Is Project-Based Learning Countercultural to Judaism?

July 16, 2012

Source: Thinking about Chinuch Blog


Rabbi Aaron Ross has recently been devoting considerable effort to introducing Problem-Based Learning (PBL) to the Judaic studies classroom in order to take our most ancient texts and teach them in a new and hopefully more thought-provoking fashion. While engaged in this endeavor he confronts the nagging question: Is PBL countercultural to Jewish tradition?

He writes:

"Seemingly, Project-Based Learning, by making the student the main engine of his own learning, would seem to decrease the perceived need for the teacher as the fountain of all wisdom, and thus would possibly lead to a sense that our revered teachers - revered as they may be - are not the authority figures that they once were. Taking this out to one possible logical conclusion, by encouraging the use of PBL in Judaic Studies classrooms, I may perhaps be unwittingly sowing the seeds of my own demise, and the demise of my profession in general….


Fortunately, I have come to the conclusion that the opposite is, in fact, the case. Project-Based Learning does indeed put students at the center of their own learning, but the teacher is still a necessary component of that learning, and perhaps an even more important component than when the teacher was the one standing at the head of the room, spouting wisdom to be lapped up by intellectually thirsty students. In a well-run PBL classroom, there is no question that the teacher is the one providing the framework and guidance for what is to be learned, that the teacher is the one directing the students to both sources and ideas, and that the teacher is the one who is constantly on the move, answering a question from one group and then another and then another. In fact, the students are more likely to see their relationship with the teacher as being one where they want to learn well in order to take part in the learning atmosphere created by the teacher as opposed to trying to memorize the information in order to score high on the test created by the teacher."


Read the entire post on the Thinking About Chinuch Blog.

Updated: Aug. 09, 2012