Expanding Horizons through Virtual Cases of Teaching
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Expanding Horizons through Virtual Cases of Teaching

November 06, 2006 10:00PM
<HTML>Another "idea for the new year"

Expanding Horizons through Virtual Cases of Teaching
Sharon Feiman-Nemser and Jon A. Levisohn

Educational quality, in Jewish education as in general education, depends
on the quality of teaching. But teachers tend to teach in the ways that
they were taught, and often are limited by their abilities to envision
alternatives. So how can teachers expand their pedagogical horizons?

What if it were possible to visit vibrant Jewish studies classrooms across
the country or across the world? What if it were possible to see multiple
models of the thoughtful teaching of parashat ha-shavua (the weekly Torah
portion), or Mishnah, or the book of Isaiah? What if these visits were
not just glimpses of a classroom in action, but systematic explorations of
an accomplished teacher's practice, complete with reflections on her
goals, insights into her planning, and samples of her students' work?

Imagine the Tanakh or Chumash faculty at a Jewish day school, gathering to
explore a website with classroom video of an innovative teacher presenting
parashat ha-shavua to a first grade class. The school's director of Jewish
studies leads the case-study discussion: What is the teacher doing? What
does she want children to learn? How does she manage the group and attend
to her subject? What challenges does this approach entail?

The faculty at the school have access not only to the teacher's pedagogy
but also to her goals and decision-making. On the website, the teacher
explains her planning process, shares her own analysis of the videotaped
lessons, and thinks aloud about some of the challenges. Although the
faculty are distant in time and space, the technology enables them to
learn from this thoughtful teacher's practice. The goal is not the
dissemination of best practices but of new ideas about practice, new
questions, and new images of teaching Torah.

Next, the director of Jewish studies leading the session clicks on
electronic copies of student work from the featured lesson. What do the
teachers see in that student work? How have individual children understood
the parashah? What does the student work reveal about the impact of the
teacher's pedagogy? For the faculty, the examination of student work opens
up fundamental questions about what students know and how they know it,
questions that they immediately take back to their own practice.

This kind of case study - rich, multi-layered, thoughtful, critical,
grounded in documentation of real teaching - is within our reach, and has
already been advanced in general education (for example, see recent work
at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching -
[gallery.carnegiefoundation.org] ). In fact, a draft
of the case described above, of an accomplished and thoughtful first grade
teacher of parashat ha-shavua, has already been developed, as a pilot
project at the Mandel Center at Brandeis - see
[www.brandeis.edu] .

We do not need advancements in technology to build or distribute these
multimedia cases of teaching and learning within Jewish education; we only
need to provide thoughtful educators with the time, the intellectual
support and the resources to develop them. An online virtual library of
such cases of teaching would become an invaluable resource for
transforming practice throughout Jewish education.

---------

Sharon Feiman-Nemser is the Mandel Professor of Jewish Education at
Brandeis University and the Director of the Mandel Center for Studies in
Jewish Education - [www.brandeis.edu] . She has led
teacher education programs at the University of Chicago, Michigan State
University, and Brandeis, and has published numerous articles about
teacher education, new teacher induction and mentoring.

Jon A. Levisohn is Assistant Professor of Jewish Education at Brandeis and
Assistant Director of the Mandel Center. His work focuses on philosophy
of education and philosophy of Jewish education. Recent publications
include "A Plea for Purposes," Jewish Educational Leadership, Fall 2005 -
[www.lookstein.org] .</HTML>
Subject Author Posted

Expanding Horizons through Virtual Cases of Teaching

Jon A. Levisohn November 06, 2006 10:00PM

Re: Expanding Horizons through Virtual Cases of Teaching

Wally Greene November 06, 2006 10:00PM

Re: Expanding Horizons through Virtual Cases of Teaching

Jon Levisohn November 16, 2006 10:00PM

Teaching Rounds

Wally Greene November 21, 2006 10:00PM



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