Learning about Learning

Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, Brandeis University

Category: Center News (page 1 of 14)

Frequent Low-Stakes Assessments Enhance Learning in Hasidic Schools

by Moshe Krakowski

The benefits of frequent low-stakes assessments are well recognized in education research. Though high-stakes assessments have value, smaller, more frequent assessments have some important and unique benefits: they are formative, not just summative, and they provide real-time feedback to the teacher. Furthermore, they promote student learning by giving students many opportunities to retrieve information from memory.

In the course of my current Mandel Center-sponsored research project, Hasidic Learning,  I have observed an assessment technique that takes the benefits of frequent low-stakes assessment and adds to it the benefits of cognitive clinical interviews. The clinical interview is a technique used by researchers to investigate what students understand about a given topic. It is typically semi-structured; that is, it has some anchor questions that are used in all interviews, but no fixed formula throughout. Unlike a standard psychology intervention that follows a set script, the clinical interview allows the researcher flexibility to pursue questions or problems that may arise as the interview unfolds. This lack of rigid structure is a powerful tool in the researcher’s arsenal, allowing him or her to get into the nitty-gritty of student knowledge.

In Hasidic schools (and indeed in most Haredi schools), assessment often takes place using something called an oral farher. Continue reading

Where all the Singing Happens

By Joseph Reimer

As I look back at last month’s The Power of Jewish Camps, a research conference at Brandeis’s Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education that Jonathan Krasner and I planned, I am pleased with how many of the sessions went. The session that made the deepest impression, however, is “Jewish Music at Camp and Beyond.” Let me share its significance.

Virtually anyone who has spent a summer at a residential Jewish camp could tell you what a significant role Jewish music, and particularly, communal singing, plays in the life of the camp. Camp alumni report remembering fondly the way the whole camp came together to sing on Shabbat and how they still remember the songs they once learned for a camp play or song festival. The music lives on when other details fade.

So how can we more systematically understand the role that Jewish music plays at these camps?

Continue reading

For Camp Leaders, Some Questions and a Challenge

By Sandra Fox

Kiva Rabinsky, Seth Winberg, Sharon Feiman-Nemser and Joseph Reimer at the conference

At last month’s conference on Jewish summer camping, at Brandeis’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, I hoped my participation would place a friendly parenthetical question mark at the end of the conference title. This hope grew out my research, which  questions the assumptions Jewish leaders and educators hold about camp’s power, and highlights the perspective of the youth they seek to mold.  However, I ultimately found it refreshing to talk about camp with fellow scholars and practitioners–people who, like the historical figures I write about, participate in and shape the lived experience of Jewish camping today. Continue reading

Social Movements, Music, and Other Explorations at Camp Conference

By Daniel Brenner

When I envisioned attending The Power of Jewish Camps conference, convened by Brandeis University’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education,  my visceral camp associations—bug juice, fudge brownies, Deep Woods Off, and the smells of hormonal factories in full output mode—came into consciousness. “No,” I told myself, “this is not a conference at camp, it is about camp. It will just be an academic conference.” What I didn’t expect was both a thoughtful political analysis of the role of summer camp in Jewish life and a delightful exploration into the artistic diversity of Jewish summer camps.

First, the political analysis.

Continue reading

Moving Beyond “Jewish Identity”

For many years, Jewish educators have relied on the phrase “Jewish identity” to describe their educational goals. We hear about “strengthening Jewish identity” or “deepening Jewish identity.” The Mandel Center’s new book, Beyond Jewish Identity: Rethinking Concepts and Imagining Alternatives (Academic Studies Press, September 2019), argues that this formulation is a problem. What does it actually mean? What are the unintended consequences of talking that way?

This is the first book to examine critically the relationship between Jewish education and Jewish identity. It looks at the costs of framing Jewish education in these terms and provides educators, policy makers, scholars and policy-makers new ways of thinking and talking about the desired outcomes of Jewish education.

Edited by Jon A. Levisohn (Brandeis University) and Ari Y. Kelman (Stanford University), the essays collected here argue that the use of “Jewish identity” as an educational goal hampers efforts to think seriously and aspirationally about Jewish education, and offer new possibilities for thinking about what Jewish education can be for.

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