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Harkness Learning


ACS is excited to embark on a new and transformative initiative: the phased introduction of Harkness Learning in the High School and Middle School.

By adopting Harkness Learning, ACS is building upon its already prevalent use of inquiry-based learning, such as the Provocations pedagogical approach in Early Childhood and NASA Engineering Design Process utilized in the middle school science curriculum. Harkness Learning represents the fusion, at the highest level, of ACS’s core credos: curiosity fuels learning, empowerment fosters engagement, and compassion builds community.

What is Harkness Learning?

It is a teaching method that was developed at Philips Exeter Academy in 1930 upon the impetus of philanthropist Edward Harkness, who sought to move the US’s elite boarding schools beyond rote learning. Through further gifts, the method spread to St. Paul’s, The Lawrenceville School, and Kingswood-Oxford School. The concept is simple but revolutionary. Students and their teacher sit together around a round table to discuss the day’s topic. It is not a forum for debate, but rather a collaborative approach to problem solving in which there is joint exploration, listening, and sharing. Student curiosity is encouraged, students are empowered to take academic risks, and community is strengthened as students practice mutual respect, compassion and empathy.

Our Vision for ACS Beirut

During the 2023-2024 school year ACS introduced Harkness Learning into 4 classrooms: two high school history classes, a 7th grade English class, and a 7th grade social studies class. The feedback from students and teachers was overwhelmingly positive. Our goal is to train an additional 3-4 teachers each summer at Philips Exeter Academy and to expand the program into more classrooms, reaching more of our student body. We believe the spread of Harkness Learning will transform ACS in an extremely positive way by creating more sophisticated students, more engaged leaders and more supportive peers.