Higher Order Thinking

September 17, 2019

Every so often, prospective parents ask what we are NOT teaching to make time for Jewish studies. The answer is this: Education is not a zero-sum situation. The time children spend in Judaic studies is part of the reason they will excel academically and shine as leaders.

It’s not because of bits of information they learn that others don’t. Rather, it is the use of higher-order thinking that is a natural part of Jewish tradition, and therefore embedded in Jewish studies.

An article published in Educational Leadership magazine by Susan Brookhart encourages teachers to use three strategies to nourish higher-order thinking:

1. ask open questions and encourage students to respond to one another
2. offer opportunities to think, not just retell
3. ask students to self-assess

All three strategies are integral components of Jewish education at Mirowitz.

If you’ve ever visited Thursday morning Torah study, you know that open questions are the foundation of poignant discussions led by children. Students ask their peers open questions and know that offering a profound answer is a cool thing to do. Mirowitz students are very familiar with terms such as “I would like to build on what she said,” or “I respectfully disagree with that.”

Students are not simply asked to retell the events of the Torah portion, but to think deeply and compare biblical events with those they’ve learned in social studies or experienced in their own lives.

Self-assessment is not only used regularly in both general and Jewish studies in all grades. What’s more, it is also a hallmark of Jewish living. Over the next few weeks, our students will become deeply engaged in the self-assessment of “cheshbon hanefesh,” an accounting of their souls. They will reflect on their actions of the year, humbly recalling their weaknesses and moving forward with the intention of self-improvement. In this way, our Jewish tradition of self-assessment helps us grow as thinkers AND as individuals.

I often tell you that we run Mirowitz like a gifted school. Gifted programs offer the high-achieving students opportunities to engage in higher-order thinking. At Mirowitz, EVERY student has that opportunity, and not just when they are pulled out for “gifted” time, but all the time and every day.

Shabbat Shalom,