From Convincing to Understanding: Developing Dispositions of Torah Study

May 24, 2017

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


Nearly one year ago, Mechon Hadar,in partnership with Beit Rabban Day School, released the Standards for Fluency in Jewish Text and Practice, as an attempt to contribute to the answer to this question. This educational resource paints a portrait of fluency for students in nursery through eighth grade – articulating skills to be developed, defining a canon of texts to be mastered, and formulating dispositions to be cultivated so that students can grow into empowered Jewish adults who can carry Torah into the future.

In developing these standards, and in implementing them at Beit Rabban, I have found that these dispositions – or attitudes towards learning – are much harder to describe, teach, and assess than skills or the content of the canon of texts.

These dispositions are no less important (and some would argue perhaps more important) than a skill like “decoding letters and vowels” or content knowledge like “names, profiles, and relationships of main and secondary characters.” Yet, I struggled with how exactly to articulate them when writing the fluency standards document and have continued to grapple with how to design instructional strategies for explicitly teaching and cultivating them at Beit Rabban.

This is why it was so exciting to me to see these dispositions in action in the fourth grade class at Boston’s Jewish Community Day School when I visited there last month. The fourth grade teachers, Ayelet Lipton and Michelle Janoschek, are using the Pedagogy of Partnership, an approach to teaching and learning, developed by Dr. Orit Kent and Allison Cook, that focuses on deepening students’ intellectual, ethical and spiritual engagement with texts, teachers and peers.

The Fluency Standards together with the Pedagogy of Partnership can transform classrooms and schools, empowering students to own their relationships to Jewish texts and to one another. I hope that as the Fluency Standards and the Pedagogy of Partnership make their way into more schools, articulating and teaching these dispositions, as well as strengthening text skills and content knowledge, will be the norm, rather than the exception. And even more than that, we will be educating a generation of students who not only know how to read and interpret the Torah, but who do so by deeply listening to the text and to one another, joyfully co-creating a tapestry of new and colorful understandings of our sacred ancient texts.

Read the whole article on eJewish Philanthropy

Updated: Jun. 21, 2017