From Informal to Experiential: New Approaches to Graduate Studies in Jewish Educational Leadership

September 9, 2011

Source: eJewish Philanthropy 


Mark S. Young, Program Coordinator of the Experiential Learning Initiative, at the Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary, describes in eJewish Philanthropy the development of the new graduate program in Jewish Experiential Education at Davidson which just opened its first semester.


He writes:

"Through an examination of Davidson’s core curriculum, field placement opportunities and meeting collaboratively with over 250 educators, professionals and leaders in the field, Davidson’s informal track has undergone a transformation into a new Master’s program with a focus on Jewish experiential education that commences this fall.


This transformation is technical and conceptual. The technical changes include reshaping academic course work, enhancing the quantity and quality of the fieldwork experience, and creating cohort based activities that effectively train and produce exceptional Jewish experiential educators and leaders. To be more specific, courses in pedagogy are intentionally linked to courses in Jewish content in a manner that addresses experiential approaches to learning. In addition, students will participate in a new experiential learning seminar in their first year to include visits to and speakers from leaders and venues where excellent Jewish experiential education is happening now. Students will engage in activities and rich discussion with these leaders. Students will also attend Jewish experiential learning events and conferences on their own both to increase their professional network and to observe, participate and reflect on Jewish experiential education programs. Students will also engage in more intensive field placements in the program’s second year to be more fully immersed in their internship, learning from their mentor, leading practitioners in the field, and engaging in meaningful projects. Lastly, students will receive mentorship from senior practitioners throughout their program journey including first year post- graduation.


There is also a fundamental conceptual transformation that acknowledges the reality that the experiential approach to learning is not purely setting-based. The experiential approach is used quite seamlessly at Jewish camp or at Hillel, and the physical setting certainly plays a key role in facilitating this process. However, experiential learning techniques, including facilitation and reflective practice, can occur successfully in the classroom as well. How we learn, and therefore successfully educate, using the experiential approach will be a core discussion throughout our students’ program journey.


In addition, acknowledging that experiential learning is often most successful in a group process, students learn together and from each other as a cohort. Each student will have an individual journey within the cohort-based experience."


See Young's full piece at eJewish Philanthropy.


Updated: Nov. 13, 2011