Using studies of teaching to promote teacher learning
What's the purpose of investigating the teaching of Jewish texts, as the Mandel Center's Bridging Initiative has done through the publication of working papers and the edited volume "Turn It and Turn It Again"? The purpose is this: to benefit teachers and teaching.
We believe that, when teachers have the opportunity to encounter these investigations — when they deepen their curiosity about the complex practice of teaching — they will become better teachers over time. Our shorthand for this is pedagogy lishma, that is, the study of teaching for the sake of growth rather than for the sake of direct application of methods.
But what actually happens when teachers of Jewish texts encounter studies of the teaching of Jewish texts? What do they learn? How is that learning expressed?
This project explored these questions through a small-scale design experiment. A small group of Jewish day school Jewish text and Jewish studies teachers participated in a series of six seminars, led by Ziva Reimer Hassenfeld (Stanford University), about the teaching of classical Jewish texts. Participants also engaged in online discussions, and were interviewed about their evolving ideas about teaching. These materials provided the data to illuminate the teachers' learning over the course of the program.
Project leaders are now analyzing the data from the study group and preparing a publication with their findings.
Jon A. Levisohn, associate professor and the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Chair in Jewish Educational Thought at Brandeis University and director of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, has taught Jewish texts and ideas for 20 years, to children and adults, in a variety of settings. He began his career as a middle school Judaics teacher at Cohen Hillel Academy in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
Ziva R. Hassenfeld, post-doctoral fellow at the Mandel Center and a Delet-MAT (Brandeis) alumna, received her PhD from Stanford in the School of Education, concentration in Jewish Studies, and is a former tanakh teacher at Gann Academy.