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Richard Zhang, Lily Peng, Dennis Qi, James Liu, Michael Zhang, Charlie Zheng, Jimmy Luo

Ms. Zhang Li
1 January 2017
A Study on the Improvement of Chinese Education with the Harkness Table and Spatial

Education is the backbone for the continuation and advancement of human civilisation.
Sadly, the Chinese classroom, being rigid and ineffective, is producing students whom are
impaired in their ability to conduct such responsibilities. We wish to change this by approaching
from the two angles of Teaching Method (Socratic/Harkness Method) and Spatial Design (Color,
sound, space etc.). Afterwards, we will examine any factors that may impede the implementation
from such an ideal classroom such as budget, academic standards, different approaches that arise
from age differences and student acclimatization. The result should be a classroom designed
according to research concerning spatial design, implements the more student-driven
Socratic/Harkness method in teaching, demonstrates success in teaching the required material,
success in helping students acquire a deeper understanding of said material, passes tests, and is an
enjoyable environment.
In many ways, this refinement and exploration is already proceeding at an advanced stage.
Educational methods different from the traditional lecture style are being used at some institutes
of higher learning; extensive research has been done on the effect of sound, color, space etc on
the workplace, curriculum changes are occurring as new findings on the nature of human memory
and understanding are being revealed. However, the application of all this to the highly traditional
environment of a school classroom has had little in the way of progress -even less so in the highly
rigid and demanding system of Chinese education.
Unfortunately, the Chinese classroom is exactly where this needs the most progress. As
students whove studied under contemporary local Chinese schools, this issue comes close to the
heart. Our impression, and we believe the impression of not a few other local Chinese students, of
our past classrooms -students sitting stock still under glaring fluorescent white in tidy isolated
rows of desks listening to hand-to-mouth lectures on problem-solving set patterns and learning by
continuous repetition within a cold classroom- is a painful one. The teachers don't fare much
better. This current state of education may satisfactorily pass the required quota of students each
year, but not only is it not conducive to a deeper understanding of the subject taught -which is
important to the discovery of new knowledge in that field and the development of skills such as
critical thinking and abstract understand important in real life but also makes what is taught liable
to be forgotten- and is probably not even the most effective method to pass tests.
We acknowledge that the lack of change and rigidity of the system is due to real problems
such as the degree to which the system has been established, long-lasting background, and lack of
capital despite the budget because of population. Our purpose is to come to a thorough
understanding of what would make an ideal classroom and how one would implement
harmoniously within the current educational system.
Previous Examples Harkness Method
Definitions of Terms:
1) The Harkness Method is a teaching and learning method that is similar to the
Socratic Teaching Method in which all students are encouraged to express their
own opinions, discuss a certain topic, and evaluate a situation from all
perspectives. Physical aspects include positioning all students around a round

2) The Socratic Method is a form of argumentative dialogue between individuals or

groups, where the people ask and answer questions to gain better understanding
and conclude agreeing with one thought. Socrates sought to get to the foundations
of his students' and colleagues' views by asking continual questions until a
contradiction was exposed, thus proving the fallacy of the initial assumption.

Previous Examples:
In American universities and high schools, this curriculum is widely accepted and
practiced. Its origin lies in Philips Exeter Academy, where Harkness Table classes are
established and continuously experimented with every day (How Youll Learn). Alumni of
this academy commented that even though they had some difficulty with adapting to this new
style of teaching, it ultimately assisted him in acquiring new knowledge (Hans, Teaching
Science Using the Harkness Method.). On a different note, an educator stated that after
adjusting the method to his own institution, students contributed to the discussions
themselves rather than in the form in the lecture, which increased participation in the
classroom. He himself watched mutely from the corner, pondering their arguments and taking
notes (Mullgardt , Introducing and Using the Discussion (AKA, Harkness) Table.). At the
end of every session, analytical and oral skills were greatly improved, benefiting each student
with the ability to assume interdisciplinary connections and establish different perspectives
on each subject (Mullgardt , Introducing and Using the Discussion (AKA, Harkness)
Table.). Other institutions including Harvard Westlake and Berkeley Carrol School
experimented this method on their students to test its applicability (The Harkness Table).
Results showed an overall improvement in understanding within students, caused some
schools step even further by applying this method to primary school students (The Harkness
Another method that the Western schools have used to teach students is the Socrates
Method. It can acts as a new approach to education, different from the old
teacher-teaching-student-knowledge method, and now it has been used in many universities.
One famous example is Cambridge University. In Cambridge, the teachers do not only give
out lectures-they want students to participate in discussions given out by the professors (Heng
Wang). Workshops and seminars are also seen frequently in classes, where students point out
the background of a certain topic and ask questions for others to answer. Also, the curriculum
includes tutorials-the teacher arranges a time with several students, who will ask questions to
the professor.
Previous Examples Spatial Design
Definition of Terms
1) Spatial design- a discipline that merges the traditional design disciplines such as
architecture, interior design, service design, and also public art. Its main purpose is to join
the designed environment to the people it is made to serve.
Previous Examples
Previous studies on various aspects of spatial design have also been conducted. The
aspect of color in graphic design has been proved to cause disruptive effects to the
performance of preschool children (Stern-Ellran and Zilcha-Mano, 2016). Specific areas such
as the contrast in brightness were found to be excessively distracting when attempting to
accomplish various tasks (Turratto and Galfano, 2000). When children executed a series of
tasks on a proximal surface that had a high contrast color and higher brightness, they
exhibited more disruptive behaviors compared to children whom played on a white surface
(Stern-Ellran and Zilcha-Mano, 2016). When children were placed in a classroom with bright
distal colors (eg. Bright classroom decorations on the wall), they were also proved to be more
vulnerable to distraction. (Godwin and Fisher, 2011). Therefore it may be seen that
exceedingly bright colors may cause more disruptive behavior and a decrease in
concentration levels.
On studying the effect of distal colors on human emotion, two experimental groups were
placed within two rooms, one of red and one of blue, and asked to write down their thoughts
after half an hour (Yildirim, 2007). Results showed that a under a red hue the brain emitted
alpha waves, which often appear more under conscious circumstances (Yildirim, 2007).
Another research involving relating color themes with emotion showed that most participants
believed a pink hue represented romance, happiness, and warmth, blue represented relaxation,
modern, and calamity, and yellow symbolizing vivacity and simplicity (Ou, 2004). Such
studies imply that color may have a positive or negative influence on human emotion.
In previous research, the aspect of sound or music has also been seen to affect
concentration levels. Survey results showed although 78% of the sample did not feel that
music affected their performance, 83% believed that it contributed to human error and posed
an adverse effect to concentration (Padmakumar and Cohen, 2016). Background music with
lyrics also imposed a negative effect on the work performance of the experimented
individuals (Shih, 2016). A research on adolescent performance when affected by noise
showed that noise was a significant stress factor (Fosnaric and Planinsec, 2008). We may
deduce that excess sound may cause a negative effect of the performance of individuals.
More experiments need to be conducted to determine the replicibility of this research.
Luminous intensity can also pose different effects on the tasks of the individual.
According to research, a high luminous intensity resulted in stress of the experimented (Tsang,
2012) when they were exposed to bright sources of light. In a study that investigated the
effects of attention on discriminating changes in texture, a bright light diverted the attention
of the subject and the results showed that both their reaction time and accuracy were greatly
affected (Zompa and Chapman, 1995). We can make the conclusion that a greater luminous
intensity results in a decrease in performance. However, there has been limited research in
this area on the direct connection between luminous intensity and performance.
Other studies involve the examination of how exterior design and optical control may
affect the stress due to high population density. (Zheng, 2011). Results showed that with the
same population density, an exterior design that allowed a social space resulted in relieved
anxiety and stress within the experimental group. We may deduce that exterior design affects
the psychological state of the individual. However, little research has been done in the area of
how performance is affected by the exterior design of the environment.
Areas dealing with the temperature within the jurisdiction of the space designed have
also been studied. A low body temperature may result in decreased test performance, in which
foward pressure levels (a calculation method incorporated in calibration procedures) and
distortion-product otoacoustic emission (DPOAE) response test results were greatly
decreased (Burke, 2010). Temperature changes are also the causes of some diseases such as
the common cold, whose infected reported lowered attentiveness, negative attitudes, and
slower to interpret verbal interactions (Smith 2012). Although more research must be
conducted to test the effects of a high temperature on performance, the established connection
between temperature and performance is clear.
Recent concerns have been related to the effect of poor air quality on the health and
academic performance on students. Schools located in areas of high pollution rates had low
attendance rates and a greater ratio of students whom did not reach educational standards
(Mohai 2001). In other instances, long term exposure to air pollution was associated to
cognitive impairment in memory and spatial constructive areas (Schikowski 2015). Research
shows an unblemished connection between the performance of the student and air quality.

Methods and Preparation

Most research will be quality-based. Specifically, the research will center at the experimental
classes. A thorough analysis will be later approached and include but not limited to: the
participation rate of student, whether the teacher is content about the class, and whether the
students acquire the knowledge.
The research will then extend to outside of classroom. Interviews of teachers and students
will be made.
The experiment will also include quantity-based aspects. A complicated, data based
questionnaire will be delivered to all participants. Tests will be delivered to check whether
student acquire the knowledge.
12 Survey done
110 350
1017 350
Spatial Design

Do small
This should run parallel to our Think Big due to the demands on time from time to learn and
Chinese law.
Crash course
interview determine effectivenes
Our purpose is to come to a thorough understanding of what would make an ideal classroom
and how one would implement harmoniously within the current educational system.
Waiting for Richard
Due to the relative difficulty and high uncertainty as to what constitutes a perfect
educational format, our Think Big original research on the Harkness/Socratic philosophy
will take the form of a series of surveys instead of a model classroom, which we reserve for
our Do Small project. Each survey will be distributed throughout our school, local schools
throughout Shanghai and the web. To obtain more meaningful results, our technician Charlie
Zheng will develop surveys modified to suit each subject based on their answers to previous
questions in the survey. After the results are confirmed and analyzed, we will proceed with
the second and third series of survey based on the results of the previous survey. To ensure
reliability, we have use the Cochran formula for random stratified sampling method to
2 2 2
determine our statistical sample size of 350 students: n= (Nt pq) (Nd + t pq). In
the above formula, maximum permissible error (d) is equal to 0.05, confidence coefficient is
equal to 0.95, and p and q are equal to 0.5 and the sample size is equal to N. P-value is
considered equal to 0.5, because if p=0.5, n will have its maximum possible value and thus
the sample is big enough (Sarmad et al., 2010). To ensure the validity of our responses we
will write preliminary set of questions to measure student suitability our study based on the
Likert scale. These questions will be applied to students in a pilot study. The method used
will be to choose one choice to each question measuring their suitability to our study also
mark any ambiguous questions to be modified later. According to the students opinions, some
of the marked questions will be omitted and some will be modified. The final questionnaire
will be analysed and confirmed by us with help from experts. After which we will review the
answers of the students that pass our preliminary survey. Other tools such as interviews and
historical studies will also be used to ensure the validity of our study.
1. Random resemblance: At the beginning, this problem is inevitable. If in later
procedure, there is few successful experiments, then the group members will extend
the experiment to as many schools as possible that include but not limited to: good
and usual schools, large and small schools, schools in city center and countryside.
2. Subjectivity is inevitable for all time. The approach to this problem is to establish as
many quantity-based experiments as possible that include but not limited to tests,
questionnaire, and data based analysis.
3. It is inevitable that the school cannot or do not want to participate in the experiment.
The approach is to first do experiment in group members school and familiar schools.
If experiments are successful and help to expand the influence, more schools will be
willing to participate. The group members need to negotiate with the schools and alter
the experiment format in order to reach a consensus.

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