In the teaching of Jewish studies, we have few shared understandings of how we get from point A to B, what those points even are, and what happens in between. We don’t really have a richly developed “grammar of practice”—that is, shared “language and structures for describing practice,” (Grossman, 2011) which can give us some basic common referents upon which we can reflect and build. In recent years, work on the teaching of Tanakh and rabbinics has begun to provide language for different orientations toward teaching these subjects, along with benchmarks for success. Nevertheless, we still lack a fully fleshed-out vocabulary for the pedagogy of Jewish studies that can help teachers and learners reflect on and navigate the live action of the classroom and improve and deepen their practice. Continue reading
The Jewish community is blessed with lay leaders, philanthropists and professionals committed to creating vibrant and innovative Jewish learning opportunities for learners of all ages. Their relentless efforts have resulted in many exciting new educational initiatives. Still, it is no secret that while we all have great hopes that each one of these initiatives will become a great success and have lasting impact on the field, not all do. Identifying the most effective initiatives is a daunting task, one for which solid evaluation research becomes a must for policymakers and funders. Continue reading
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
By Joseph Reimer
This guest post is adapted from the editor’s note in the June 2011 issue of Journal of Jewish Education.
Lee Shulman (2004) is a master at providing wisdom about the process of teaching. One gem I treasure is what I call “Shulman’s paradox.”
Teaching is impossible. If we simply add together all that is expected of a typical teacher and take note of the circumstances under which those activities are to be carried out, the sum makes greater demands than any individual can possibly fulfill. Yet, teachers teach…. How is the impossible rendered possible in practice? (p. 151)
Most of us who prepare and mentor teachers face Shulman’s paradox. Continue reading
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