Harkness Method and Its Similarities to IPD

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Julie Brown’s thoughts from last week’s NNECERAPPA conference, held at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH.

Last week I attended the NNECERAPPA conference held at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH. The school was established in 1781 by merchant John Phillips and his wife Elizabeth. While on campus and throughout the sessions at the conference we were told the history of the Harkness Table, and how it revolutionized scholastic teachings on campus.

In November, 1930 philanthropist and oil magnate Edward Harkness gave Phillips Exeter $5.8 million dollars, a staggering sum in those days, to implement his way of teaching, around the Harkness Table, in an effort to make learning more interactive. Harkness described its use: “What I have in mind is [a classroom] where [students] could sit around a table with a teacher who would talk with them and instruct them by a sort of tutorial or conference method, where [each student] would feel encouraged to speak up. This would be a real revolution in methods.”

The graphic on the left is the typical sage on the stage teaching method. The graphic on the right is the Harkness Method.

So, how does this revolution in teaching methods compare to Integrated Project Delivery?

In almost every way.

In the Harkness Model the students act as a team, they all participate without competition. The students work for a collective grade, they all share in the responsibility of the goal – one student cannot get a better grade than his or her peers. They all work for the grade. This is the same in IPD. We all work for the project, the team, is that in the truest sense, they share the risk and the responsibility and the shared goal is the project executed flawlessly.

In both scenarios getting to the goal is a team effort, not only does everyone have to do his or her part, but everyone has to look out for each other, that is what teammates do. Think as a team, act as a team and everyone wins.  Unprepared, unwilling and selfish personalities cannot hide in this scenario – nor will they be able to hide in the minutia and be carried by the team – everyone on an IPD team has to perform at their best.

In IPD, we all work for the project.

More on IPD.

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  1. I had not heard of this model before, but agree with your comparison. There are other issues related to implementation of IPD among project teams, and I wonder if they were addressed by this model in more depth?
    The factors that determine the degree to which IPD fails or succeeds – which may not come to bear within an academic setting – include intentional building of trust amongst the team, “structural” relationships to distribute risk, methodical planning of decision-making processes and communication…and more.
    I’d be interested to learn more about if he took those issues on….
    thanks for introducing the model!

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