Background

Cara Rock-Singer is a graduate student in the Religion department. She is a teaching assistant for the course “Freud and Derrida.” In this course, the main task is an extended exercise in attention, to pay such minute attention to the details of a paragraph so that we can understand the fullest possible range of its meaning. The final assignment, to paraphrase a paragraph, is essentially an act of translation, to translate Freud’s language (itself a translation from German to English) into your own words. To help prepare students for their final assignment of the semester, they will be choosing a paragraph from Moses and Monotheism to practice paraphrasing.


The class will break into pairs, and each pair will be assigned a sentence of our chosen paragraph. The theory of the group work will be modeled on a traditional Jewish learning model, hevruta. The idea behind hevruta is to form a three-way relationship between the partners and the text, where partners are encouraged to be in dynamic dialogue about the text’s meaning, allowing each other to wonder broadly and inclusively about the text’s range of meanings and then critically reigning in the interpretive focus of the analysis. Traditionally, hevruta partners, like partners in any relationship, develop their relationship over a period of time. Since they will be implementing this in one 2 hour meeting, the instructor will provide students with a template to help develop a thorough conversation of the text that opens up a full(er) range of meanings and then focuses on a selected set of meanings. This method, adapted from another wise pedagogue, is called “manic glossing.” This method will guide students to “gloss” the range of meanings of words and phrases in the text in multiple ways. They then will be instructed to collaborate on writing a paraphrase for their sentence. The group will reconvene and share their paraphrase with the class to produce a full paragraph paraphrase. They will end by reflecting on the method’s usefulness in the close reading and “translation” of the text.


The observation will constitute of two sessions. In the first session on April 1, Belinda will come to Cara's recitation and will observe a workshop where students will be doing a hevruta on the text, a paragraph from "Moses and Monotheism". At that session, Cara presents a text to the students and the students work through close reading and a breakdown of the text in real time. Some measurable data that Belinda can collect from this session include information on the number and types of questions asked by the students and subjective observations of the students engagement with the text and with each other concerning the text.

In the second session on April 8, Belinda will attend Cara's recitation where she will use Piazza and work with the students to compose a paraphrase of a paragraph from the same text as before. After both sessions, we'll survey the students on the methods introduced to them for reading the text- namely the hevruta method and Piazza and get their feedback on which methods they felt were most effective in furthering their understanding of the text and increasing their ability to engage in collaborative reading as well.

Cara’s primary concerns going into the observation relate to finding ways to measure her learning goals regarding ensuring that students learn how to practice paraphrasing a difficult passage of text, learn strategies for close reading and methods of collaborative reading as well.



Learning goals:


Instructor’s learning goals for the observed recitation:
  • Students practice paraphrasing a difficult passage of text
  • Students learn strategies for close-reading
  • Students learn method of collaborative reading, based on the concept of hevruta from traditional Jewish text study
Instructor’s vision for measurable behavior related to learning goals:
  • Response to group discussions: How collaborative are the students in working through a particular text? Any significant differences in collaboration using hevruta? Using Piazza?
  • Language that students use in class: Are they able to clearly discuss ideas from the text?
  • Student behavior during group discussions: Do they seem bored? Confused? Cara wants to know if the group discussion/introduction of the methods she will use is engaging to the students.
    • Are students asking questions during the recitation? What percentage of students are asking questions and how many questions are they asking? What kinds of questions are they asking?



Observer's understanding of how the tracked session or assignment will be measured:
  • Timekeeper: Belinda will keep track of how long students are spending discussing particular concepts, to gauge which concepts appear to take on more of the students’ attention during recitation.
  • Notetaker: Belinda will record and count frequently used words by the students. She will also record the types of questions that the students ask Cara, the number of students asking questions, and the number of questions each student asks. (Audio recording will perhaps aid this process).
  • Belinda will observe student behavior and perceived reactions to Cara’s explanations during the hevruta and Piazza portions of the observations.
  • She will also observe and track responses and questions on the Piazza platform as well

Outside of the observed session:
  • Belinda and Cara will listen to an audio or video recording recording of the recitation to review Cara’s observations and double check her data on types and number of questions asked.
  • Belinda will survey the students on the effectiveness of the methods and platforms- hevruta and piazza- introduced to them


Observation Activities


Before the observed class, Belinda will review the course syllabus and any reading for the week. Belinda will then attend Cara’s recitation on April 1. She will come in to the class with Cara and be briefly introduced, though Cara will alert the students to Belinda’s observation in her previous session. Belinda will then sit in the back of the class where she will have a good vantage point of both the students and Cara’s presentation. Belinda will serve as a notetaker and time keeper, focusing on measuring the student behavior mentioned above. Belinda will use audio or video recording to help with her notetaking . Outside of the session, she will examine students notes and comments from the Piazza platform for the analysis of the aforementioned text.


After the observed class, Belinda will review the piazza entries, audio recording and survey responses with Cara to examine, student attitudes towards the methods introduced, students grasp of the text as revealed through their language and student behavior (with special attention paid to collaborative behavior) during the recitation.




Timeline


1/28: Cara and Belinda meet to write observation plan
2/12: Present observation plan to Teagle Fellows
2/12: Cara and Belinda meet to revise observation plan after presentation
Prior to the observation: Cara will inform the students of Belinda’s upcoming observation

4/1: Belinda observes Cara’s class, in 318 Hamilton from 6:10-8pm

6:00 Belinda arrives at the classroom to meet Cara and address any last second concerns.
6: 10 Class begins. Cara will introduce Belinda to the class. Throughout the class, Belinda will observe from the back of the room and perform an audio or video recording of the recitation.
6:15 Cara presents the text and hevruta methods relating to the day's lesson and text. Belinda will observe and record students’ responses, noting the language they use and questions they ask.
6:15-7:00 Students work on group discussions.

7:00-7:45: Group will discuss together their paraphrase
7:45-8: Group will reflect on the methods learned (hevruta)
8 Class ends.


4/2: Cara and Belinda meet to review notes from class observation. With Cara’s help, they determine the communicative success of the topic, language, and students' responses to methods introduced and text analysis through group discussions throughout the class.


4/8: Belinda observes Cara’s class a second time as before, in 318 Hamilton from 6:10-8pm
6:00 Belinda arrives at the classroom to meet Cara and address any last second concerns.
6: 10 Class begins. Cara will introduce Piazza to the class and explain the method of analysis of the same aforementioned text via Piazza
6:15-7 Cara will work through the text with students on Piazza. Belinda will observe and record students’ responses, noting the language they use and questions they ask.

7:00-7:45: Group will discuss together their paraphrase
7:45-8: Group will reflect on the methods learned (learning via Piazza)
8 Class ends.


4/10: Cara and Belinda will meet to debrief the observation and to write the observation report.
April: Cara and Belinda present their reflections about the observation to Teagle Fellows.

Belinda and Cara Observation Survey

Purpose: Evaluating the effectiveness of and response of the students towards the hevruta and Piazza methods of collaborative learning


Survey:

To what extent do you agree with the following, rate on a scale from 1 to 4, 1 is strongly disagree and 4 is strongly agree (please circle):

Hevruta method was helpful
1 2 3 4 I was not there

I enjoyed the hevruta method
1 2 3 4 I was not there

Piazza was helpful
1 2 3 4 I was not there

I enjoyed working on Piazza
1 2 3 4 I was not there

The hevruta method allowed me to think more broadly about the topic
1 2 3 4 I was not there

The hevruta method helped me gain confidence in annotating text
1 2 3 4 I was not there

The hevruta method enabled effective collaboration with my peers
1 2 3 4 I was not there

Piazza allowed me to synthesize my ideas
1 2 3 4 I was not there

Piazza method helped me gain confidence in paraphrasing text
1 2 3 4 I was not there

Piazza enabled effective collaboration with my peers
1 2 3 4 I was not there

The instructor helped clarify the final assignment
1 2 3 4 I was not there

The instructor answered my questions
1 2 3 4 I was not there

The instructor encouraged participation
1 2 3 4 I was not there

The handout during the first session was helpful
1 2 3 4 I was not there

Any other comments about these workshops (feel free to use the back)?