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A Missing Paradigm? Strengthening Research on the Pedagogy of Jewish Studies Marc Brettler, Brandeis University.

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Presentation on theme: "A Missing Paradigm? Strengthening Research on the Pedagogy of Jewish Studies Marc Brettler, Brandeis University."— Presentation transcript:

1 A Missing Paradigm? Strengthening Research on the Pedagogy of Jewish Studies Marc Brettler, Brandeis University

2 Background Audience: College intro class in HB/OT Background questions: What should people be researching? What should people be researching? Challenges and benefits of research? Challenges and benefits of research?

3 Some Suggested Purposes of College-level Biblical Studies Entry into the Humanities Entry into the Humanities Counteracts sciences Counteracts sciences Important example of condensed life Important example of condensed life Special place of study of religion to college students Special place of study of religion to college students Manner in which “adult” study helps religious personality develop Manner in which “adult” study helps religious personality develop

4 The Bible as Part of the Humanities 1 “More than ever, we require the deep historical perspective and specialized knowledge of other cultures, regions, religions, and traditions provided by the humanities. And precisely because of the rapid developments in science and technology, we must think carefully about the nature of the human, the ethics of scientific investigation, and the global effects of technological change.” Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg, “A Manifesto for the Humanities in a Technological Age,” in The Chronicle Review 2/13/04

5 The Bible as Part of the Humanities 2 “The Bible is also in this sense a document of the university because in this book life as it is lived by people has become manifest in an enormous condensation, so much so that from it time and again new impulses for life as it is lived emerge. This is note merely a dogmatic claim but a statement of fact.” Gerhard Ebeling, “The Bible as a Document of the University,” in The Bible as a Document of the University, ed. G. Ebeling et al.

6 Teaching the Bible as Teaching (about?) Religion Theory: The academy enjoins that as a professor of religion, I am teaching a subject like any other, such as astronomy, sociology, or history. Reality: In the classroom, this is simply not the case. My students rightly assume before taking a class that the study of religion is unique. Theory: In the study of religion, the search for meaning is secondary. It may even be distracting. Reality: For our students, the search for meaning is often primary. For us who teach them, it once was too, or perhaps still is. To deny this is to deracinate the vitality and ultimate relevance of our teaching. Theory: The teacher of religion is not necessarily a role model. Reality: The teacher of religion is always a role model Kimberly C. Patton, “’Stumbling Along between the Immensities’: Reflections on Teaching in the Study of Religion,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 65/4 (1997)

7 Are College Students Adult Jewish Learners? Contemporary Jewish adult learners wonder: Will I feel comfortable learning with other Jews? Will I be accepted by Jewish “authority figures” despite the limitations of my Jewish knowledge? Will I get help in acquiring skills for Jewish learning? Will my view of Judaism and religion be respected by teachers and fellow learners? Will I find relevance in Jewish learning? How will my learning affect my identity as a Jew? Diane Tickton Schuster, Jewish Lives, Jewish Learning: Adult Jewish Learning in Theory & Practice, p. 172

8 Summary: Questions to Research Are students taking course: to “think carefully about the nature of the human”? to understand life condensed? to “understand something unique”? to “search for meaning”? to study with an adult “role model”? to find a community? to change/reconfigure/deepen (Jewish?) identity? Easy enough to survey these + discover other reasons--but is survey enough? How do we move beyond “practitioner ruminating about practice”? Real philosophical analysis? Collect real data? How do we move from this data to its implications? How evaluate reasons students do take course vs. reasons students should take course?

9 Implications Our understanding of why teaching (in conjunction with other factors) will determine shape of course, namely what it means to introduce students to the HB. It will also determine certain decisions that teachers need to make, e.g.: How should biblical books covered be selected and ordered? How should biblical books covered be selected and ordered? How should ancient non-biblical material (written, non- written) should be used? How should ancient non-biblical material (written, non- written) should be used? How much post-biblical material (Jewish or Christian) should course cover? How much post-biblical material (Jewish or Christian) should course cover? Relative emphasis on methods or on material? Single- method or multiple methods? Relative emphasis on methods or on material? Single- method or multiple methods? Empirical study of different teachers with different syllabi might yield useful results.

10 Challenges to Doing Research Not all faculty care about potential benefits -- not as important as publishing. Not all faculty care about potential benefits -- not as important as publishing. Faculty who teach subject manner are, by and large, not trained to do the research on pedagogy. Faculty who teach subject manner are, by and large, not trained to do the research on pedagogy. Material is so highly charged, it can be hard to sit back and to think about pedagogy. (Is it easier to figure our success of spelling instruction than Bible instruction?) Material is so highly charged, it can be hard to sit back and to think about pedagogy. (Is it easier to figure our success of spelling instruction than Bible instruction?) Others? Others?

11 Potential Benefits Better/more successful teacher. Better/more successful teacher. (But what does that mean? How measure that: evaluations? grades improve? measure aspects of students personality or religiosity? long-term follow-up? other?) Spill-over to other types of Bible teaching, either shared insights, or insights by contrast. Spill-over to other types of Bible teaching, either shared insights, or insights by contrast. Others? Others?

12 Questions: my


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