Students' Understanding of Rabbinics

The final 2020 report of the project, Students’ Understanding of Rabbinics, is available.

Cover of "Students' Understandings of Rabbinics -- Final Report." Arielle Levites. April 2020. Blue background with turquoise highlight.What have alumni of Jewish day schools learned in the field of rabbinics? What do they understand about Talmud or other rabbinic literature? How do they conceptualize the subject, how do they think about its significance, and how do they feel about their learning?

While the study of rabbinic literature is a central component of the Jewish day school curriculum in both liberal and Orthodox schools, we knew almost nothing about what students have learned, what they understand or how they think. Educators and researchers therefore lack the empirical basis to articulate sound educational goals for this subject.

In the first phase of this project, we examined students' understanding of rabbinics by gathering interview data from new day school alumni, with input from scholars, teachers and other subject matter experts. The second phase explored what students in Jewish day schools learn about rabbinics in high school. What do they believe comprises rabbinics, its subject matter, activities, and discourses in their schools? What do they see as the purpose(s) of engaging in the study of rabbinics? How do students understand their own learning, and what do they think they know about and know how to do in relation to rabbinic literature?

The report on the findings from Phase I ("A Text that is Never Resolved": Skills, Knowledge, and Personal Meaning in Students' Expreiences of Rabbinic Literature) is available, in addition to the final report. The research project was a partnership between the Mandel Center and The Davidson School at Jewish Theological Seminary. In addition to developing a knowledge base for the field of rabbinics education in general, the project was designed to support the ongoing development of standards and benchmarks in rabbinics, as part of the Jewish Day School Standards and Benchmarks Project. Well-informed, clearly-articulated goals will drive better work in the classroom, more meaningful assessment and more relevant professional development for educators.

This project was supported in part by CASJE, in partnership with the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education.