Beit Midrash Research Project

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The Beit Midrash Research project studies the pedagogy and practice of havruta (paired learning) study of Jewish texts. We have developed a model for understanding havruta, which has the potential to cultivate intellectual and relational skills that are important to teachers and students, deepen content knowledge and transform both small-group learning and classroom culture.

We believe that it is a core practice of Jewish learning to work together to make meaning out of Jewish texts. Our framework for havruta text study provides one effective way of explaining how this occurs and for helping people learn how to do it better. Our research contributes to the literature on collaborative learning, interpretive discussion, text study, classroom discourse, and teacher development and practice.

We represent havruta as the overlapping of a pedagogical structure, stance and practices (Kent and Cook, 2012).  When approached in this way, it is an ambitious and powerful pedagogy for teachers and learners in different educational contexts.  People generally think of havruta as two people studying Jewish text, but for us, havruta is much more than that, involving three partners: two people and the text over which they come together. It embodies a particular teaching and learning stance and a set of core practices.

We work with selected practitioners and educational institutions to teach our approach to havruta learning, and we study what occurs in different settings. To date, we have conducted two such design experiments, one in the DeLeT teacher education program at Brandeis University and one in the Kesher supplementary school for students from grades K-8. We have also worked intensively with a third-grade teacher in Jewish day school to develop and document a havruta-based curriculum. A webcase based on this work is forthcoming.

We offer scholarly papers and other resources that contribute to the scholarly literature on teaching and learning in Jewish education and support teacher professional development. 


Director: Orit Kent
Research Associate: Allison Cook