Book Review: Miriam B. Raider-Roth, Professional Development in Relational Learning Communities: Teachers in Connection


Source:  Journal of Jewish Education Volume 83, 2017 Issue 4, pages 396–398

Professional Development in Relational Learning Communities: Teachers in Connection consolidates a decade of action research from three successive cycles of week-long summer seminars for teachers, all designed to foster a Relational Learning Community (RLC). Well stated by Sharon Feiman-Nemser in her introduction, this book is rich in resources for many audiences—those designing professional development, those facilitating teacher education experiences, and the research practitioner. The clarity with which the book documents how disparate theoretical frames animate the seminar’s design and the intentionality behind each of the seminars’ practices is notable; it is the unique blend of gravitas and heart with which Raider-Roth and her faculty approach their project, that leaves its deepest impression on the reader…
The seminar participants were diverse and the book highlights the critical role that this diversity plays,“...a stance of listening to how a text, a place, an idea, or an interpretation might be understood by someone different from them - led to new realizations, eye-opening moments, ‘seeing things in a new way’”(p. 117). While some might question the extent to which this impact can be replicated for an audience comprised only of Jewish educators, it seems to me that the pretense of homogeneity among our teaching population is long past…

As the various appendices of the book clarify, the quality of the participants’ experience is determined by meticulous attention to every detail and nuance of the seminar. Throughout the book, Raider-Roth calls our attention to the need for and role of “presence” in the project of facilitating an RLC. This is also the only dimension which gives pause. Much as a Torah scribe must be steeped in the content of the Text and the process of scribing and can only engage in the work in a state of purity and devotion, Raider-Roth and her team have set a high bar. And yet, perhaps the book will spur a new generation of teacher educators to grapple with the challenge and write their own new Torah, as it were, to re-examine professional development for Jewish educators. 

Updated: Feb. 11, 2018