The Effectiveness of the CHAI Curriculum

Open Access
Dafilou, Sarah Elizabeth
Area of Honors:
Jewish Studies
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Tobias Heinrich Albert Brinkmann, Thesis Supervisor
  • Willa Zahava Silverman, Honors Advisor
  • Stephanie Cayot Serriere, Faculty Reader
  • Jewish Studies
  • education
  • CHAI curriculum
  • backward design
  • Understanding by Design
  • synagogue
  • Hebrew school
  • URJ
The CHAI curriculum was created by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations as a way to standardize education for Reform Jews across the nation. Curriculum designers used backward design theory to create a comprehensive curriculum that emphasized Jewish learning and living beyond the classroom. Backward design structures lessons around enduring understandings, which are the big ideas that students should walk away with from a lesson. Each level of the curriculum has enduring understandings related to Jewish values that build on each other throughout the lessons. This study surveyed students, teachers, and education directors at two schools in Pennsylvania whose differences are valuable when evaluating the effectiveness of this curriculum. These schools have teachers with different levels experiences, different classroom sizes, and different outlooks as to the purpose of CHAI in their school. By analyzing the results of the surveys and interviews, the effectiveness of the CHAI curriculum is dependent more on an understanding of the backward design theory than the other factors, although the other factors do play a significant role.