experiments, instruments & measurement book

The Proof: Alternatives are Worth the Trouble

By Cyd Weissman


The Coalition of Innovating Congregations has spent the last five years building new models of Jewish education but has it been worth it? Does it pay for congregations to transform their iconic Hebrew School with alternative models?

The answer from The Rosov Consulting Group is: Yes. Alternative Models enable learners to experience 21st century learning more  than traditional Hebrew Schools. This conclusion came from Rosov observing 14 congregational education programs. The “traditional Hebrew Schools” according to communal leaders were “excellent.”  The new models ranged in reputation from excellent to emergent.

This study, done in partnership between  The Jewish Education Project and The Experiment in Congregational Education (led by Dr. Rob Weinberg and Cindy Reich) the bold conclusion:

The four design principles of 21st century learning (relationships, content, meaning making, life    relevant) are being more fully implemented within alternative models for congregation-based Jewish education than in  traditional models for congregation-based Jewish education. …consistent patterns of differences were seen between alternative and traditional models of Jewish education. (p. 6 of 48)

To conduct the study that compares traditional Hebrew school with alternative new models Rosov Consulting created a protocol that enabled congregations to watch design principles in action. I expected to hear that these models were better vehicles for learning that spoke to the whole person. I’m glad we don’t have to now rely just on what I believe and a major study proves it. Will that bring more parents, clergy and educators to act? Not sure. Does the proof move you? Click on the title of this post to share your thoughts.


Additional findings:

1. Rosov observed four Reform and four Conservative Congregations with Alternative Models:

  • Conservative Congregations: On average had higher existence of caring relationships and rich content.
  • Reform Congregations: On average had higher existence of seeking answers to the questions of daily life and constructing meaning.

This seems to indicate that the educational models are influenced by synagogue cultures.


2. Three characteristics were prevalent in alternative models that fostered the implementation of 21st century design principles:

  • Situate learning in real time settings (e.g. live Shabbat on Shabbat vs. learning about Shabbat).
  • Where families are at the core (not just a three time a year family education program).
  • Structure relationships intentionally among peers and across generations.


3. Full time educators had higher implementation of 21st century design principles than part time educators.

This pattern confirms ” that the employment of full-time learning facilitators increases the likelihood of implementing the design principles probably because such educators are better informed about and more experienced in the practices of whole person learning.” (p. 18)


4. Three forces seem to enable or impede implementation:

  • Contextual factors: These are factors that can’t be easily changed (e.g. location or congregational culture.) They make up the deeply embedded culture, philosophy of the congregation.
  • Intensifiers: Less fixed than the contextual factors there are broad forces that shape the implementation of the design principles. These include full time vs. part time educational leaders and teachers, and ongoing professional development.
  • Educational Models: Real time learning, family activities and near peer activities lay the groundwork for high levels of implementation of the design principles.

5. Content and Relationships accentuate one another …not cancel one another out:

Rosov continually found that learning can and does focus equally on content and fostering relationships. Put to bed the myth that if you do one the other suffers.


By using a careful research methodology, the research team has been able to explore the systemic factors that enable and impede the implementation of principles of whole person learning. ..it seems that when educational approaches are carefully grounded in clear and well conceived educational models they can bring about different, alternative ways of doing things. This seems to be why alternative models are correlated with higher levels of implementation of the design principles. The findings suggest that in contrast to approaches that focus only on professional development for teachers or attempts to transform the entire congregation, it may be possible to achieve substantial educational change through a middle path focused on new models. (p. 37)

Are you, or your team moved to action?


You can read the full report here:

Rosov Image

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

geriatrics books