The innovative Beit Midrash for Teachers in the DeLeT/MAT program at Brandeis University was founded in 2003. The Beit Midrash for Teachers has three goals: to expose students to rabbinic texts that deal with issues of teaching and learning, to teach students about the interpretive process and its application to both text study and teaching; and to teach students about working together on havruta learning and its application to text study and teaching (and in particular, to give students an opportunity to use their havruta experience to explore how to best support another person's learning).
In 2003, Orit Kent was a Beit Midrash instructor, and Jocelyn Segal was a fellow in the program and Orit's student. In the years that followed, Orit conducted research on havruta learning and identified core havruta practices: listening and articulating; wondering and focusing; and supporting and challenging. In 2005, Jocelyn graduated from the DeLeT/MAT program and went on to become a successful general studies teacher in a Jewish day school. In her classroom, Jocelyn focused on building a "responsive classroom" where all students would feel like they were members of the classroom community.
In 2007, Orit and Jocelyn came together to figure out how to build a beit midrash for third graders that would teach students how to study Jewish texts together in havruta pairs, so that the texts and the learning experience could further inform their thinking about classroom community. With Orit's assistance, Jocelyn worked for two years to develop and refine a Jewish values curriculum and document its implementation. This curriculum built on skills Jocelyn was already cultivating in her language arts curriculum and also drew from her own experience as a student in the DeLeT Beit Midrash (as well as her experience as a student of Jewish texts at Machon Pardes’ Day School Novice Teachers' Curriculum Workshop in Israel in 2007).
Jocelyn and Orit developed this webcase based on Jocelyn's implementation of the Jewish values curriculum in her third-grade classroom.