Pedagogies, ideologies, and secular Jewish identities in U.S. Hebrew Schools

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Pedagogies, ideologies, and secular Jewish identities in U.S. Hebrew Schools

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Although heritage language teachers' processes of identity formation have been studied in recent years (e.g., Milner, 2007), much of the work on heritage languages has explored foreign language teachers' beliefs (e.g., Nespor, 1987; Pajares, 1992; Williams & Burden, 1997) and pedagogies. Overall, the context behind these heritage language pedagogies, specifically ethnic, religious, and national identities has been under-researched. Addressing this gap, this study explores Hebrew language teachers' beliefs, practices and ideologies and the way these ideologies relate to teachers' Jewish identities. Hebrew language teachers have various beliefs about their roles as teachers and about what needs to be taught in their Hebrew classroom as part the process of fostering students' Jewish identity. These beliefs relate to teachers' lived experience as learners (e.g., Alvine, 2001). Teachers' beliefs and practices suggest teachers' Hebrew language ideologies (e.g., Woolard, 2010), which are affected by teachers' Jewish identity (e.g., Avni, 2011). During a year-long study that included a semester of classroom observation and numerous semi-formal as well as informal interviews, three participating teachers from two schools were observed and classroom documents were collected. Guided by the theoretical framework of imagined communities (Anderson, 2006), data was analyzed and interpreted. Findings suggest that Hebrew teacher beliefs about themselves as learners relate to their beliefs about themselves as teachers. These beliefs map onto classroom practices most of the time. All three of the teachers share similar ideologies about how knowledge of Hebrew and knowledge about Israel are essential for fostering Jewish identities.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. December 2014. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Dr. Kendall A. King. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 229 pages, appendices A-B.

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Schneller, Renana Segal. (2014). Pedagogies, ideologies, and secular Jewish identities in U.S. Hebrew Schools. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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