Curriculum Overview

Our Mission: Training Visionary Educators  

The Graduate Center for Jewish Education is a degree-granting academic hub for professional development, thought leadership, research and innovation in Jewish education. Our masters’ degree programs prepare educators to lead and teach creatively and flexibly across the variety of settings in which Jewish teaching and learning occurs.

Degrees Offered:  

Master of Arts in Education (MAEd) full-time daytime program; part-time option available  

Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) evening program designed for working professionals  

MAEd and MBA in Nonprofit Management dual degree, 3 years  

Program in Experiential Education optional certificate in addition to MAEd  

MAEd or Teaching Certificate for Rabbinical students with the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies  

BA/MAEd promising undergraduates may combine the final year of their BA with MA coursework to complete both degrees in five years  

Careers:  

The Graduate Center for Jewish Education at AJU is committed to innovatively transforming Jewish learning into Jewish living through educational experiences in the full spectrum of educational institutions. 100% of our graduates succeed in gaining employment. Our alumni provide leadership and vision in every sector of Jewish education. They are:

  • prominent leaders of day schools and supplementary schools

  • camp directors, environmental educators and school-based experiential education directors; award-winning day school teachers

  • directors of lifelong learning, adult educators and family educators

  • educators for Hillels and programs for emerging adults

  • staff at museums, foundations and nonprofit organizations

  • Jewish Studies coordinators and curriculum writers

  • rabbinic educators

  • faculty and administrators at colleges and universities

  • mentors, consultants and master educators

The MAEd Curriculum  

Our academically engaging and rigorous curriculum is designed to incorporate exploration and experimentation in educational leadership and teaching strategies, cohort- and community-building, as well as spiritual, personal and professional growth. The degree takes four semesters (two academic years) to complete on a full-time basis. A three-year part-time option for working professionals is also offered.

Within the coursework, there is room for students to choose their own subject areas and settings for projects. Over the course of the degree, students create lesson plans and curriculum units; design their own blueprints for new educational programs or institutions; articulate their own vision for Jewish education; and craft a capstone project that reflects their own unique expertise in the field. Students encounter, adapt and apply a wide variety of planning and teaching tools for different types of learners and settings.

Course Descriptions

The Educator’s Toolkit I: Skills for Success (EDU 530) 3 credits Staff

The first in a sequence of courses on the fundamentals of teaching and learning, this class introduces the essential skills and conceptual thinking used by educators today. Students will emerge with a toolbox of skills which they can flexibly adapt to a variety of educational contexts, as well as a solid foundation of concepts which will inform the rest of their coursework and their practice as educators. Topics explored include lesson planning, classroom community and behavior management, differentiated instruction, and assessment.

The Educator’s Toolkit II: Teaching for All Learners (EDU 532) 3 credits Staff

In this course we explore specific strategies for teaching and consider the impact of teacher and student beliefs and knowledge on teaching and learning. Students are introduced to and experiment with a variety of classical and contemporary teaching models.

The Educator’s Toolkit III: Curriculum Design (EDU 534) 3 credits Staff/S. Zakai

What should we teach and why? This course provides a variety of frameworks for making some of the most important educational decisions. Bridging theory and practice, the course builds expertise in Understanding by Design, models of curriculum integration, project-based learning, the role of curriculum in experiential education, and curriculum applications to a variety of educational settings. Taken in conjunction with Teaching and Learning II, the course gives students an opportunity to design a curriculum unit in an area of their interest and for a setting of their choosing.

Advanced Seminar in Teaching and Learning (EDU 536 )MAT only 3 credits

A culminating course in the MAT program, students create an original curriculum project under the guidance of an AJU scholar, utilizing the research, readings and instructional toolkit they have accumulated in the program. The course provides a laboratory where students can test new ways of teaching, project ideas and curricular approaches specifically geared to their developing content expertise, which they can bring back to their professional teaching settings.

Reflective Practice I (EDU 546) MAEd only. 1 credit R. Lerner

The first in a series of classes that engage students in reflecting on their developing practice as educators, this course gives an introduction to individual and collaborative reflective practices. Students will learn to get the most out of mentoring relationships, practice techniques for observing teaching and learning and develop shared language for discussing those experiences.

Reflective Practice II (EDU 547) 1 credit R. Lerner

MAEd only. Students form a professional learning community and engage in structured, professional conversations about their teaching practice. We participate in a variety of “protocols” designed to spur reflection on teaching through careful focus on student work, enduring dilemmas, and samples of teacher-generated materials. Students continue to articulate their ongoing goals for development as an educator.

Reflective Practice III/IV (EDU 548/549) 1 credit each Staff

MAEd only. Building on the reflective tools of Reflective Practice I and II, in the second year of the program MAEd students learn and utilize the skills of practitioner inquiry to study and learn from their own professional practice. Students also develop their own pedagogic creed and create a teaching portfolio to demonstrate their own best practices in education.

Reflective Practice (EDU 548) 3 credits Staff

MAT only. As a capstone to their two year-long exploration of teaching and learning, MAT students choose an issue or question of personal interest in their teaching or teacher leadership to investigate in-depth. Students learn the skills to conduct credible practitioner inquiry, including observation, field notes, surveys and interviews, document analysis and literature review, in order to produce a semester-long study of their own teaching which can enhance their own reflection and contribute new knowledge to the field.

Philosophy of Education (EDU 520) 3 credits Staff

How can Jewish education lead to a thriving Jewish life? In this course, students encounter a variety of visions of the possible in Jewish and general education, through text, multimedia and a site visit to a renowned vision-driven school. Utilizing the philosophical rationales for divergent approaches to teaching and learning as well as the broader purposes of Jewish education, students learn the language and tools to develop and advocate for their own vision for Jewish education.

Sociology of Education (EDU 510) 3 credits R. Wolfson

“Community” is the theme of our study together. We will begin by experiencing educational strategies designed to create a sense of community in the classroom - the smallest, and one of the most important, communities that make up the broader phenomenon of “community.” We will look at the development of the American Jewish community in the twentieth century and how the institutions of Jewish education we know today evolved. We will learn about successful afternoon religious schools, day schools and family education and explore the growing field of experiential education, focusing on summer camps and Israel trips.

Educational Psychology (EDU 515) 3 credits P. Rock

This course is an introduction to the field of Human Development focusing on major issues, theories and developmental benchmarks that impact learners from birth through adolescence and adulthood. Attention will be directed to the physical, cognitive, social/emotional and moral/spiritual development of students. There will be opportunities to examine how to incorporate insights and knowledge of human development when planning and working with individual learners and groups of Jewish learners including those at different ages and developmental stages. In addition students will be asked to reflect about their own experiences and how those experiences may impact their interactions and values as Jewish educators.

Educational Administration I (EDU 550) 3 credits W. Cohen

MAEd only . This course, first in a year-long sequence in the MAEd program, explores key leadership and organizational theories as they relate to Jewish educational institutions. Students consider practical applications vis-à-vis topics including faculty management and evaluation, lay-professional relations, vision and mission statements, budgeting and other important topics for leaders of Jewish institutions. This course trains students in the tools to implement the visions they develop in Philosophy of Education.

Educational Administration II (EDU 551) 3 credits W. Cohen

MAEd only . The second semester of the administration sequence covers job-search related issues, student management, parent relationships, marketing, fundraising, special programming and other important topics for leaders of Jewish institutions. Students continue to apply and learn from Bolman and Deal’s four “frameworks” and delve even more deeply into the remaining “key constituencies” of an educational administrator.

Educational Leadership I and II (EDU 550/551.02) 3 credits each B. Powell

MAT only . Mirroring the Educational Administration sequence but tailored for the MAT program, this sequence examines leadership and organizational theories as they apply to the leadership roles that teachers typically assume. Students study topics in philosophy of education to explore the importance of vision in educational institutions as well as the practical realm of implementation.

Practicum in Experiential Education elective (EDU 565) 3 credits R. Wolfson

Among the many ways to learn, “experience” is by far the most powerful. “Jewish experiential education” can be the framework for the transformation of Jewish education in North America, particularly in the supplemental schools and so-called “informal” settings of summer camp, youth group and trips to Israel. We will ask “What is an experience?” “What are the principle components of an ‘effective,’ ‘memorable’ experience?” “What is the cognitive and affective ‘content’ of an experience?” What can educators learn about “experiential learning” from the analysis of “experiences” we have in our everyday lives, such as shopping, synagogue or church attendance, even a Dodgers game? How are these “experiences” organized, presented, marketed and analyzed for effectiveness? How do we talk about our personal experiences through the medium of storytelling?

The Art of Teachingelective (EDU 590) Staff and various artists

In this "Pedagogy Test Kitchen," guest teaching artists experiment with groundbreaking approaches to teaching through the arts. Students experience a variety of Judaic content through storytelling, movement, visual arts, creative writing, animation and more to explore what kinds of teaching and learning opportunities are possible when one utilizes the arts as pedagogical tools.

Teaching Jewish Holidays and Life Cycle (EDJ 570) Staff and A. Henne

Holidays and life cycle are perhaps the most-repeated content in Jewish education. This course provides a forum for educators to explore and develop new ways of teaching the holidays through artistic and creative interpretation and expression. Each week, classical and contemporary sources provide the raw material for a creative process guided by award-winning playwright and Jewish educator, Aaron Henne that models best practices in teaching through experience and creativity.

Approaching God and Prayer (EDJ 572) 3 credits R. Wolfson  

Who is God, where is God, how do Jews talk to God, and what if there is no God? This course prepares educators to think about leading conversations and responding to typical questions about the Divine in the lives of contemporary Jews of all kinds; provides an overview and deep dive into the meaning of prayer; and explores how to communicate and connect to ideas about God when learners are wondering, doubting or skeptical.

Teaching Jewish History and Israel (EDJ 574) 3 credits S. Zakai

The first module of the course prepares educators to teach about Jewish historical consciousness by delving into the key themes, patterns and events that have shaped the Jewish experience historically, focusing on the modern period. Students will examine what it means for Jews to “think historically,” integrating the study of Jewish history with exploring how to use historical texts and content in teaching.

The second module of the course is a journey through assumptions and ideologies about Israel. Informed by the latest research on Israel education (including that being conducted at AJU), the course is sensitive to and enriched by the pluralism of AJU’s student community. Through readings and carefully facilitated discussion, this course helps educators identify “the elephant in the room” and gain a vocabulary for engendering a nuanced understanding of Israel through multiple voices, multiple disciplines and multiple lenses.

Teaching the Bible: Chumash (EDJ 576) 3 credits S. Fields-Meyer

Students are introduced to a range of orientations to teaching the Bible. Most of the course is devoted to in-depth immersion in Biblical texts and commentaries, with an eye toward how to unlock the meanings and various interpretations of the text.

Teaching with Rabbinic Texts (EDJ 578) 3 credits J. Sternfeld-Davis/P. Fenton

Rabbinic texts are the source material for many of the lessons and values Jewish educators aim to share. This course explores key Talmudic texts and midrashim which Jewish educators can use to unpack and explain Jewish values and their unique Jewish sources, such as resolving conflict, giving Tzedakah, and moral dilemmas. The course also explores key modes of interpretation through Midrash.

Special Topics in Teaching Judaics (EDJ 580) 6 credits R. Lerner and Guest Faculty

This 6 credit course dedicates the entire evening block of spring semester (5 hours) to the investigation and analysis of prevalent orientations to the teaching of various Judaic content areas in Jewish schools. These content areas include Bible; Rabbinic Texts; God/Theology and Liturgy; Jewish history; Israel; and Holidays. Everyone will gain exposure to the breadth of topics to gain an understanding of the structure of each discipline, multiple methods of conveying the content to children, and the function of the subject in the life of a contemporary Jew and in building a foundation for lifelong Jewish learning. Deeper emphasis on certain topics over others will be determined based on the makeup of the cohort. Students will be introduced to various models of teaching, including the classic chavruta, direct instruction, discussion leading and lecture, as well as creative methodologies utilizing the arts, projects, integration, etc.

The course will be facilitated by a member of the education faculty with expertise in day school curriculum and teaching, and will feature guest lecturers with subject area expertise to give mini-modules on their content areas. The full evening 6 credit format provides more flexibility for longer workshops that combine content investigation as well as pedagogical applications. Each student will produce a multidisciplinary project (such as a curriculum map, integration plan or scope and sequence) to demonstrate understanding of a variety of disciplines, with a feature of that project on their own area of study (such as a teaching module).

Readings in Judaic Studies (EDJ 599) MAT only 3 credits

The readings course is an opportunity for each MAT student to delve independently or in small groups into a content area that is relevant to his or her teaching. Students will develop a reading list in consult with an appointed faculty advisor with expertise in her or her chosen discipline. Much of the reading should be conducted over the summer, with the culminating assessments due in the Fall of year 2.

Judaic Elective various

Students have the opportunity to “go deep” in a content area of their choosing (philosophy, Bible, liturgy, etc) by fulfilling an elective in the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies or in a special course offered by the Graduate Center for Jewish Education, in consultation with the dean.

Capstone Project  

MAEd students produce a capstone project which demonstrates their deepening expertise in a particular area of education and makes an original contribution to theory and practice in Jewish education. The project may take numerous forms, including but not limited to a new program idea, a curriculum, a manual for professional practice, an academic thesis, or an original analysis or evaluation of existing educational practices. Many capstone projects become the basis for a publishable, usable tool in the field.

Hebrew  

Students take two years of Hebrew language coursework or complete the most advanced level of Hebrew offered at AJU, whichever comes first.

Fieldwork  

Full-time students complete two years of teaching fieldwork and one year of administrative fieldwork. Fieldwork serves a laboratory for students to experiment with and practice the skills and models encountered in their coursework. Actual number of hours will vary for working professionals pursuing the degree. Students may choose from a wide array of fieldwork opportunities, in consultation with the fieldwork coordinator. (Specific guidelines for fieldwork requirements are published in the academic catalog.)

Program Goals and Learning Outcomes  

PROGRAM GOALS:

  1. Students will become conversant in the language, texts and tools of the profession of Jewish educator.

  2. Students will gain the professional knowledge and organizational/administrative skills to lead effectively as a Jewish educator.

  3. Students will become proficient in the habits of mind and tools associated with the cycle of planning, teaching and assessment.

  4. Students will gain the habits of mind and tools to be reflective practitioners and continuously improve their practice as lifelong learners and professional educators.

Program Learning Outcomes:

  1. Students will be able to articulate their own vision for Jewish education.

  2. Students will be able utilize the tools of planning, teaching and assessment as a cycle that continually enhances their professional practice, including articulating a rationale for their choices.

  3. Students will be able to manage institutional infrastructure and resources as an instructional and/or administrative leader.

  4. Students will be able to utilize the tools of reflective practice and self-study.

  5. Students will be able to teach Jewish values, vocabulary, texts and traditions to Jewish learners, making methodological choices that are attentive to the diverse needs of learners (developmental, religiously sensitive, and engaging multiple intelligences and learning styles).

Note: The MAT and MAEd programs are designed with the same broadly stated goals and outcomes, with the following distinctions:

  • In the MAEd program, courses are taught with an eye toward broad preparation for leadership in the wide field of Jewish education. MAEd students may complete their fieldwork in a broad array of Jewish educational settings. In the MAT program courses are taught with an eye toward enriching and expanding students’ professional practice as teachers, with an emphasis on day school settings. MAT students complete their fieldwork in Jewish day schools.

  • The MAEd curriculum includes more courses in Judaic content, while the MAT program allows teachers to specialize in the content areas where they are teaching.