This article presents original qualitative research applying paired text study, havruta learning, to the secular college classroom. I adapted this method to a first-year seminar in a public university and found that students perceived that havruta improved their abilities to verbalize their understandings through reading text aloud and debating one another, opened their eyes to new perspectives, engaged them in argumentation, and empowered them to take charge of learning. Despite students’ overall resoundingly positive reflections upon their havruta experience, I also inquired as to perceived disadvantages, which included unbalanced participation, discomfort with disagreeing, and agreement leading to stagnation. Strategies I posit to address these challenges include planning for and evaluating future havruta learning and evaluating the balance and quality of work of partners.
Implementing havruta study methods supported three course goals: students would carefully read texts aloud together, increase the amount and depth of conversation on controversial topics in education, and provide evidence to support their arguments. By reading and conversing about texts, students could listen better to one another, get more involved in hashing out ideas, and hone their skills in identifying arguments and supporting them with text-based evidence.
This study addressed the following questions: (1) How did learners experience the advantages and disadvantages of havruta learning? (2) In what ways may educators apply the findings from this study to teaching with havruta in Jewish settings? (3) How may this study inform implementing this practice in secular education contexts?