Re: Discussion topic: Learning what to love
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Re: Discussion topic: Learning what to love

July 31, 2018 10:06PM
The purpose of this posting is 3-fold: i) I would like to supplement the discussion by mentioning the practices of the AMIT network in encouraging love of learning; ii) I would like to summarize the many postings and show that the original question of how to increase love of learning has been answered; iii) I would like to address certain approaches which appear to be incorrect.

AMIT is a religious network of schools (K-12) in Israel, officially recognized by the Israeli government. It runs 110 schools in 33 cities with about 35,000 students. By design, 70% of the schools are in poorer socio-economic areas (a description of the schools may be found at [amitchildren.org] ). Despite the poverty in which these schools function, the matriculation passing rate for AMIT schools is about 85% about 20% higher than for the Israeli average. In other words, something right is being done here. It might be worthwhile to identify what is right, so we can use this in our own classrooms.

A few years ago, former President Obama invited a group of AMIT principles to the White House. There was a pre-White-House dinner meeting hosted by AMIT in Potomac, MD, which I attended. During the dinner I sat next to a principal who taught Talmud in his High School. He explained the methodology: “We provide the students with tools to translate the text (for example, Jastro, translations, etc.) and ask them to understand it themselves prior to class. In class, we ask the students how they would resolve various texts within the Talmud or resolve this Talmudic passage with other Talmudic passages. By using an active vs. a passive approach, the Talmudic controversies and analysis take on a deeper meeting. The resolutions of the students typically align with resolutions of different rishonim, thereby giving the students greater appreciation and insights.”

It would be a mistake to read this by classifying it, say as flipped classroom. The emphasis and focus are not on a specific technique such as flipped classroom, but rather, the focus is on active student engagement vs. passive listening to an instructor.

I take note that Dr. Kanarek’s methods, which he mentioned in a posting on this thread, also encourage active participation, albeit using cognitive maps. Dr. Kanarek’s studies measure both improved performance and improved satisfaction since the modern educational research viewpoint is that both increased student understanding and satisfaction are necessary for a pedagogic method to be identified as successful.

So, the key to making students love their learning is active participation. It is that simple. Using this I would like to address Rabbi Blau’s statements in this thread who describes the quote from Rabbi Sacks as a “straw man” since the real issue is “balance between love and content.” That would only be true if the time devoted to increasing love of learning is distinct from the time devoted to increasing content of learning. In the methodology I cited from the AMIT network, the same amount of time was taken in teaching; however, the *delivery* of the teaching was done in a way that increased both content retention and love. A similar comment applies to Dr Kanarek’s methods. In one of his papers, Dr. Kanarek illustrates his methods using the opening mishnahs in the 2nd chapter of Baba Kama which deals with lost articles. One approach to these mishnahs (and to the Talmudic texts commenting on them) is for students to *represent* the mishnahs with a two-column table (cognitive map) with columns for “may keep what they find” having them construct these lists and asking them to analyze the difference between the two columns – why is it certain found objects can be kept while others must be attempted to return? The student active attempt at such analysis increases appreciation (love of learning) and retention.

In passing, a similar approach is being done in mathematics to increase student’s appreciation of mathematics. Instead of teaching a mathematical subject using the concept of “tradition” – this is what is known and here is how you prove it - students may be given sets of examples and asked to distinguish them and suggest commonalities. This is called a method of teaching known as “guided discovery” and is espoused by the constructivist school. Upon student discovery, the instructor can confirm the discovery and present precise statements and a proof. No extra time is spent in doing this.

Along this line, I would like to respond to comments I sometimes see on Lookjed, “Well some studies show this method works and some studies show it doesn’t work; so, there is no one size that fits all.” That is not true. To clarify let me take the AMIT experience. It is not the case that AMIT principals are told, for example, “Teach Talmud by flipped classroom. Allow the students to resolve the Talmudic controversies themselves and then confirm their experiences.” Such an approach would not work. Rather, AMIT actively engages in mentoring at all stages, mentoring of principles and teachers. AMIT recently completed construction of its GOGYA institute. Here principals come for week retreats where they are exposed and trained in methods and have a chance to discuss implementation problems with each other and with AMIT research staff. The AMIT school network also has a mentoring system where teachers and principals are assigned to mentors. Nothing happens in a vacuum. The bottom line is that these methods do work, *provided* there is adequate training. Some people are reluctant about training since it involves time and money resources. But the money and time spent in training would be more than offset by the increased student satisfaction and the consequent rise in enrollment. Bottom line, there are groups of people out there who seriously address these problems and have arrived at solutions. As to the “one size fits all” fallacy, they would respond that for education to be superior and successful, it must embody universal principles which apply to everyone, principles such as active participation, time for mentoring etc.

Perhaps one more story to drive home this point: At this dinner meeting in Potomac, a leader of educational research at AMIT recounted her visit to a new high school for the Ethiopian Aliyah. Upon telling the principle what was expected of him, the principal retorted, “You can’t possibly use the same standards on these Ethiopians that you do on the rest of Israeli students.” She continued, “No sooner than leaving the meeting, I received an email from the General Director of AMIT explaining that the principal declared her to be out of her mind and not in touch with reality.” AMIT stood firm but partnered with the principal and school to deal with educational issues unique to their population. And of course, the happy ending is that these students do have an 85% matriculation rate. The methods *do* work and do work for everyone; but you need training, patience, and flexibility.

I wrote this posting in the hope that certain readers will be inspired to experiment or seek out training in their own schools and improve love of learning.

Dr. Russell Jay Hendel; [www.Rashiyomi.com]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/31/2018 10:07PM by mlb.
Subject Author Posted

Discussion topic: Learning what to love

Meshulam Gotlieb July 05, 2018 12:32PM

Re: Discussion topic: Learning what to love

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Re: Discussion topic: Learning what to love

Russell Jay Hende July 31, 2018 10:06PM



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