Experiential Jewish Education for All

By Mark S. Young Research, Design, Experiment, Implement, Reflect, Apply the learning, and Refine the practice. Jewish educators reading this first line may recognize this as a slight modification of the cycle of learning by David Kolb. Learning by experience and reflecting on those experiences are a hallmark to the principles of experiential education. At The Davidson School of JTS, experiential education which, combined with the serious study of Jewish content to form Experiential Jewish Education (EJE), has also been a hallmark of study in our MA in Jewish Education program for over a decade. It was a small piece of the puzzle beginning in 2000, growing in each subsequent year. At first, Theories and ideas of EJE were introduced as part of one class of students who were completing … [Read more...]

What We Do (and Don’t Do) When We Do Experiential Education

By Shuki Taylor [This is the third article in a series dedicated to experiential Jewish education.] Introduction: Days of Awe According to David A. Kolb, Experiential Learning is “… the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” As I consider the prayers I will whisper on Yom Kippur, I look back at my experience of the past year. I think about my personal ups and downs, my professional accomplishments and failures. I think about the times where I felt the closeness of God and the times that I felt his Hester - His absence. I try to conjure up all of these experiences so that I can finally ask myself, as the new year begins and the familiar songs are sung: how was this year different from the last? And what will next year bring? In a loose … [Read more...]

Professionalizing a Passion

By Shuki Taylor [This is the second article in a series dedicated to experiential Jewish education.] In recent years, the field of experiential Jewish education (EJE) has been subject to much attention. Last week I listed some of the new initiatives that Yeshiva University’s Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education has launched in effort to provide high-level training in this field. Why is there such a growing interest in the field of experiential Jewish education? I believe that there are three reasons for this: 1. Recognition of Impact The first reason for the growing interest in experiential Jewish education is because of the impact it has. In 2013, we published the study "Mapping Goals in Experiential Jewish Education." In interviewing educators from diverse … [Read more...]

Experiential Jewish Education: What We Are Doing To Grow It.

By Shuki Taylor [This is an introductory article to a series dedicated to experiential Jewish education that will be published over the coming weeks.] In recent years, the field of experiential Jewish education (EJE) has been subject to much attention. Many Jewish institutions have created new positions - or reframed existing ones - that focus on EJE. New master’s and certificate programs are being offered, and they attract a growing number of applicants. Opinions for and against the development of the field of EJE have been published - many of them on these pages - and many EJE-related achievements have been publically celebrated. Most recently, I was struck by the words of Dr. Daniel Pekarsky who so profoundly described experiential Jewish education as an opportunity “to ensure that … [Read more...]

From “Experiential Education” to “Experience-Savvy Education”

From "Experiential Education" to "Experience-Savvy Education:" Changing Jewish Educational Discourse and Practice By Daniel Pekarsky The term experiential education is an obstacle to the pursuit of excellence in Jewish education. Here are three reasons why: First, it often leads to thoughtlessly devised practices organized around the idea that being plunked down in an interesting setting or being asked to engage in a hands-on activity will have a desirable and powerful educational impact; this is magical thinking. Second, the movement to encourage experiential education is too often intertwined with undervaluing the desirability of serious content learning, the acquisition of skills and dispositions, and the fostering of attitudes that encourage further learning. Third, and most … [Read more...]

Placing Experience at the Center of Understanding Experiential Learning

By Dr. Gabe Goldman [Note: In this article, the terms “teacher” and “student” also include counselors, hike leaders, campers, trip participants, etc.] There is a wonderful story about chavrutot (learning partners) who completely disagree about the meaning of the text they are learning. Their views are exactly opposite of each other so they go to their teacher to find out which of them is right. The first student goes into the rabbi’s study and presents his case. The rabbi tells him that his understanding is exactly right. He leaves and the second student enters the rabbi’s study to present his case. The rabbi tells him that his understanding is exactly right. He leaves and the rabbi’s wife enters and says, “Those boys were in total disagreement but you told each of them he was right.” The … [Read more...]

Experiential Jewish Education: Back to the Future

by Dr. Gil Graff Recently, I attended the annual conference of the Network for Research in Jewish Education, in Los Angeles. There, I participated in a session on principles of experiential education articulated by John Dewey in the first half of the twentieth century as applied to Jewish learning in contemporary settings of Jewish education. The presentation included a look at some project-based learning experiences at schools, anchored in “a Dewey-inspired perspective.” Several weeks later, I came across a piece authored in 1925 by Dr. David de Sola Pool, spiritual leader of the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation, Shearith Israel (in New York), in the pages of The Jewish Forum. Titled “Can Our Jewish Schools Be Made to Teach?” the article encouraged project-based experiential education. … [Read more...]

At P’tach Lo: Putting Essential Questions at the Center of Experiential Jewish Education

by Rabbi Zac Johnson As a practitioner of experiential Jewish education (EJE) with a background in formal classroom instruction, I was elated to read Yeshiva University’s recent report “Mapping Goals in Experiential Jewish Education.” The report indicates that while goal-setting has not yet been universally adopted by EJE agencies, its growing prevalence signals an informal field’s integration of a proven approach from formal education. Outcomes-based planning, most successfully demonstrated by the indispensable guide Understanding By Design (UBD), assists teachers in becoming “coaches of understanding,” helping students uncover and “make meaning” of big ideas and learning to transfer such skills as interpretation, application and empathy.[i ]Like UBD, the three core outcomes of BBYO‘s … [Read more...]