Source: Journal of Jewish Education, Volume 72, Issue 2 August 2006, pages 91 – 108
In this article, the authors report a study of professional culture and professional development in Jewish schools based on surveys of teachers and other staff and interviews with principals.
They first introduce three key constructs: professional culture, professional development, and professional learning communities.
They then describe research that has identified features of each that support teacher learning. With this background in mind, they compare the current realities in Jewish schools as gleaned through the survey with typical public schools and with the features of schools identified in the literature as supportive of teacher learning and collegiality.
Finally, they suggest the next steps that might be taken to improve Jewish schools as settings in which teacher growth and learning flourish. The authors conclude that overall, the professional climates of most of the Jewish schools studied seem rather similar to those described in studies of public schools. Although some elements of a productive professional learning environment are in place in some of the schools, the majority of schools are missing many critical features. The study suggests the need for a sustained effort to make Jewish schools better places for teacher learning and growth.
To accomplish this, schools need to adopt structures and practices that permit teachers to interact with one another around teaching and learning. Teaching increasingly must become a public activity and teachers must come to expect that colleagues will raise questions and offer suggestions about their classroom practices. Moving in these directions may be especially challenging for afternoon schools where faculty are part-time and may be onsite at different times.
Day schools also may experience challenges as faculty members are often on non-overlapping schedules and divided between Jewish studies and secular subject groups. It will take imagination, leadership, and perseverance to find ways for faculty groups to come together for joint study, planning, and problem solving.