Learning about Learning

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

Category: Assessment

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

Understanding the Day School Student: What do THEY think about Torah?

Should we focus our efforts to improve the field of Jewish education on teaching, or on learning?

From its founding in 2002, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis has focused on teaching-and-learning. The hyphens in the phrase signal that we (and the field of teaching-and-learning in general) think about the two terms in relationship to each other. We have always cared about both. At the same time, most of our research over the past decade has looked more closely at the teaching end of the teaching-and-learning spectrum.

More recently, we have become increasingly aware that the field of Jewish education needs to be paying more attention to learners and learning, to hard questions about our desired outcomes and how we might assess those outcomes, and especially, to understanding learners’ experiences. In response to this need new Mandel Center projects now being developed and launched will focus less on the former term and more on the latter. Indeed, we have already begun to do so—and the new name of this blog, “Learning about Learning,” is one way of signaling that shift.

How delightful, therefore, to discover that others are thinking in similar ways. In the following guest post, originally published by the Jim Joseph Foundation, Stanford doctoral student Ziva Reimer Hassenfeld articulates why she believes that field of the teaching and learning of classical Jewish texts needs to adopt precisely the shift that I describe above, and how she intends to make that happen in her own work. Continue reading

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