The impact of traditional performance-based grading practices on motivation and spirituality in secondary Judaic studies
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The average American high school student today faces enormous academic pressure to succeed in school. Keeping up with homework, tests, papers, and major projects can be challenging as teenagers navigate an increasingly complex world. However, for modern Orthodox high school students attending dual-curriculum yeshivas, that pressure is easily doubled as students work to succeed academically in twice as many courses. Educators at dual-curriculum yeshivas often utilize a traditional performance-based grading system in Jewish studies courses in order to assess and communicate students' skills in Jewish literacy and fluency. The use of such a grading system has been the subject of much debate in recent years: proponents argue that it enhances student motivation (Austin & McCann, 1992; Airasian, 1994; Halpern, 2012), while opponents argue that it undermines students' affinity for Jewish textual learning (Brown, 2018; Feld, 2018; Shepard, 1988; Bleich, 2000)._____ This qualitative phenomenological study examined the impact of traditional performance-based grading practices on motivation and spirituality, or religious affinity for Jewish textual learning, in Judaic studies courses. The data, gathered from transcripts of personal interviews with twenty high school students at three different modern Orthodox high schools, was analyzed through inductive data analysis in order to search for patterns and themes emerging from the research relating to the positive and negative externalities of current traditional grading practices in Jewish studies.______ The results of this study indicated that students felt extrinsically motivated to earn good grades in Judaic studies courses despite feeling a strong desire to be more intrinsically motivated to improve in their religious commitment. Students also shared that detecting a sense of relevance in Judaic studies is a strong factor in influencing intrinsic motivation as is the quality of the Judaic studies teacher. Results did not indicate any correlation between mastery mindset and intrinsic motivation. Recommendations regarding how to improve student motivation and spirituality are offered as well as further research possibilities.
Doctoral dissertation, Ed.D., Doctor of Educational Leadership, Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, Open Access.
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