Havruta Skills/Practices Final Assessment: Teacher Reflections on Student Work

Copyright 2011 Jocelyn Segal

This assignment was designed to assess what students think a great discussion would look like. I decided that they should write about content areas with which they were already familiar; at the time of this assignment, we were studying whales (specifically, the differences between toothed and baleen whales) and fractions. Additionally, I wanted to see how the havruta practices we had been using during values classes would translate to their general studies content areas. This assignment both demonstrates and encourages a clear connection between what we do during havruta time and discussions we have during any other class period; ideally, my students will apply what they know about good discussion to all conversations they have.

I was interested in seeing how they would specifically represent active listening and respectful challenging, as well as other skills for working together that I had taught them. The students had not created comics in the class previously, so I was curious how their ideas would translate into this format. Below are my reflections on Hannah, Sophia and Eli's comics.


The student demonstrates understanding of:


The student demonstrates understanding of:


The student demonstrates understanding of:

Common Challenges I See These Students Representing

(Note: I observe these challenges manifested in actual havruta time.)

Students understand that they can challenge someone's idea when they disagree, and they can also challenge their own ideas to help refine them. However, they are still working on how to discuss each other's perspectives and continue to have a back-and-forth conversation about an idea. This skill requires students to sustain conversation on one topic for an extended period of time. I have found that with the help of a facilitator, they can sustain it much longer. Havruta is a place where they can begin these conversations and practice listening to and challenging ideas, but there is still a need to bring the discussion that occurs in small groups or pairs back to the whole class to clarify misunderstandings, build off one another's ideas, and continue to push each other's thinking in a structured and supportive environment.

It is interesting that in all three comics, the students drew pictures of themselves handing in their work. In one comic, the student even drew the teacher. This makes me wonder about for whom they think they are doing their work. Do they take pride in their work, understand that it is part of their learning process and want to share it with others or do they think they are doing it simply for the sake of handing in to a teacher. I spend time in my class explaining to my students why I ask them to do particular work in havruta. These comics remind me that students can have many different understandings of the work teachers ask them to do and that it's important to keep talking with students about the purpose of their work all through the school year.