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.
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?
More on webcases
More on practitioner research
More Mandel Center videos
This guest post is by Miriam Heller Stern, a colleague with whom we share a strong interest in practitioner research. She is Dean of the Fingerhut School of Education at American Jewish University.
One of the lessons of the last century of American education reform, a refrain in Larry Cuban’s work, is that change happens in classrooms when teachers make it happen. Policymakers and researchers may tell us what teaching should look like, but teachers have an exclusive insider’s view of the challenges of implementation. The dilemma is: how can we learn valuable lessons from these change agents when their most significant work occurs behind closed doors? Continue reading