I've spent the last few days at the first cross-movement conference for Jewish Day School educators - as a lay leader, certainly not an educator. It's pretty cool to observe from the inside the thoughts, challenges and aspirations of people in North America, Israel and South Africa who have committed their lives to Jewish education. The evening keynote featured a renowned scholar in the study of education - Dr. Lee Shulman from Stanford University and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Dr. Shulman has studied the educational process of creating doctors, lawyers, nurses, clergy and more - but his talk was easily graspable by a lay person like me. And his lifetime of research discloses some very obvious, but odd ingredients for success in school.
Dr. Shulman found that all successful educations revolved around developing three habits in a way that served the profession being taught. The habit of the intellect - learning the facts about the subject. The habit of the hand - practicing the techniques of the profession. And the habit of the heart - learning the ethics and moral guidelines for the profession.
Dr. Shulman also found that two activities, done in concert, cause students to develop these three habits. The winning combo is a consistent and predictable routine combined with active, unpredictable discussion. In fact, ensuring that students must listen to and build upon the comments of their colleagues creates anticipatory anxiety that leads to better preparation and better command of the lessons. This makes sense to me as a graduate of HBS because it's their model too.
As a parent whose children are in Jewish Day School, I found the lesson in how Jewish education currently and historically leverages predictable routines and respectful debate intriguing. Our educational model for generations (literally, hundreds if not a thousand years) is one where students study a text predictable, develop an intepretation and must listen to, build upon and debate other's intepretations to lead to a collective conclusion. At our school, the children start doing this in kindergarten when they talk about literature. It is fascinating that we are creating education that is substantive and relevant in the digital age using a process and text that often is ancient.
At home, we believe deeply in routines as they give our children guaranteed times to be playful and be creative. In addition to our routines, I'm going to try adding active debate into our family rubric - at predictable intervals. Perhaps we'll discuss a current events topic or a portion of the Torah that the children studied at school. I'll definitely ask each of the boys to build on what the other contributed - which should be interesting too. I'm curious to see what will happen at home and what habits we might develop adopting this proven educational model.
What do you think - how can or do you combine routines with discussion in your family? How does your school develop the three habits in your child?