Reflection and Connections: The Other Side of Integration

April, 2010

Source: Journal of Jewish Education, Volume 76, Issue 2, pages 164 – 188


Jewish day schools offer many experiences meant to foster the Jewish development of students. However, these experiences are at risk of being disconnected from one another, complicating a comprehensive approach to addressing issues of identity.

This article uses a constructivist approach to identity development to frame the challenges posed by such a fragmentation. Observations of pluralistic Jewish day high schools are brought as illustrations. The author discusses an approach of scaffolded reflection as a way to integrate the identity—enhancing experiences in which a student participates.


The author writes:

"Integration that involves a coordinated thematic approach, as described above, rather than discrete experiences, can lend coherence to a school's developmental program. A student, however, may still encounter a myriad of messages and experiences—in and out of school—related to who they are and whom they should, or could, become. For these messages and experiences to be most impactful, adolescents must integrate them into an ongoing sense of oneself over time. To create a coherent life narrative, students need opportunities to “digest” these messages and experiences, to break them down in their minds and to think about how they relate to who they are, to contemplate discrepant messages, and to compare new ideas or actions against previously held beliefs about the world, about Judaism, and about themselves…


The question—“What does it mean to you as a developing person and Jew?”—has the potential to become the integrating connector for the diverse experiences—in and out of classrooms—in which a student participates. Whereas curriculum-based or theme-based approaches to integration focus on the message to be delivered in consistent ways by the messengers (the educators), integration through self-reflection focuses on the recipient—namely, the student, and the mediation of his or her ability to make connections among educational experiences and with the evolving self. The “theme” here is the student or the student's holding up his or her self-schema in the light of new experiences. It is here that the “spontaneity” of developmental education can fully emerge, as sets of experiences are filtered through the unique perspective of each individual student. The goal would be an integrated outcome that would be idiosyncratic, not monolithic. This approach would also be fostering the skills and habits needed for ongoing self-reflection."

Updated: Oct. 05, 2010