Learning about Learning

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

Category: DeLeT/MAT program

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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How DeLeT uses standards in teacher preparation

Standards are a key component of any teacher development program, but here at DeLeT, where we prepare teachers for Jewish day schools, they are far more than just a set of benchmarks: They provide us with a road map to assess each developing teacher’s progress along a number of continua. Standards are useful at any stage in a teacher’s career development, but here I demonstrate with a real-world example how we use them in practice with teachers at the pre-service level: DeLeT graduate students who are earning the MAT degree to prepare for careers in Jewish day schools. Continue reading

Putting Critique to Work

Guest post by Jamie Faith Woods, a fifth grade general studies teacher at Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island. She was in the first cohort of the DeLeT program at Brandeis University.

The notions of high standards, multiple drafts and critique have been on my mind since I attended the Mandel Center’s Teacher Forum with Ron Berger on “Cultivating an Ethic of Excellence.” For some time now, students in my fifth-grade classroom have been solving word problems in front of the class, explaining their thinking as they go. After Ron’s presentation, however, I have been thinking about how to put his approach to peer critique into play in my own teaching.

Ron Berger at the Mandel Center Teacher Forum

~Ron Berger presenting at the Mandel Center's Teacher Forum~

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DeLeT Snapshot of Student Learning

While teaching has long been a private discipline, performed behind the closed door of the classroom, here at DeLeT, as we prepare teachers for Jewish day schools, we make teaching public. We believe that teachers who know how to talk with their colleagues about their practice are positioned for future growth. For that reason, we hold a public event each semester, called “Snapshots of Emerging Practice,” in which DeLeT students reflect on some aspect of their learning, either through their academic work or from their internships in classrooms.

In these two video clips, you will see Joey Regen and Linnea Bredenberg sharing their thoughts about one of our DeLeT teaching standards: Planning for student learning.

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