RESPONSE: Educating for Faith Development

Tradition Online | March 29, 2022

To the Editor:

I appreciate Rabbi Dr. Barry Kislowicz’s contention that pedagogical practice places an increased emphasis on research (“From Intuition to Evidence: Faith Development Theory as an Empirical Foundation for Jewish Education,” TRADITION, Winter 2022). I understand how educational research and theory apply to the mathematics curriculum as well as other areas of academic and Torah study. While I also appreciate his attempt at connecting faith development research to inform this aspect of Jewish education, I notice something missing, or perhaps I missed it. With the availability of this body of research to inform the practice of faith development where is the role of the family, parents, home, and community in this comprehensive effort? It seems to me that while the bulk of mathematics education takes place in the classroom, the same cannot be said for the development of faith. Is this truly an area of educational focus for the school alone, or even for the school at all? What responsibility, if any at all, does the school have for—at the very least—informing and possibly involving families in this area of development?

Robert Lichtman, West Orange, NJ

Dr. Kislowicz responds:

I think Mr. Lichtman for his insightful response to the article. I absolutely agree that parents play not only a but the crucial role in a children’s religious development. In my book, Parenting in Perspective, I bring contributions from developmental psychology, including Fowler’s theory (discussed in my TRADITION article), to bear on thoughtful parenting practice. Ultimately, I believe that schools and parents must work in partnership to create a holistic environment that supports positive religious development. Achieving that aim is often quite challenging. 

My article argues that professionally trained teachers can and should be familiar with research-based approaches in this effort. My hope is that alongside the increase in teacher-expertise, schools can find new ways to engage and support parents and parents can see schools as partners rather than as service providers. Both schools and parents hold the responsibility for pursuing this goal.

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