. He is an enthusiastic proponent of the approach and has been instrumental in the decision to embrace it as the basis for the school’s Sixth Form learning culture.
“Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of Harkness is how it builds students’ ability to think and react, engaging the brain deeply rather than using it to simply recall factual information” Ford says. “It encourages respectful questioning and requires awareness of other perspectives. Most importantly, it ensures maximal peer-to-peer participation and develops each individual.