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How You Will Learn

La Garenne's experienced and professional teaching staff undertake regular training courses on the latest teaching methods to ensure that our students receive the best education possible.

Alongside traditional teaching practices, we also use the Harkness Method™. This is a way of encouraging students to engage in enquiry and dialogue while seated around an oval table. Free expression and original contributions flow amongst the students, with the teacher on hand to subtly redirect the discussion if it veers significantly off topic. For the teacher, it is about listening more and talking less.

In schools such as La Garenne, this method of learning works extremely well. Our small class sizes and the long-standing and secure relationships between students and staff facilitate the free exchange of ideas. It also connects well with our core values of respect, open mindedness and empathy.

In terms of outcomes, we find that students relax quickly into the less rigid setting. They are not behind desks in rows: they are able to see everyone's reactions, hear everyone's contributions and respond easily when inspired to make a point. "It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s a collaborative approach to problem solving and learning."

Around a table, cliques and groups cannot form. There is never the possibility of "one side against the other" situations arising. The teacher can make eye contact with everyone and is aware instantly if the tone of the dialogue changes, or if a student is not able to participate for any reason. We can give an example of how this works in practice using a topic from a Global Politics lesson:

 

  • Students arrive in class with their homework essays on Refugees and Migration: Causes and Effects.
  • The teacher opens the session by reminding students that there are multiple reasons why human beings have always moved across the world.
  • The teacher then offers the topic up to the floor - the students around the table - and discussion starts.
  • Some students prefer to read from their essays, others will introduce new ideas, leading to further dialogue and sharing of opinions.
  • Conclusions can be drawn, minds can be changed, or positions can be entrenched: what matters is that the topic has been discussed in a calm and reflective way.

 

Verbal expression can be the easiest to retain and we often find that students' recall of the dialogue is reflected in their later written work. We also see this method extend beyond the classroom. Students in social settings listen more carefully to their peers, they interrupt each other less and they are more open about expressing their points of view - even controversial ones.

 


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