Experiential learning and values education at a school youth camp: Maintaining Jewish culture and heritage

  • 24 December 2016

Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 29–49

Authors: Zehavit Gross (School of Education, Bar Ilan University); Suzanne D. Rutland (Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies; University of Sydney)

Abstract

In our post-modern, globalised world, there is a risk of unique cultural heritages being lost. This loss contributes to the detriment of civilization, because individuals need to be rooted in their own specific identity in order to actively participate in community life. This article discusses a longitudinal case study of the efforts being made by Australian Jewish schools to maintain Jewish heritage through annual experiential religious education camps, coordinated in a programme called Counterpoint. The researchers’ aim was to analyse how a school youth camp can serve as a site for socialisation and education into a cultural and religious heritage through experiential learning and informal education. During research trips which took place over several years, interviews enabling insights into the process of experiential education were conducted with a total of three different Directors of Informal Jewish Education, two Jewish Studies heads, five participating teachers, seven youth leaders, as well as seven student focus groups. In their analysis of the semi-structured interviews, the authors of this article employed a grounded theory approach using a constant comparative method, which enabled a more nuanced understanding of the main phenomenon investigated. Over the years, they were able to observe two philosophical approaches, one of which focused more on socialisation, with immersion into experience, while the other focused on education, with immersion into Jewish knowledge. Their findings reveal that some educators aim to “transmit” knowledge through “evocation”, with the students involved in active learning; while others focus more on students’ “acquisition” of knowledge through transmission. Experiential learning activities were found to be more meaningful and powerful if they combined both approaches, leading to growth.

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