Best Practices in Holocaust Education: Guidelines and Standards

From Section:
Formal Education
May. 05, 2009
Fall, 2009

Source: Jewish Educational Leadership. Fall 2009 (8:1) pages 21-26


In this article, Shirah Hecht reports on recent research designed to provide general information about best practices in Holocaust education, Holocaust education delivery systems, and the training of Holocaust educators. It was also intended to respond to an interest in considering alternative educational models to address the diminishing access to survivors and whose first-hand presentations have been a centerpiece of many of the educational programs.


The questions addressed by the research included several designed to identify characteristics of the most effective Holocaust education programs, including: What are characteristics of these programs that make them effective? What is the role and importance of first-hand testimony by survivors? How are field leaders thinking about Holocaust education in coming years, in light of the diminishing access to survivors and first-hand testimony?


The results reported in the article are based on interviews with leading professionals in a variety of positions related to Holocaust education, in addition to other collected documents and resources. Using a “snowball sample” approach, the interviewees included noted professionals associated with a range of institutions related to Holocaust education, including Holocaust museums, Holocaust education and resource centers and state commissions. More than 50 experts were identified and 22 professionals were interviewed. Of these, 16 individuals participated in extensive telephone interviews that followed a structured protocol and six individuals responded to more focused questions about specific topics of interest.


Summary of Research Findings:


Effective Holocaust education:

  • uses powerful teaching vehicles and materials
  • connects with larger curricular goals and longer curriculum time-frames
  • attends to cognitive and affective goals
  • creates an emotionally safe environment for learning this material

Survivor presentations:

  • are currently invaluable
  • require preparation in order to be used effectively
  • are not the only means of reaching students in an impactful way
  • can and will be effectively replaced in the future with second generation and other alternative speakers, taped testimonies and combining multiple media

Effective professional development for teachers:

  • must be structurally well-designed and must include ongoing support
  • emphasizes content effectively as well as incorporating pedagogy
  • includes demonstrations and modeling of teaching methods
  • must be school and curriculum-based
  • respects the demands and needs of teachers professionally and in their school settings
  • identifies, rewards and reinforces the most committed teachers of Holocaust material
  • contains content that is shaped with state standards clearly in mind
  • balances national and local resources while always including local follow-up and support

Effective outreach and delivery systems:

  • actively promote and network to create programming
  • work from a central locus of action in a community
  • focus on teachers as the gateway to reaching and affecting students
  • facilitate teachers’ involvement by meeting them where they are, respecting their constraints and supporting their personal professional development
  • provide excellent educational content and professional development structures

Assessment and evaluation in this field:

  • is currently extremely limited
  • requires significant work in order to answer basic questions about student outcomes and
    to describe current educational resources

Updated: Feb. 07, 2017
Best practices | Curricula | Holocaust education | Professional development | Research