How Much Does a Harkness Table™ Cost?


Written by:  Howmuchisit.org Staff
Last Updated:  August 10, 2018

The Harkness Table™, also known as the Collaborative Learning Table, Harkness discussion or Harkness method, is a teaching and learning technique that involves students seated in a large, oval-shaped table. Here, they are able to discuss ideas within an encouraging and open-minded setting with occasional or minimal intervention from the teacher.

The HarknessTable™, unlike a traditional square table we are accustomed to seeing, allows everybody seated to observe the eyes of everyone else seated around the table.  In short, this means no one can hide. Consequently, it also ensures that no student is left out of the discussion.

With this table method, students are encouraged to challenge the thoughts, ideas and to collaborate instead of competing with one another. This method is currently in use at a majority of American boarding schools as well as colleges.

How much does a Harkness Table cost?

On average, the costs of a Harkness Table™ will depend on the size, the type of wood and where you buy it from.  From what we researched, a highly rated Harkness Table™ can cost anywhere from $250 to $750 per table.

Harkness Table overview

Common table sizes range anywhere from 11 to 17 feet.  Some may have a slide out desk, while others are stationary.  Most desks, from what we researched, can accommodate anywhere from 12 to 18 students and will be made from either cherry, maple or oak.

With its oval shape, combined with a low student-to-teacher ratio, a Harkness Table™ offer san interactive-style learning experience which aims at involving all students in dynamic discussions. This is a proven method of discussions since it fosters an in-depth understanding of course material as well as helping students grow in their capacity to collaborate, listen and articulate their views while respecting those of others. This style is similar and related to the Socratic technique. The primary goal is to persuade students to come up with their own ideas, learn good reasoning as well as discussion skills.

What are the extra costs?

Aside from the table, chairs will almost always be a separate cost to budget for.

Freight charges may apply for those who purchase online due to the heavier size.

Tips to know

Developed at the Phillips Exeter Academy, the name of this method originates from Edward Harkness, the oil magnate, philanthropist and a graduate of St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire.  Edward Harkness also funded the conference tables for the Lawrenceville School in 1936.  This collaborative discussion technique traces back 2,400 years ago to Socrates.

Collaborative learning teachers sit at the table and are participants in the classroom discussions. Sometimes parents wonder whether this means the teacher is not teaching, when in reality, the teacher is demonstrating to students how to learn, instead of just what to learn. The teachers excel at asking questions which stimulate inquiry. The more the students desire to know, the more they learn.


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