Every educator is confronted with the question of how to effectively test students’ comprehension of material taught. While finding a way for students to demonstrate applied knowledge is preferable, we frequently lack a medium in our disciplines to achieve that goal. We cannot build a time-machine to test theories in history nor can we enact legislation to see if our policies might be better than the ones currently in place. Perhaps science teachers have it easier, since they can run experiments; but what of those of us teaching Talmud?
About thirteen years ago, I had an epiphany. I was about to sit down to write a standard three part exam testing the students on their knowledge of mivneh ha-sugya (sugya structure) could they tell the trees within the forest of the unit; iyyun ba-rishonim (analysis of the commentaries studied) and an unseen section that would test their application of the skills learned. Although I have found, and continue to find this an effective way of testing, I was struck with the idea I shall discuss. I was teaching the first perek of Bava Metzia (Shenayim Ohazin) and had studied numerous parallel sugyot with the students from later in the masekhet, as well as from Shevuot, Bava Kama, and Bava Batra. Testing all of these effectively was weighing on my mind, particularly because of the need to write the test prior to class. And then it hit me: How about a Mock Beit Din?
To read the full lesson, click here .