Jewish day schools take on a wide range of goals, often beyond the scope of traditional programs. Schools must have academically strong secular and Judaic studies programs, but they must also instill a sense of spirit and commitment to Jewish beliefs, values, and people. This article provides a concise and clear description of Elliot Eisner’s Educational Connoisseurship and Criticism qualitative research model and how its use can provide valuable information for Jewish day school researchers and educators as they try to understand these complex learning environments. Through the use of examples, the article outlines Eisner’s five dimensions of educational settings: intentional, curricular, pedagogical, structural, and evaluative. By exploring these dimensions of the educational landscape, researchers can see nuances and variables often missed by other quantitative and qualitative measures. A discussion of how to write an educational criticism follows, with examples that help inform and guide researchers.
Jewish day-school programs aim to prepare students for life, by necessity a complex endeavor. Having a research methodology that helps examine, reflect, and value the artistry and intricacy of Jewish day school programs can help us get closer to achieving our goals and clearly seeing the ways in which we do so.