A PBL Unit on Prayer from the Collaboratory

April 20, 2015

Source: Yeshiva University Institute for University-School Partnership


Mrs. Tikvah Wiener outlines a PBL project design unit focusing on Tefillah. As many of our schools struggle with engagement and Tefilllah, Tikvah and her colleagues have outlined a new project putting the dilemma into the hands of the students for whom the dilemma is a reality. Problem-Based Learning, as its name suggests, asks students to solve a real-world problem. One thorny problem Jewish educators face is how to approach prayer — tefillah — in school. At the PBL Collaboratory in Judaic Studies that took place last month in late March, a group of us were inspired by RealSchooler Ronit Langer, who dropped by and spoke about the fact that tefillah in school seems more punitive than aspirational. We decided to tackle the topic during our project design session.

We noted that many schools have already initiated tefillah programs that incorporate yoga, meditation, or other activities that appeal to students and might put them in a prayerful mode. Some schools even replace prayer with communal work. We decided that for our project we would maintain the structure and content of the traditional tefillah service.

The disciplines we chose to subsume this project under — Jewish philosophy and Laws of Prayer — imply students will be studying why they pray or the laws of prayer, respectively. However, the truth is that teachers can access the project any way they want. Based on who is teaching the course and in what discipline it grows out of, teachers can choose to focus on a particular subject.

Using the model of an inquiry-based classroom and student voice and choice, students explore tefillah through a lens that is meaningful to them. For example, a student interested in history might explore the history of prayer, when the different prayers made their way into the service, and how they might differ in myriad communities.

One final product of the project would be individual prayerbooks, based on what was compelling to each student and with room for the student to add to his/her reflections. The second final product would be a plan born out of the design thinking process for how to increase student engagement in tefillah. The students who prepared the plans for the school would present them to the student body, who would then vote on the best plan. The school would implement that plan.

Read the entire post on the YUeducate Blog.

Updated: May. 21, 2015