28 January 2011

A Note on Two Different Activities for Students and Their Results: A Lesson From Michael Satlow

While ellipticalling today, I read through a piece of Michael Satlow's from the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education's Initiative on Bridging Scholarship and Pedagogy in Jewish Studies and came across an interesting breakdown of his on what worked and didn't work pedagogically for him in two separate activities with his students. For me, as I have now been at my job for a little over a year and doing some teaching, this was relevant; however, with the recent day and a half-long Torah learning event I put on last week, teaching is certainly more on my mind. Anyways, here is Dr. Satlow's observation that interested me:
I laid out well-defined criteria for the summit; I told them what I wanted from them, when I wanted it, and how to do it. I gave them means, a vision of the outcome, and a deadline. The Wiki was far more open, as I was asking them to develop these things on their own. Such project indeterminacy is of course common in the real world, sometimes by design and sometimes due to poor management, and some of my students were excited by it. Most, however, found it too overwhelming. Similarly, the small group discussions always improved when I posed sharper questions. This might seem rather obvious, but it emphasizes for me the importance of the teacher’s (and manager’s) role in setting the most advantageous conditions for collaboration.
Michael L. Satlow, "Teaching Ancient Jewish History: An Experiment in Engaged Learning," The Initiative on Bridging Scholarship and Pedagogy in Jewish Studies, Working Paper No. 16 (July 2009), 14.

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