Learning about Learning

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

Category: Beit Midrash Research Project (page 1 of 2)

Pedagogy of Partnership and the Power of Relationships

By Orit Kent and Allison Cook

What do we mean by teaching and learning? What do (we want) people (to) learn? And how do they learn both subject matter and values, ways of being in the world?  Orit Kent and Allison Cook, co-founders of Pedagogy of Partnership, look at how teaching and learning happens in relationships — particularly in the context of student relationships and Torah learning. They aim to expand our understanding of what education is through the process of relationship-centered learning.

Two boys studying textImagine the following day school scene:

Morah Rebecca: “OK guys, time to wrap up your discussions!”

Fourth-graders shouting: “No! We are having SUCH a good Torah discussion. Can we have a few more minutes? Pleeeeaaase?”

Morah Rebecca: “This is the third time I’ve tried to wrap up. It is wonderful the discussions you are having. I’m hearing some great theories on the possible meanings of the word ‘yifga’enu’ [He will strike us] and who exactly the ‘us’ can be referring to and also about Pharaoh’s possible motivations in these psukim [Torah verses]. I’m putting on a timer: two more minutes, and that is really it! We have to come together to do the wrap-up and then you have to go to gym.”

This scene happens often in this fourth-grade Jewish studies classroom. Amazingly, these fourth-graders do not want their Torah discussions to end — they will choose to miss parts of recess, lunch and gym so that they can have a few more minutes in class. They have been learning Torah through the Pedagogy of Partnership (PoP), a student-centered approach for developing specific attitudes and skills to learn in relationship with Torah and with peers.

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NRJE and CASJE: Laying the Foundation for Successful Jewish Education Research

Today’s guest post is by Renee Rubin Ross, a program officer at the Jim Joseph Foundation and a former post-doctoral fellow at the Mandel Center.  This piece originally appeared on the foundation’s blog.

In early June, I attended the Network for Research in Jewish Education (NRJE) conference, held at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. It was a great opportunity to hear about different research projects and catch up with colleagues. In the early morning hours before the meetings started, I even had the chance to go running in Central Park, very sentimental for me since I used to run in Central Park frequently when we lived in Manhattan a few years ago.

My primary purpose for attending the conference was to participate in discussions about the Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education (CASJE), an effort to bring together funders, researchers, and practitioners for the purpose of improving Jewish education.These individuals work collaboratively to address CASJE’s three primary areas of focus (termed “panels”): Israel Education, chaired by Mitch Malkus and Alex Pomson; Jewish Educational Leadership, chaired by Ellen Goldring, Joe Reimer and Lee Shulman; and Educational Sustainability, chaired by Ari Kelman and Rachel Friedberg. At the conference, I saw several indicators that portend well for CASJE going forward. Continue reading

Interpretive Experience: The Core of Meaningful Tanakh Education

Classroom Beit MidrashThis blog post, by Mandel Center researchers Allison Cook and Orit Kent, is based on an article recently published in HaYidion: The RAVSAK Journal. The full article is available here.

Through the Mandel Center’s Beit Midrash Research Project, we have been visiting early childhood to high school classes for years. We have seen that Tanakh learning tends to fall into two major types of student activity: language and/or translation exercises, and personalization. Language exercises range from picking out patterns of suffixes and roots in the original text to doing full written translations of Tanakh passages. In personalization exercises, students explore pre-determined themes in the text and apply them to their own lives, such as discussing their relationships with siblings when studying the Jacob and Esau narrative, or answering the question “what would I do in this situation?”

There are many good reasons why teachers use translation and personalization in Tanakh study, but when they are the main or only approaches they can limit the extent to which students can meaningfully engage with the text. Continue reading

A Pedagogy for the Encounter Between Artistic Expression and Jewish Life

By Orit Kent and Allison Cook

This summer, we made the trip out of our office and across the Brandeis campus into dance studios, fine art studios and music rooms to consult with the community educators of BIMA’s Summer Art Institute for Jewish teens. We shared our research and engaged the educators in specific aspects of our “havruta inspired pedagogy” [PDF] in order to help them design and implement the program’s artists’ beit midrash, a distinguishing feature of the BIMA program.

The artists’ beit midrash merges the activities of a “house of study” of Jewish texts with the activities of an artist’s studio. As such, it is meant to create the conditions for fulfilling BIMA’s mission “to guide high school students as they develop their imaginative and artistic faculties and to explore the relevance of Jewish tradition in their lives.” In small groups headed by BIMA community educators and artists, teens worked to explore both an artistic medium of their choice and Jewish texts and stories.

Our role was to help the community educators practice a pedagogy for cultivating the “serious and dynamic encounter between artistic expression and Jewish life” that is part of BIMA’s mission and plan for leading the teen groups. Continue reading

Creating the Conditions for Successful Partner Work in Classrooms

“Two are better than one …” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

This is an old idea, but is it always true? In a classroom, how can we make sure that two students working together will really learn? The question for researchers and practitioners to consider is what kind of conditions do we need in order to leverage the power of two because simply putting two together does not guarantee a better outcome.

Infusion: Integrating JewishValues in the General Studies Classroom, a webcase created by Orit Kent and Jocelyn Segal, considers this very issue in the context of elementary school life.

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