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How Do Teachers’ Backgrounds in Studying Talmud Affect Their Teaching of Talmud? Three Portraits Michael Gillis The Melton Center for Jewish Education.

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Presentation on theme: "How Do Teachers’ Backgrounds in Studying Talmud Affect Their Teaching of Talmud? Three Portraits Michael Gillis The Melton Center for Jewish Education."— Presentation transcript:


2 How Do Teachers’ Backgrounds in Studying Talmud Affect Their Teaching of Talmud? Three Portraits Michael Gillis The Melton Center for Jewish Education The Hebrew University of Jerusalem January 2008

3 Guiding question  How does the different way each teacher acquired their own subject-matter knowledge of Talmud influence their pedagogy?

4 Pedagogical Content Knowledge  “… special amalgam of content and pedagogy. ”  It represents the blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding of how particular topics, problems or issues are organised, represented and adapted to the diverse interests and abilities of learners and presented for instruction )Shulman 1987)

5 Varieties of subject matter knowledge  150 Ways of knowing (Wilson, Shulman and Richert 1987)

6 Ways of knowing Talmud The Yeshivah (Kahane 1990)  The Academy

7 The Setting and Students  Community non-denominational high school  Orthodox halachic students a small minority  Most students traditional or non-observant  No a priori assumptions about the authority of the Talmud or the Halakha

8 Teachers  Virtually all teachers of Jewish Studies are Orthodox  Large proportion of shlichim (emissary teachers) who enjoy high status in the school  The teachers give an Orthodox tone to Jewish Studies even as they respect the diversity of the student body

9 Talmud track  Students can choose between the Talmud track and “ Rabbinics ”  The Talmud track is considered by both students and teachers to be an elite option

10 Research questions  How do the differences in background affect the nature of the teachers ’ PCK?  In what ways do the teachers transform subject-matter for teaching?

11 Collecting Data  Teacher interviews  Classroom observation and recording  Teachers interviewed before and after observed teaching  Teachers invited to comment on the first draft of the portraits

12 Details from the portraits

13 Rabbi Rabinowitz

14 תלמוד בבלי, מסכת בבא מציעא דף לד עמוד ב  אמר רב הונא : משביעין אותו שבועה שאינה ברשותו. מאי טעמא - חיישינן שמא עיניו נתן בה.

15 This is a big hidush! If R. Huna had not said this what would I have said? [student voices] As soon as the bailee pays, [students ’ voices] he should not have to make any oath. Rav Huna says NO! – even though he paid he must swear that it is not in his possession … So far fine.

16 The virtues of Rashi Now Yossele, do you see the difference between learning Gemara without Rashi and learning Gemara with Rashi? To tell you the truth, if I did not have Rashi on the side … I don ’ t need Artscroll. I am from the period when there was no Artscroll, there was Rashi – Rashi was enough! Rashi explains. Rashi knew, why? Because Rashi was a fantastic teacher. Rashi knew that any student who read the Gemara “ we make him swear ” would lose their way and not know what to do. So Rashi says 'I ’ ll tell you immediately.' “ It refers to our Mishnah. ” Rav Huna is talking about our Mishnah.

17 “ The children know and see that here stands a teacher who lives this discipline who lives this material. … It's extremely important to show them that its part of my life. It causes the whole class to have respect for the subject. Here speaks a man whose life is Gemara, whose life is the yeshiva, whose life is words of Torah and automatically their response is, ‘ Allow him to speak! ’ " (Teacher interview)

18 Creating suspense ….But of course the Gemara is going to come and say to Rav Huna that the hidush he says about the Mishnah … The Gemara tries to refute Rav Huna in a Talmudistic way – I think one of the classical instances of how the Gemara tries to refute an Amora is here. The Gemara brings a Mishnah – that you have heard of – from Tractate Shevuot page 44 and does entire twists and turns in that Mishnah to show that R. Huna is wrong. I hope we will be able to do it now. But before we go to the Gemara I want to give you a little introduction. Without this introduction you won ’ t understand at all what is going on here …. ”

19 Michal Yaakobi  Because what we are hearing is really the discussion in the House of Study. It ’ s as if I come to class and say, “ I want to ask you a question: ‘ why is such and such the case? ’”  Reuben [one of the students] comes and says I think it is for such and such reason. Talia jumps up and says ‘ It is not as reuben said. Reuben is saying incorrect things because surely it is written in Scripture that such and such and such and this does not fit with what Reuben said.  “ How is this written in the Gemara? ‘ If we say (ileima) Reuben said ta ta ta ta ta ta BUT along came Rabbanit Talia and said such and such. Yes?

20 תלמוד בבלי מסכת בבא קמא דף ו עמוד ב  ר ' עקיבא אומר : לא בא הכתוב אלא לגבות לניזקין מן העידית, וקל וחומר להקדש.  מאי קל וחומר להקדש ?  אילימא דנגח תורא דידן לתורא דהקדש, ( שמות כ " א ) " שור רעהו " אמר רחמנא - ולא שור של הקדש !

21 An open discussion Michal: So what? Just because it is public property I should not have to pay? What if I took this table and burnt it, I shouldn ’ t have to pay because it is school property? [students ’ comments and laughter] If this was Sarah ’ s table at home and I burnt it I have to pay. If it is a table here that I burnt – let the whole school burn down, I don ’ t have to pay. What do you say about that? ……….. Student 1: … But that ’ s not so. If your ox gores a Temple ox you replace it. Then it becomes as holy as the original one. That one too, before it became Temple property, was nothing special. They were just oxen. Michal: OK, that is like what Talia said. To tell you the truth, I haven ’ t thought about it. I don ’ t know the answer. I will have to think about it. Student 2: There isn't an answer because its wrong.

22 A critical moment “ At one level that is exactly what we want! At another level, it creates enormous strain, especially on the substantive understanding that teachers bring to their teaching. ” (Lee Shulman "Professional Development: Learning from Experience “ in “ The Wisdom of Practice" edited Suzanne Wilson, San Francisco 2004 508)

23 Some questions  What is the evidence for significant transformation of subject-matter knowledge in these cases?  What is the long term significance of professional training?  What is sufficient subject-matter knowledge for Talmud teachers?  Is there an unresolved curricular question beyond the PCK of individual Talmud teachers?  What is the significance of these cases for thinking about curriculum and professional development?

24 ואידך זיל גמור

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