Learning about Learning

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

Category: Resources (page 2 of 4)

New Scholarship Sheds Light on Teacher Learning and Improvement

This story is reprinted from Brandeis NOW

Authors at the book partyFour new books by Brandeis faculty members offer insights resulting from many years of research into questions about what really happens between teachers and learners in classrooms. At a recent book party, Sharon Feiman-Nemser and Vivian Troen of the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education and Helen Featherstone and Susan Jean Mayer of the Education Program shared some highlights from their latest works with an enthusiastic audience of faculty members, staff, students and friends.

Moderator Marya Levenson, director of the Education Program, said the books “provide depth and understanding. We need to talk about what teaching is, and what we need to do to support teacher development.” Continue reading

Looking for Learning in ALL the Right Places

Steve SeidelIs learning visible? What evidence can we see of learning in our classrooms? And what can we as teachers do to fine-tune our capacities to observe our students’ learning in its many complex facets?

For Steve Seidel, who spoke to an audience of over 100 teachers at the Mandel Center’s 4th annual teacher forum recently, these questions are at the heart of a teacher’s work. The key is to look closely with other teachers at the materials our students create and really wonder about and appreciate their meaning and significance. It is through this process, Seidel believes, that we can get to the heart of our students’ learning, and uncover core questions and insights about our own teaching.

Continue reading

Practitioners as Researchers

The Mandel Center is committed to research in Jewish education. Our mission statement refers to “advancing knowledge,” but how do we advance knowledge in Jewish education?

At the Mandel Center, some of the research that we do is traditional scholarly work, carried out by the well-trained academic researchers on our staff. Other inquiries are carried out by practitioners who have both close familiarity with and intense curiosity about some aspect of their practice. These studies of practice by practitioners, when done well, can provide powerful insights and images for the field.

But what do these models of research look like?  In this short video, you’ll meet a talented elementary day school teacher, who researched her practice in order to develop a webcase, and a well-respected congregational rabbi, who participated in a project in which he researched his practice in order to produce an article (to be published in a forthcoming volume).

As Mandel Center Director Sharon Feiman-Nemser says, “Enabling practitioners to study their work in a systematic way, and to share what they’re learning with a wider audience, is one of the ways that we can tap the expertise of talented teachers and other practitioners, and benefit from their knowledge and their experience.”  If we want to add to the knowledge base on teaching and learning in Jewish education, we need to take advantage of the insightful inquiries of those who know the most about it.

What do other models of practitioner research look like? What are some other effective ways to tap the expertise of skillful practitioners?

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More on webcases

More on practitioner research

More Mandel Center videos

From Practice-to-Research-to-Practice: Building the Field by Building an Evidence Base in Jewish Education

Today we feature a timely and important piece from the AVI CHAI Foundation blog this past summer. Susan M. Kardos, a former Mandel Center post-doctoral fellow and now senior director for strategy and education planning at The AVI CHAI Foundation, reports on the new Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education. Mandel Center Director Sharon Feiman-Nemser serves on the national advisory board and we look forward to seeing what emerges from the consortium’s work.

It’s an uncontested fact that any strong field has—in addition to strong institutions, skilled and talented people, sufficient resources, and standards of practice—a knowledge base upon which policy and practice decisions are made.

Though chronically underfunded, the Jewish education field has done some serious foundational work to build an evidence base.  Continue reading

How is the recession hitting Jewish day school classrooms?

What do we know about how the financial crisis, now almost three years old, has affected Jewish day schools? According to Mandel Center Senior Research Associate Eran Tamir, coverage by the mainstream and Jewish media has focused on the views of federation professionals, philanthropists, school leaders and administrators. Their views, which don’t always reflect the experiences of teachers and the impact on classrooms, have nevertheless framed the public discussion.

In his latest paper [PDF], part of the DeLeT Longitudinal Survey project, Tamir investigates how the recession is directly affecting teachers and their teaching at the classroom level, in their work with children. Continue reading

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