MMI Preparatory School recently purchased two Harkness tables to transform two classrooms into Collaborative Learning Labs to help prepare students for the discussion-based learning courses they will find in college. The purchase was made possible by a donation from Dr. Philip A. McHale ’58 and Ms. Linda Tishko.

The Harkness table-teaching concept was developed by philanthropist Edward Harkness in 1930 and first instituted at the Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. Students sit around an oval table and their teacher instructs them in a tutorial or conference method, where each student is encouraged to speak up. Students are given discussion points and lead the instruction, while the teacher acts as a facilitator.

The Harkness approach to teaching is designed to explore the use of student-centered, discussion-based education. The teaching method also allows the students and their teacher to track the amount of time each student spends talking and grades are given based on participation.

MMI Head of School D. Scott Wiggins said, “Discussion-based learning is the nexus of many courses our students will encounter in college and, quite frankly, something they will be required to participate in throughout their careers. The ability to seek continual improvement in our education methods is made possible by being able to provide the necessary tools. This gift is one that will form the experience of students for many years to come.”

English instructors Jennifer Novotney and Donna Titus attended the five-day Exeter Humanities Institute conference for secondary English and History teachers at the end of June 2018 and are currently using the Harkness teaching method with their eighth, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade classes. The Harkness method was introduced in English classes at MMI for the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.

MMI Director of Advancement Kim McNulty said, “What I learned through our annual faculty wish list process is that we are looking to expand the classroom experience and bring more of a higher education feel to the campus. Dr. McHale and Ms. Tishko shared the desire to help further collaborative efforts across our curriculum and this initiative was a perfect match. We are very grateful for their generous donation.”



MMI Harkness Table Photo 1: Donna Titus’ 10th grade English Class using the Harkness table.

MMI Harkness Table Photo 2: Jennifer Novotney’s AP English Class using the Harkness table.