Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, Ed.D.
Director, Master of Educational Leadership Program
Our Master of Educational Leadership students and faculty at the Rhea Hirsch School in Los Angeles, launched the new academic year exploring “Creating Relational Learning Communities.” As this year’s scholar-in-residence for the Sara S. Lee Seminar, Dr. Miriam Raider-Roth, Professor of Educational Studies and Educational/Community-Based Action Research at the University of Cincinnati and Director of the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute, shared her research and expertise in constructing environments that are designed intentionally for learning.
A founding co-director of the Center for Studies of Jewish Education and Culture at UC, Raider-Roth’s research focuses on the relational context of teaching and learning, action research and feminist qualitative research methods. Her research interests include how relational learning communities contribute to teachers’ transformative learning in professional development settings.
At the Sara S. Lee Seminar, our students examined Raider-Roth’s research-based conceptual framework for creating a nurturing, relational learning environment. Raider-Roth defines the creation of a learning environment in which, “explicit attention is paid to the construction and nurturing of relationships between and among the participants (learners, students), facilitators (teachers), text/content and context.” Nurturing is essential because environments contribute to the creation and sustainability of the relationships. Nurturing is about building and, if necessary, repairing relationships.
There are two elements to relational learning. The first is attention to the holding environment – creating the space where learning and growth can occur, and the second is relational awareness – observation of group dynamics, of the interpersonal and intrapersonal. There are relational pedagogies that one can use in order to engage in this type of learning. Havruta study is a naturally Jewish example of this.
The seminar featured different relational pedagogies – more of which they will experience and learn to use in their own teaching during the year – giving language to aspects of styles of teaching and learning that are hallmarks of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education. Additionally, students delved into texts on relational Judaism with Dr. Miriam Heller Stern: different glosses of the Hebrew word “neged,” which can imply proximity, boundaries, opposition and partnership. Using synagogue art with the phrase from Psalm 16, Shiviti Adonai l’negdi tamid, (I will keep God with me always) they created their own Shiviti visual art pieces to capture their sense of purpose, faith, and a reminder of the divinely inspired compasses that keep them focused.
Alumni of the RHSOE Master of Educational Leadership Program joined us for dinner and to spend time with the new students ‘inducting’ them into the culture of the RHSOE from the students’ perspective.
The Sara Lee Seminar is endowed by the alumni of the RHSOE. It is held every other year to honor Sara S. Lee, the longtime Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education (1980-2007). The Seminar is supported by a fund established in Professor Lee’s honor by the Rhea Hirsch School of Education Alumni Association.