Source: Yeshiva University
In 2012-13, as part of an investigation about the role that goals, indicators and outcomes play in Experiential Jewish Education (EJE) , the Department of Experiential Jewish Education at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, with support from the Jim Joseph Foundation, created a research project to address three sets of questions:
- Goal Setting: What does it mean for practitioners to be intentional? To what extent do practitioners set goals for their work? How do practitioners use these goals as they engage in their practice?
- Evaluation of Goals: How do practitioners know they are meeting their goals? What indicators do they use? What is the means by which goals are evaluated?
- Content of Goals: When participating in EJE programs, what should students be learning? Having undergone EJE, what should the impact on students be? What kinds of behaviors, feelings, or cognitive knowledge should they adopt or acquire?
To explore these questions, Dr. Beth Cousens, an external consultant with expertise in research, evaluation, and goal-setting turned to twenty-two expert practitioners across the field of EJE.
"Our approach in the study is that of “Grounded theory”, suggesting that theory is developed through the systematic gathering and analyzing of data in order to produce an idea or set of ideas. We began with a general area of focus and research question rather than a specific hypothesis, then engaged in study, allowing ideas to come from the data, with data points building as the research is conducted. By studying the field in this bottom-up approach, we were able to create a portrait of goals in EJE work, using real language from practice.
While there was inconsistency in how practitioners understood goals and a lack of uniformity in how these goals are recorded, we did find uniformity when it came to the content of these goals. We discovered that EJE organizations have similar goals, whether they are written down explicitly or are implicit in their work and their conversation about their work. These goals include:
- Helping students to see Judaism as personally relevant and meaningful.
- Helping students engage in Jewish life at their own motivation and on their own terms.
- Helping students develop interpersonal skills.
- Helping students learn various aspects of Jewish subject matter.
The study professes to be an introductory study, and raises big questions that still need to be explored: On what foundational principles should EJE be based? What is rigor in this field? How can research about the field’s principles feed into practice? With practitioners generally not familiar with goal-setting, how can practitioners develop the skills and capacities necessary to set them?
Experiential Jewish education has grown significantly as a field in the past decades. Our research points to the extent to which inconsistency continues to exist within the field itself. Language differs among practitioners, and educational ideas have not found their place consistently among EJE organizations.
At the same time, the study demonstrates that by practicing grounded theory – talking with practitioners and documenting their ideas and even observing moments in the field – we can begin to isolate ideas and create language that is based in real practice and, therefore, might be adopted by many. We can begin to identify the principles behind the work of EJE practitioners and create a common language with which to exchange ideas and strengthen our work."
You can read the full report here.
See a summary of the reports main points at eJewish Philanthropy.