Beit Midrash Research Project

About Our Work

Why study havruta pedagogy and practice?

Working in HavrutaThis form of teaching and learning has hitherto gone largely unexplored by researchers. We study havruta learning because of its wide use in many segments of the Jewish world. In addition, we believe that well-framed havruta text study can provide a holding environment for learners to develop capacities that are crucial to text study and collaborative learning, as well as to the practice of teaching. We hope that our research will begin to provide a language and navigation system for teachers and students interested in this exciting terrain, and provide a framework for other researchers to systematically investigate this kind of learning

What are we finding?

In our work, we have identified three dimensions of havruta learning (Kent and Cook, 2012):

  • the structure of two people studying a text;
  • the stance one takes toward other people (students and teachers) and texts;
  • the set of six havruta practices, or skill clusters (listening and articulating, wondering and focusing, and supporting and challenging.)

As students and teachers learn to intentionally engage in all three dimensions, they can cultivate not only intellectual skills but also relational skills (and in the case of teachers, pedagogic skills), shifting how they understand the study of texts and their own role in the classroom context.

Other findings from our work include:

  • People can get better at studying in havruta and teachers can get better at helping their students do this.
  • When thought of as an ambitious and comprehensive pedagogy, havruta study can provide multiple entry points, making it accessible and generative to different people in different educational settings.
  • The use of havruta pedagogy can help make Jewish texts more accessible and alive in educational settings. 
  • Havruta pedagogy can serve as a lever for deepening teaching practice more broadly.
  • Havruta pedagogy can serve as a lever for creating responsive spaces in which participants can be more present and aware of themselves in relationship to others.  Because of this, havruta pedagogy can help groups in different settings create and strengthen their learning community.

We welcome inquiries from educators, researchers and others who share our interests.

Contact Project Director Orit Kent (okent@brandeis.edu) for more information.