Learning about Learning

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

Category: Induction Partnership (page 1 of 2)

Sharon Feiman-Nemser’s Impact and Influence

This guest post is by Susan Kardos, Senior Director of Strategy and Education Planning at The AVI CHAI Foundation and a research associate at the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at Harvard University. She was the Mandel Center’s first post-doctoral fellow.

This essay is drawn in part from a summary of the work of the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers presented by Susan Moore Johnson and her research team at Harvard in May, and in part from a presentation given during a session called “Teachers as Learners: a Discussion Honoring the Contributions of Sharon Feiman-Nemser to Jewish Education,” at the Network for Research in Jewish Education conference in June.  The author participated in both.

A little more than fifteen years ago, as a doctoral student at Harvard, I came to know Sharon Feiman-Nemser, first, as a peppering of citations. I got to know her better when I was charged with creating an annotated bibliography of sources related to my interest in new teachers in public schools. It was then I read everything—article after article, chapter after chapter, book after book—and wrote summaries that would become the basis for the literature review in my thesis. Sharon’s work about teacher preparation and learning to teach was an early foundational reference for the work of The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, a Harvard-based research project addressing critical questions about the future of the nation’s public school teaching force. Sharon’s work featured especially prominently in my contributions to the project, which focused specifically on  the kinds of professional cultures new teachers’ experience in their schools, especially related to collegial support, mentoring, and induction—all Feiman-Nemser specialties.

At the same time, and a world away from my thesis work, I was pursuing a line of research related to underground schools in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust and feeling a stronger and stronger pull toward building a professional home in the world of Jewish education. Imagine my surprise to find that one of my intellectual heroes was not only looking for a post-doctoral research fellow locally, at Brandeis, but was herself crossing the border to make her professional home in the world of Jewish education.

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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

On-Line Toolkit Supports Teacher Learning in Schools

Teaching is complex work, and learning to do it well takes time. Even the most rigorously-prepared new teacher encounters a steep learning curve on the job. The first several years of full-time classroom teaching are a time of intense learning, during which teachers form the teaching habits and professional dispositions that will stay with them through their careers. Continue reading

A Little Research in Support of School Change

Today’s guest post is by Shari Weinberger, curriculum coordinator at Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island. After attending the Mandel Center’s “community conversation” last fall on preparing and retaining excellent teachers for Jewish day schools, she was inspired to try some research in her own school. Here is her account of how that inquiry is helping make the school even more supportive of professional growth. Could such an inquiry strengthen similar efforts in the school you know best?

As the new Curriculum Coordinator at the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island (JCDSRI), I facilitate many teacher meetings, coach new teachers, and provide support and guidance to our entire teaching staff. I have a very clear vision of the school culture we are trying to create, but after attending the Mandel Center event last November and learning about the DeLeT Longitudinal Survey, I decided that administering a similar survey to our staff would provide important information to help me move forward.

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What? Another day off?

This guest post is by Bil Zarch, head of school at Lander-Grinspoon Academy in Northampton, Massachusetts. LGA is a partner school in phase two of the Mandel Center’s Induction Partnership.

LGA visions of good teachingSome parents may have grumbled when our students had another day off recently, but it was probably the most important day off that students have taken in a long time. While they were resting and relaxing, our faculty was deeply immersed in the work of creating a document for a “Vision of Good Teaching” at LGA.

This isn’t just a one-day, months-long, or even year-long project. It is a multifaceted, ongoing collaboration that is taking our school on a journey to even higher places, as we focus on the question, “How do we make schools a place for teacher learning?” Continue reading

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