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Teachers' Cultural Ideology: Patterns of Curriculum and Teaching Culturally Valued Texts

by Asher Shkedi & Mordecai Nisan - 2006

This study sought to reveal teachers' personal cultural ideologies as reflected in their conceptions of the curriculum for, and in their actual teaching of, culturally valued texts. The concept "teachers' personal cultural ideologies" refers to their value orientation toward the curricular and teaching contents relating to, in this particular case, teaching texts associated with their national group identity. The study is based on an investigation of 50 Israeli teachers of the Hebrew Bible working in ordinary public schools. It revealed six different patterns of teachers' conceptions of the curriculum and teaching for this culturally valued text. Teachers displayed conflicting attitudes toward the expression of personal cultural ideology during the teaching process. Nonetheless, when describing what actually happened in their classrooms, they expressed teaching conceptions that were mostly congruent with their personal cultural ideologies. Although that these teachers taught the same obligatory national curriculum, with its defined cultural-ideological slant, their personal cultural ideologies did not necessarily mesh with the official ideological directions of the written curriculum. This study revealed that during the actual process of teaching, the teacher's personal cultural ideology became dominant, outweighing other types of teaching and curriculum ideology.

In the last two decades, many researchers have constructed in-depth descriptions about the pedagogical and professional lives of individual teachers (e.g., Beattie, 1995; Elbaz, 1981; Grossman, 1990). Every teacher has his or her personal pedagogical knowledge of curriculum and teaching that is built on a set of ideologies, beliefs, values, understandings, and assumptions. Teachers use this knowledge to guide their actions and express personal, social, and organizational values. That teachers knowledge has this personal nature and is context sensitive lends great weight to teachers understanding of subject matter, pupils, context, and all the factors that constitute the process of teaching (see Gudmundsdottir, 1990).

In the encounter between teachers and curriculum written by external experts, the teachers connect the proposed curriculum with their current pedagogical content knowledge. They take principles from the proposed curriculum and put them into their own narrative contexts in a way that they find familiar and acceptable (Shkedi, 1998). A teachers curriculum and teaching knowledge provide continuity and structure to instructional content by relating to the proposed curriculum and to the teachers pedagogical content understanding. Thus, the curriculum and teaching knowledge that each teacher constructs is the way in which he or she perceives the proposed curriculum; it is not necessarily the same as, or even similar to, the intentions of the curriculum writers. In this way, when teachers interpret the contents of a proposed curriculum, they are expressing personal beliefs and ideologies that include their independent understanding of it. Their independent understanding differs from the intentions of the curriculum writers even though the teachers are generally unaware that it contains their own personal interpretations.

The present study sheds light on this issue, revealing teachers personal cultural ideology as is reflected in their conceptions of teaching and curriculum of culturally valued texts. The study focused on 50 Israeli Bible teachers using the Hebrew Bible as an example of a culturally valued text. Each of the 50 teachers was observed in at least two Bible lessons and was interviewed both before the classroom observation and afterward. Although there are unique elements to the Biblical text, it seems that clarification of issues related to its teaching might also contribute to understanding of the teaching of other types of culturally valued texts in literature, philosophy, and related disciplines.


Study of the Bible is obligatory for all students in Israeli schools. This is an expression of the centrality of the Bible in Jewish culture. (The Bible in Jewish tradition contains the Five Books of Moses, Prophets and Hagiographa, and does not include the New Testament.) The school curriculum is determined by the Israeli Department of Education and is binding on teachers. The curriculum for teaching the Bible has undergone many revisions over the last few decades, reflecting sharp differences of opinion among academics, scholars, and educators on the issue of the suitability of approaches effected by cultural ideological change. The source of the disputes regarding the Bible and how it should be taught is to be found in the 18th and 19th centuries and springs from challenges posed by the modern world and the consequent changes in lifestyle and collective consciousness of Jews. In opposition to the religious-traditional vision, an alternative emerged, corresponding to the critical-scientific-secular vision of enlightened modern Western culture (Schweid, 2000).

Although the centrality of the Bible was not abandoned, different Jewish groups began to espouse commentaries that were written in the spirit of the modern age, and they turned away from religious-traditional commentaries of the Bible. In todays modern world, Jews are divided by their personal and communal cultural ideology. The range includes orthodox religious, moderate religious, traditional, secular, and others, all characterized by their particular orientation to the relationship between Jewish traditions and universal culture. Today, most Jews are not committed to religious obligations, and for the majority, Biblical texts are related to primarily as culturally valued texts (Schweid, 2000). The obligatory Bible curriculum in nonreligious schools in Israel expresses the critical-scientific-secular ideology while acknowledging the religious-traditional one (Shenhar, 1994). The teachers of Bible, like other Jewish Israelis, differ from one another in their personal cultural ideology and in their conception of the Bible and teaching Bible. The range between the religious-traditional ideology on the one hand and the critical-scientific-secular one on the other constitutes the central axis along which different teaching approaches have been constructed (Schoneveld, 1976).

In this study, the Bible teachers expressed teaching conceptions that were mostly congruent with their personal cultural ideologies. Even though these teachers taught the same obligatory national curriculum, with its defined cultural-ideological slant, their personal cultural ideologies did not necessarily mesh with the official ideological directions of the written curriculum. This study revealed that during the actual process of teaching, the teachers personal cultural ideology became dominant, even outweighing other types of teaching and curriculum ideology.

Teacher education and curriculum development programs generally focus on imparting targeted knowledge and conceptions of teaching along with skills. Research has demonstrated, however, that teachers and prospective teachers come to the encounter with the educational and curricular program with preexisting and quite stable contents and pedagogical beliefs and ideology. These beliefs and ideology are personal and very difficult to change. Although this reality has yet to influence many teacher education and curriculum programs, it has found its place in the research literature.

This study focuses on the subarea of teachers beliefs and ideologies, dealing specifically with their personal cultural ideology. Through the lenses of their personal cultural ideology, teachers understand the subject matter, their students, and teaching methods, and they construct their teaching in accordance to this ideology. Although the teachers cultural ideology would be present in any subject area (Bruner, 1996), it is prominent in the areas of teaching literature, history, and culturally valued texts such as the Bible. Although the literature on curriculum, teaching, and teacher education is concerned mainly with academic theories and thought, the narratives coming from the field of teaching tell different stories. These stories bring us into the classroom and tell us what Clandinin and Connelly (1996) called the secret stories of teachers. This study addresses that aspect of the professional lives of teachers.


The term teacher ideology, along with many other terms, is often presented as a synonym for teacher beliefs (Pajares, 1992; Shkedi & Horenczyk, 1995). For example, Meighan (1981) defined ideology as a broad but interlinked set of ideas and beliefs about the world (p. 19), and Van Dijk (1998) posited that Ideologies are first of all systems of beliefs (p. 126). Teacher ideology is thus a teachers belief system. A teacher holds beliefs concerning the manner in which students learn, the structure of society, the components of study material, and so forth. These are more like factual beliefs (Van Dijk, p. 108), which concern the characteristics and essence of phenomena. At the same time, teachers also possess evaluative beliefs (Van Dijk) about subjects such as how it is appropriate for students to learn, how society should be structured to facilitate this process, how learning content should be presented. These beliefs reflect the teachers values in terms of what is desirable (Nisan, 1988). Nisan (1983) defined a value as an ultimate principle affording general guidance as to the desirable and undesirable, good and bad. Values, therefore, are a special subgroup of beliefs that are perceived as desirable (Nisan, 1988). An ideology is the set of factual and evaluative beliefs, according to Van Dijk (p. 48); ideologies are belief systems that provide the value premises from which decisions about practical educational matters are made (Eisner, 1994, p. 302).

Ideology, as a set of beliefs (either factual or evaluative), is a system of comparatively stable basic assumptions that inform human perceptions of and attitudes toward physical or social reality. They possess a priori authority and are self-validating. According to Tillema (1998), Beliefs are anchored in knowledge. They exhibit the knowledge that is of most worth and has proven itself in action (p. 220). Ideologies are a system of guiding principles that teachers regard as reflecting the phenomenon with which they are dealing. The influence of ideologies is strongest on the characteristics and meanings that people attribute to phenomena and on activities that they decide to undertake. Ideologies do not require external endorsement or sanction; ideology is often seen to provide an internally consistent pattern, so that the thoughts, beliefs, values and so on fit together into total mental structure (Billig et al. 1988, p. 29).

Most research dealing with teachers worlds tends to see teachers ideologies as part of teachers knowledge (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997; Richardson, 1996). The rationale for this is that teachers knowledge is subjective and is therefore tainted with belief. Those researchers dealing with teachers knowledge are hard put to define the boundaries between objective knowledge, as it were, and beliefs (Pajares, 1992). Indeed, most researchers who have investigated teacher knowledge over the last decade indicate that it is personal and individual. They see in teachers understandings of their own personal identity an important component of their consciousness (Connelly & Clandinin, 1999; Craig, 2001). Elbaz (1981) expressed this when she suggested self-knowledge as one of the five categories of teacher knowledge. Teachers conceptions of self are involved in all their pedagogical ideologies even though they may not be completely apparent and in many cases are not even conscious. This view has been expressed, for example, by some researchers who labeled it teachers personal practical knowledge (Connelly & Clandinin, 1988), in which both the terms practical (Schwab, 1969) and personal hint at the private and individual nature of teacher knowledge.

Research assumptions indicate that teachers beliefs and ideologies act as a kind of internal filtering system and influence the act of teaching (Fang, 1996; Grundy & Hatton, 1995). Ideologies may . . . influence what is accepted as true or false (Van Dijk, 1998, p. 8). Teachers beliefs and ideologies are expressed in a number of interrelated areas and exert influence over one another: their conceptions of the role of subject matter in teaching, conceptions of the teachers function in the teaching process, conceptions of the students, and conceptions of the place of the education system in society. One of the characteristics of an ideological system is its inconsistency. Ideologies are not necessarily endowed with internal consistency. They may include beliefs that are not congruent with one another and that might even be contradictory (Tillema, 1998). A person may hold beliefs in one area (for example, in his or her conception of the student) that on the surface seem to contradict ideologies in another area (for example, conception of subject matter). Fang considered the situational nature of teacher ideologies and claimed that in different circumstances or contexts, different beliefs would be expressed. Much other research has concerned itself with the dilemmalike nature of teacher beliefs and the internal contrasts and conflicts (Berlak & Berlak, 1981; Lampert, 1985; Olson & Eaton, 1987; Shkedi & Horenczyk, 1995).

Billig et al. (1988) distinguished between two kinds of ideologies. On the one hand, there is intellectual ideology, which is phrased in terms taken from the subject areas of philosophy, political thought, or religion. This ideology excels in the internal unity and clear terminology that is part of systematic-academic methods of thought. On the other hand, there is lived ideology, which is a combination of overt and tacit values produced from individual or group experience within a particular cultural context.

An ideology is a systematic formalization of apparent facts, interpretations, desires, and predictions (Aron, 1977). Hence, educational (and curricular) ideology was defined by Lamm (2000) as a system of cognitive assumptions and affective identifications that functions as a means of control and categorization that determines which scientific means, philosophies, principles, techniques and activities will be acceptable in a given education system, and which will be rejected. It is clear from this definition that ideology is a methodical system containing internal unity and consistency. It would seem, therefore, that the formal teaching and curriculum ideology belongs to the kind of ideology that Billig et al. (1988) called intellectual ideology. Teaching and curriculum ideologies are beliefs about what schools should teach, to what ends, and for what reasons (Eisner, 1994).

Lived ideology, as opposed to its intellectual counterpart, is not couched in clear phraseology. Sometimes it is not even expressed in an orderly verbal way, but instead in broken thoughts or actions. In contrast to the internal unity of intellectual ideology, lived ideology may include principles that clash with each other. It would seem, therefore, that teacher ideology belongs to that kind of ideology that Billig et al. (1998) called lived ideology. This ideology system crystallizes in their consciousness as an all-embracing view of the desirable, although it is an inconsistent system, with internal contradictions and vague wording.


The teacher is not a person who engages only in teaching. Teaching is but one specific component in his or her life. The teacher also has a private and a social life. The teachers orientation to self (Connelly & Elbaz, 1980) includes aspects of both his or her professional and personal identities. In their representation of self, people present themselves as being members of several categories and groups (Van Dijk, 1998). A teachers personal identity (i.e., his or her self-definition) is the result of an entirety of experiences in the past, present, and in relation to the future (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). Ideological attitudes toward the teaching of culturally valued texts may be associated with personal opinion about the texts (cultural ideology) and views regarding their teaching treatment (pedagogical ideology). The concept teachers pedagogical ideologies relates to their value-orientation toward the teaching process, the teachers role, teaching goals, learning tasks, students knowledge, attitudes and abilities, and other relevant components of the teaching domain. Teachers pedagogical ideologies relate to the area sometimes called teachers general pedagogical knowledge (Grossman, 1995).

The concept of teachers cultural ideologies is their value-orientation toward the contents and symbols connecting them to aspects of the groups national memory; it includes past, present, and future symbols, events, activities, and artifacts (Ferdman & Horenczyk, 2000). Ideological aspects of national memory, for example, are those fundamental beliefs that are generally shared at the group level and that answer such fundamental questions as, Who are we? Where do we come from? Who belongs to us? What do we (usually) do, and why? Accordingly, cultural ideology is a national group identification.

Group identity may also be defined, at least partly, in terms of the characteristic social practices of group members, including collective action. Indeed, members of a social movement might identify as much with the ideas shared by the group, as with such typical group activities as demonstrations, strikes, meetings or rituals. The same is true for group identifying symbols, such as uniforms, flags, badges and many others. (Van Dijk, 1998, p. 123)

Cultural content refers to historical events that hold an important place in the collective memory of people belonging to the same group: their language and literature, holidays, national calendar and life cycle (Triandis, 1996), the way they read and understand texts in the national canon, and their beliefs about the sources of the values that influence their worldviews (Schweid, 2000). The concept of teachers cultural ideologies reflects aspects of personal belonging based on their ethnicity, faith, and nationality.

In this article, we consider teachers ideologies to be lived ideologies (Billig et al., 1988). This ideological system crystallizes in the teachers consciousness as an all-embracing view of factual and evaluative beliefs, although it is not a consistent system. We distinguish between two types of teachers ideologies: pedagogical ideology, which is concerned with their teaching practice, and cultural ideology, which is their personal approach toward their cultural identity and their understanding of the culturally valued subjects and texts. This article seeks to clarify the role of cultural ideology in teaching culturally valued texts and to shed light on its effect on other school subject matter.


Based on the previous review, this research assumes that teachers ideologies are systems of teachers beliefs and that they are both personal and individual. There are two kinds of ideologies: intellectual ideologies, which are internally unified and based on systematic-academic methods of thought, and lived ideologies, which are inconsistent and a combination of overt and tacit assumptions. Teachers ideologies are of the lived ideology type and are expressed in a number of interrelated areas that exert influence over one another and may also contradict one another. This study sheds light on two teachers personal ideologiestheir pedagogical ideologies and their cultural ideologiesand examines the role of the teachers cultural ideology in the process of teaching culturally valued texts.

This study focuses on the following central question: How is the cultural ideology of teachers reflected in their conception of teaching Bible? This question is divided into three subordinate questions: (1) What is the personal cultural ideology of teachers? (2) What are the curriculum and teaching conceptions of teachers, as they relate to subject matter, their students, their teaching goals and their function as teachers? (3) To what extent is the personal cultural ideology of teachers congruent with their conception of the cultural ideology of the curriculum and teaching? The pictures emerging from 1 and 2 are compared in order with 3.


This study represents multiple case studies (Firestone, 1993; Merriam, 1998; Stake, 2000; Yin, 1994) of 50 Bible teachers. One of the most frequent criticisms of qualitative research is that each research project focuses on a relatively small population, and it appears to be hard to generalize qualitative findings to people and settings other than those studied. The use of multiple case studies pulls together information on a wide variety of cases, deconstructs the cases into categories, and then examines the associations between the categories (Firestone; Shkedi, 2004). Treating the cases as a cluster of characteristics (categories) strengthens the potential that results of the study can be generalized from cases to some target population (McClintock et al., 1983); it can overcome the problems of generalizing from a single case or a few cases and provide an analysis of complex phenomena in greater depth than the traditional questionnaire surveys (Larsson, 1993).


Each participating teacher was viewed as a separate and unique case independent from the others. This approach is expressed in data collection and also in the analysis. Data included three sources: observations, interviews, and analysis of documents.


Each of the 50 teachers was observed teaching at least two Hebrew Bible lessons. The lessons were recorded in full with a tape recorder. In addition, the researcher as participant observer (Jorgensen, 1989) observed the lessons and jotted down notes. These notes contained elements that could not be recorded on tape, such as the students behavior, their degrees of participation and alertness, and everything written on the blackboard by the teacher or students. In most cases, the observer focused on a few students, their levels of participation in the lesson, and their responses. In addition, the observer collected materials that were handed out to students, such as worksheets, maps, and so forth. Observations were accompanied by stimulated-recall interviews so that each teacher clarified and explained what had happened in the lesson and expressed his or her conception of the teaching process. In qualitative research, it is imperative that we interpret what we have observed from the perspectives of the participants. Thus, our transcriptions of the observation sessions are useless without the explanations and interpretations of the informants (Geertz, 1973). This was achieved during the stimulated-recall interview in which the interviewer introduced the episodes from the transcript of the observations and asked the informants for their descriptions and explanations.


Each teacher was interviewed at least twice. The first interview took place before the classroom observation and the second after it. The amount of time dedicated to the two interviews was about 3-5 hours in all. Interviews were conducted using the qualitative-ethnographic approach (Seidman, 1991; Spradley, 1979), with no obligatory list of questions, but with an emphasis on helping the subject relate his or her story according to focuses relevant to the researcher. Interviewees were encouraged to illustrate what they said with descriptions and examples from their personal or professional-pedagogical lives. The first interview focused on two major aspectsthe cultural identity of teachers and their conceptions of the Bible, and the curriculum and teaching of Bibleand allowed teachers to relate their personal and professional stories in an open manner. The second interview took place as soon as possible after the observation, and teachers were then asked to describe and explain the observed lessons as they had perceived them.


Attention was given to the kind of Bible used in the lesson and to the reference books used: commentaries, workbooks, concordances, and so on. In addition, worksheets and other relevant notes handed out during the course of the lesson were collected. During the interviews, the teachers were asked to describe and explain the documents and their role in the teaching process.


The purpose of the analysis is to present theoretical explanations for the phenomenon under investigation. Data were analyzed in a lengthy and disciplined fashion (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). The analysis was based primarily on interviews, in accordance with the premise of qualitative research that seeks an understanding of the way in which phenomena are interpreted by those who experience them (Geertz, 1973). As mentioned previously, the observation and documentary sources were accompanied by stimulated-recall interviews in which each teacher clarified and explained what had happened in the lesson and expressed his or her conception of the teaching process. In this way, we directed the teachers to triangulate the separate research sources of data and to bring them into a unified description and explanation.

The 50 different cases were analyzed in a parallel fashion in relation to similar categories. Expression was given to the unique components of each case during the process of analysis and to the context in which the words were uttered. In the first stage of the analysis, the interviews were fully analyzed and broken down into general categories. In the second stage, the general picture was broken down into more detailed categories, with attention paid to subcategories and relationships between them. In this way, a general map of the categories was constructed. In the third stage, our analysis focused on those categories that seemed to contain more profound and meaningful data (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). These categories, together with a mapping of the relationships among them, comprised the skeletons for the stories that were revealed. In this way, 50 storylines were created, each from a different case but all based on the same categories. In the fourth stage of the analysis, an attempt was made to construct patterns of the different cases and to classify them accordingly. These patterns reflected connections between different aspects of teachers conceptions and focused on their cultural ideology. The connecting motifs gave a certain meaning to the overall picture of each teacher conception. Through this method, six patterns of curriculum interpretation and teaching were revealed. These patterns were gleaned from the place and meaning that teachers gave to each of their conceptions about the following six main categories: (1) teachers personal cultural ideologies in daily life; (2) their conceptions of the source of the Bibles value; (3) their conceptions of the educated student; (4) their educational objectives; (5) their functions; and (6) the validity of expressing their personal cultural ideologies during the teaching process. Although each teacher has a unique personal and professional story, certain patterns were found that indicated similarity between the different teachers conceptions.


All 50 Bible teachers in the study taught in public schools of different socioeconomic levels in both rural and urban settings throughout Israel. In qualitative research, rather than choosing a random sample, a purposeful sample was taken to focus on the most representative informants (Mason, 1996). Thus, teachers were chosen based on agreeing to give their time to be interviewed and granting permission to observe their lessons. The relatively large number of subjects relative to other qualitative research provides a final picture that is quite complex, and it may be said that, to no small degree, the sample constitutes a particular cross section of the population of Bible teachers in Israeli public schools. Nevertheless, as is acceptable in the qualitative research approach, this study makes no claim that the sample is universally representative of the Israeli population.

The interviewees were assured of complete anonymity. The interviewees names given here are pseudonyms, and any signs that might identify their schools have been omitted.

Demographic Data

Forty-five of the interviewees were female and 5 were male. Sixteen of the teachers taught primary school (grades 1-6), 19 taught junior high (grades 7-9), and 15 taught high school (grades 10-12). Four of the teachers had between 1 and 3 years of teaching experience, 13 had between 4 and 10 years experience, 20 had between 11 and 20 years, and 13 had more than 21 years of experience.


The study found that teachers conceptions of the Bible were part of their personal cultural ideologies. Their individual personal cultural ideologies, however, were not necessarily congruent with the cultural ideology expressed in the obligatory government curriculum. Although there was considerable divergence between teachers in their conceptions of Bible teaching and the interpretations that they gave to the existing obligatory curriculum, the evidence supports six different patterns of teachers conceptions of the curriculum and teaching. Four of the six patterns reflect almost complete congruence with the teachers personal cultural ideologies, whereas the two other teaching patterns reflect only partial congruence.


1. The Pervasive-Traditional Pattern

Eight teachers (out of 50) were identified as adhering to the pervasive-traditional pattern: 2 are high school teachers, 3 teach in junior high and 3 are primary school teachers.

The cultural ideology in daily life of these teachers is essentially traditional-religious, expressed in their commitment to religious tradition.

I am very glad that I am Jewish . . . first of all, to know who I am, where I came from, what my role is here in this world . . . . Of course, what makes our nation unique as Jews is circumcision, acknowledgment of God, belief in God . . . . For me that means being a special person . . . that I believe that the Holy One Blessed be He deals justly with everything . . . . He sees what we dont see . . . because in the end were no good, we dont do everything were told to do . . . . As long as we keep Gods commandments we remain in our land. (Galia, elementary school)

These teachers express their belief that the source of the Bibles value that should be presented to the students is an image of God as the creator of the universe, supervisor and source of commandments. In their opinion, this image is reflected both in religious commentaries and in the literal meaning of biblical texts.

I teach what the Bible wants me to teach, the religious understanding in it. . . . In the beginning God created the world, and it was good and complete, in accordance with His will. Can I say anything different? . . . . Secular teachers do not say this . . . I am sure that I reach something inside of [the students], that I fill them with a charge that one day they will understand differently. (Jacob, high school)

Students are not regarded as autonomous readers when they encounter the biblical text, but learn it by means of traditional commentaries, with emphasis on its significance for their lives here and now. In these teachers eyes, the educated student is one who takes on the obligations of biblical messages and commandments in his or her everyday life, or, at the very least, finds biblical ideas relevant. The educational objective of these teachers is to relay biblical values and commandments through their own Jewish-particularistic prism.

I have no problem saying in my class that God created the world . . . Because I have such a deep awareness, when I teach these things, there is no doubt that in the class, it sounds like preaching . . . . I lead them to where they have to go [matriculation]. If Im in the middle of a class, getting deep into an idea, clarifying it, fighting for its uniqueness, then thats part of my inner soul (Yaakov, high school)

Thus, these teachers also give very little weight to inculcating tools for independent study and understanding, but concentrate on relaying messages of pure content. Objectives relating to students individual personal values and behavior are not considered significant. All teachers emphasize their function as stimulating the involvement and interest of their students during the learning process in order to impart knowledge and religious values.

I teach in a secular school and I want to tell you that when . . . I went to the Ministry of Education to get a job . . . they asked me if I want a religious school or a secular school? And I said a secular school because I know that the Jewish people are distanced from the tradition and anti [religious] . . . I wont teach them in a heretical way, and they wont go out and go against the tradition. Its a mission and a commandment to teach in a secular school. (Mira, junior high school)

Many expressed this as their central motivation and mission with nonreligious students. Most of them insisted that it is their right, and even their duty, to express their personal cultural ideology during the teaching process: I feel as though I am like a prophet in the lesson . . . other teachers perhaps emphasize it less. Other teachers perhaps teach . . . exactly whats written, and maybe identify less with it. I identify completely with the text (Ilana, junior high school).


It seems that there is clear congruence between the personal-cultural ideologies of these teachers and their conceptions of teaching, whereby both are clothed in a measure of religious faith. Their ideological conceptions are conspicuous in that they are more suited to the cultural ideology of religious schools than to the secular schools in which they teach. Despite this, however, these teachers actually see an emphasis on their personal cultural identity in their teaching as an important educational mission. Following, by way of illustration, is a glance into Carmelas class. Carmela, a junior high school teacher who has a pervasive-traditional approach, believes that her way of understanding the Bible is the only true and appropriate way. She grew up in a moderately religious home, but today she ascribes to an orthodox religious orientation, closed off to any outlook that is not authentically Jewish. Carmela teaches about the prophecies of Amos and, as is seen in the lesson, she does not limit herself to the contents of the text but also often expresses her ideology.

Carmela: We have to respect human beings simply because they are human beings.

Anat (a pupil): Because they were created in the image of God.

Carmela: What does created in the image of God mean? Maybe, they were created in the image of the ape! [she laughs] But today, even the adherents of Darwin have begun to doubt this theory of evolution. Nobody accepts this theory; this is not real science.

Yaron: Nobody was there.

Carmela: My enquiry is based on [an objective] hypothesis.

In the interview, Carmela explained, To a large extent I indeed express my world view, but it is not, Heaven forbid, as a missionary. I would like to show them reality in a different way.

Carmela: Who is the creator of the world? Who wrote the Bible? If you tell me that it was written by a human being I will not believe it.

Haya: It cant be proven.

Josef: All the religious people . . . how do they know? Were they there?

Carmela: Wait a moment. If somebody comes along several hundred years from now and asks how do you know that the state of Israel existed? What would they say?

Ilan: It wouldnt be proven.

Aliza: But why? It is written.

Carmela: Who would believe that somebody didnt make it up?

2. The Restricted-Traditional Pattern

Five teachers were identified as displaying this pattern of teaching; 3 teach in primary schools, and 2 teach in junior high schools. All 5 teachers expressed a cultural ideology in daily life that identifies with religious tradition, but without any profound relationship to religious content. In their personal perception, they express a belief in God, albeit not in the total form that they consider to be characteristic of religious people.

I believe in God, I know that Im not very active, I believe more than I do . . . . Life has taught me . . . that its possible to believe, to still do things from the side, not exactly what God says . . . . If I believe in God, I believe that He will look after us and I believe that He is everywhere, and I believe that He has a kind of covenant with us. (Ofra, elementary school)

All the teachers displayed an ambivalent attitude toward religion and religious observance. On the one hand, they expressed criticism and hope for change in religion. On the other, they reported pleasant childhood memories of religious tradition in their parents homes and would like things to remain as they remember them.

I think [that religious laws] of the past that are very old and unsuited to present-day lifestyles should be changed, but I am for basing things on the religion . . . because this is the tradition of many years and has been preserved for years and it is important that it continues to exist . . . there are many things that are still suitable today even though they are thousands of years old. (Pirha, elementary school)

These teachers presented their students with the view that the source of the Bibles value first and foremost springs from God as supervisor, commander, and judge. However, their presentation of the sacred value of the Bible was narrowly focused and restricted to the biblical period. Their approach, therefore, is this is what people believed at that time, so this is how we will study it.

The basis is to accept things as they are [. . .] perhaps today, in this modern era it sounds a bit primitive or distant, but I think that precisely in this matter of belief. . . this concept is necessary. . . because at the moment that I begin to question, I also begin not to believe [. . .] At the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai one of the conditions for receiving it was to do and only afterwards to listen to the explanation. (Ofra, elementary school)

In this connection, they adhere to traditional religious commentaries on the text and reject alternatives suggested by the students. Sometimes, critical-scientific commentary on the Bible is used by these teachers in expressing their own doubts about their faith, and at other times, such use springs from a need to strengthen students belief in traditional religious assumptions.

I remember a very stormy discussion that happened in a class some years ago. For me, the crossing of the Red Sea was a miracle. I like to believe in miracles. I believe that God really did make miracles, but in the class we had a discussion, and of course at once I made sure that the scientific argument for the parting of the Red Sea was also presented. (Hagit, elementary school)

According to these teachers, the educated student should display a positive attitude toward traditional religious messages in the Bible but is not expected to feel obligated to live by them in daily life. These teachers, like those who subscribe to the pervasive-traditional conception, set educational objectives that give very little weight to the inculcation of tools for independent study and understanding and instead focus mainly on Jewish-particularistic content.

When I taught that Saul didnt murder Agag [Samuel, 14-15], the students identified with King Saul and didnt understand why he was so harshly punished . . . . We agreed that the command was not ethical from the viewpoint of this century, because you cant just come and murder a whole nation. But then, in the Biblical period, they thought differently. (Michal, junior high school)

These teachers emphasized their function as involving and engaging their students by stressing the narrative and experiential side of the Bible. For the most part, they displayed conflict in expressing their personal cultural ideology during the teaching process.


Although these teachers were not completely at ease in revealing their cultural ideology to their students, there is an almost total overlap between it and their conception of teaching. Their identification with tradition, characterized by belief without daily religious obligations, was reflected in the ways that they presented the source of the Bibles value: the meaning of the godhead in its context of time and place without reference to our time and lives. They expected educated students to relate to the Bible in the same way.

Below we present data from the class of Moran, a junior high school teacher. Moran identified her personal cultural ideology with religious tradition but without any profound relationship to religious content. She expressed a belief in God, albeit not in a manner considered characteristic of religious people.

The teacher has to teach Bible exactly as the text requires. This means that I cant accept a teacher who teaches the Bible as literature or history. Teachers have to know that the Bible has a religious orientation . . . . They have to teach the Bible with its normative meaning . . . . I read the Bible because it is our Book. It contains all our cultural values and this is not connected to keeping religious commandments.

The lesson deals with the collapse of Assyria as a punishment from God.

Moran: In our days, what are the reasons that we give for the collapse of a nation?

Various pupils [yelling]: Regional events. Economic reasons. Nationalist reasons. Reasons of defense.

Moran: We suggest a lot of reasons, but the Bible tells you something else. The Bible argues that God determines all events.

Although Moran claimed to teach the Bible according to what she believes is its divine truth, her presentation of the sacred value of the Bible was narrowly focused and restricted to the biblical period.

Moran: Who can tell me what will be the fate of Assyria?

Michael: They will have less power and they will be like all the weak nations.

Moran: Thats right. Who else wants to answer?

Naomi: God will kill all of them . . . thus, nobody will remain alive.

Morans ideological orientation leads her to accept, without question, the morality and justice of the events in this biblical story. However, in the stimulated-recall interview, she explained the distinction she draws between todays values and those of the Bible: The commandment is immoral according to the norms of our age because it is not acceptable to kill a whole nation. In Biblical times they thought in other ways.

3. The Personal Value Pattern

Seven teachers were identified with this pattern of teaching; 4 teach in junior high, and 3 teach in high schools.

These teachers cultural ideology in daily life is that Judaism is fundamentally developmental. The cultural conception of all these teachers is characterized by their personal-individual relationship to the concept of God.

My God is an inner belief in my heart . . . without any of the various middlemen . . . and I understand it in my own way. I very much want to believe . . . because hope gives me the ability to see the good and to believe in goodness . . . I am very realistic, very pragmatic . . . but I know that belief gives me strength . . . . [when I thank God] I am thanking some power that helps me. Who it is, I dont know, its power . . . the very fact of saying it gives me strength. (Levana, junior high school)

I have a problem with the whole concept of God the Creator and God the Judge . . . on the other hand, I am very drawn to the idea of reminding people that they arent God. I dont know if God is God, but Im sure that people arent God. (Avraham, high school)

The teachers displaying the personal value pattern understand the source of the Bibles value to be personal and individual, with each reader endowing the biblical God with his or her own sense of meaning. Their aim is to color this belief experience with meaning of value that is congruent with their understanding on the one hand, would be acceptable to a nonreligious student and enrich his or her world on the other:

A person needs to weigh each step taken in life to see if hes doing the right thing. Its not as if someone is directing me from above in an automatic way and I have no responsibility . . . . A person directs himself, that means that he has the good and the bad and he is the one who has to choose the good . . . . This is exactly what I said in the lesson, and so God is inside you, dont say God above tells me to do things and afterwards if you do something wrong, say God told me to do it. God should be a part of you all the time, and you should know what right is. (Edna, high school)

The distinguishing feature here is the emphasis on an intimate encounter between students, the biblical text, and the meaning of the text for students in their own world. Educated students create a dialogue with the text, finding personal meaning in it. Such students should have positive attitudes toward relevant values so that they are internalized into daily life, but without the ties that dictate accepted religious or national tradition.

People have to consider every step they take, and ask themselves if they behave correctly. Its not as if somebody directed me from heaven and I have no responsibility. . . . This is exactly what I say to my pupils . . . dont say that the external God directed you in your behavior. God has to be part of you, existing in your inner soul, and you have to decide on the right behavior by yourself. (Edna, high school)

These teachers emphasize value-process educational objectives first and foremostthat is to say, the students struggle with the personal meaning of values that arise from his or her encounter with the text.

There are two foci here, where I stand and where the text is. You need to play them off against one another, but its very characteristic of todays youth who believe that Im at the center, and you have to show the correct balance when you present the text . . . I want them to think about their lives but there needs to be some kind of equilibrium all the time between these 2 foci. (Orit, junior high school)

These teachers assign considerable weight to their function of finding in the text values that have personal meaning. They attempt to involve students in the learning process by sweeping them up into a dialogue with the text. Generally, they believe that it is natural to expose their personal cultural ideology during the teaching process, whereby they not only create dialogue between text and students but also between themselves and their students.


These teachers emphasize their own cultural ideology very strongly indeed and make no attempt to hide the direct connection between it and their conception of teaching the Bible. This is reflected in all aspects of their teaching. They see the source of the Bibles value as personal and present it as such to their students. In essence, they encourage dialogue between their students and the Bible, dialogue that is intended to bring about an internalization of their personal value approach.

Next is a quick look at a class of Alona, a junior high school teacher whom we have classified as adhering to the personal value approach. Alona identified her personal cultural ideology as secular, with some kind of personal relationship to the Jewish tradition. The lesson is devoted to the stories of Joseph.

Alona: If you remember, since the first lesson on the Joseph stories we have used a graph to demonstrate ascending or descending movement in the storys plot. [Alona draws a line on the board] Who can tell me what happened when Josephs brother came to Egypt?

Einav (a pupil): It is a descent.

Alona: This is a physical descent into Egypt, but what about the mood?

Gal: It is an ascent.

Alona: Yes, there was drought in the land of Israel.

Alona explained, I look for the universal-human-aspects of the story, and use the literary dimension to help to explicate the messages . . . . I dont think that I consider the Biblical text as just Jewish text. As part of her secular cultural ideology, Alona has a very personal relationship to faith, nationality, and the concept of God. Accordingly, she relates to the existence of God in the story on an interpersonal level, which is not easy for the pupils to comprehend.

Ester (a pupil): I dont understand it.

Alona: Lets think that something happened and you told me, I didnt come to school on time because there was a traffic jam. On the second day you told me, The guards closed the school gates and I couldnt come on time. If we believe in God, we can assume that . . . . these events are the consequences of something that is beyond your direct will.

Avi: At that time people had God.

[Alona explains the difference between believing in God in Biblical times and believing in God today.]

Alona: In every era, God is understood in different ways. For instance, in the book of Genesis, the fathers walk about with God . . . talk with him . . . . In our times, there are those who understand God as a distant being with a direct connection between God and people. I understand the God as existing in my soul.

4. The Critical-Value Pattern

A total of 14 teachers were identified as having the critical-value pattern of teaching. Five of teach in primary schools, 1 teaches in junior high, and 8 teach in high schools. The cultural ideology in daily life of this group of teachers is developmentalthat is to say, it reflects a vision of Jewish culture as developing and changing.

I do not keep the religious commandments . . . I am consciously sure that God is an invention of human beings. I do not pray to God, because there is no God in heaven. However, many times I say thank God, but I am sure that there is no God, just in ones head. (Yosi, junior high)

These teachers believe that the source of the Bibles value should be presented as a work that was written tendentiously by people who imputed its creation to God. At the same time, these teachers assumed neither a position either of neutrality toward nor distance from the text, as their teaching approach would seem to dictate, but rather gave prominence to the traditional and national-particularistic valuation of the Bible as a unique work. Particular emphasis was given to content that seemed to provide relevant values, but whatever did not stand up to criticism was not regarded as appropriate for teaching.

If, according to the critical understanding of the Bible, you see the laws as not having been handed down to Moses from Mount Sinai, then its a long process of development, of sifting things learned from the neighboring nations . . . to arrive at laws whose basis is value-traditional on such a high level, its simply amazingly daring, I think, for a nation. Congratulations are due to the group that sat and worked out these beautiful ideals. (Hava, high school)

The educated student should be an enlightened person who knows how to approach the study of a text.

To understand what stands behind the person who said what he said, there is a certain context, there are special circumstances. There are definite ideas . . . be patient with what you have heard, you dont have to accept it all, but at least to understand. Tolerance is the name of the game. (Hava, high school)

On the basis of researched knowledge, the student should find value and significance in the text and be able to internalize it into his or her daily life. Teachers in this group focus primarily on educational objectives that deal with the acquisition of subject matter while emphasizing both particularistic-Jewish values and universal ones.

During the lesson, I wanted to awaken in the students a string of reactions and make them feel like active partners in suggesting ideas, conclusions and assumptions that arise during the lesson. To show the character of David being chased by Saul, but sticking to his agreement and showing loyalty to the king and love for Jonathan. (Inbal, elementary school)

They assigned more weight than the other teachers to investigative tools but regarded these tools as instrumental, without any intrinsic value (Nisan, 1996). Characteristic of this pattern is the tension between the necessity to establish enough distance from the text to allow for suitable critical learning, and the opposite need to approach and become involved in it in order to present it as value relevant. Most of these teachers believe that it is not appropriate to display their personal cultural ideology during the teaching process. They see as their major function to focus on cognitive aspects of learning mostly by imparting critical-investigative tools to their students and less by exposing values in the text or by involving students.

These chapters on which the lesson was based arent a law unto themselves . . . other chapters could have been learnt instead of these, the tools that the kids use to understand this chapter, they can use on any other one. (Sharona, high school)


Although these teachers believe that it is not appropriate to display their personal cultural ideology to the students, it is possible to discern an almost total overlap between the cultural identity of the teachers and their conception of teaching. These teachers possess a personal cultural-development ideology that is given clear expression in their conception of teaching. They regard the Bible as a human creation, and they express this belief in teaching by using critical-investigative tools and finding contemporary meaning in the text.

Rita, who was identified as an adherent of the critical-value approach, teaches the book of Genesis in a high school. She sees her personal cultural ideology as secular, which means that her vision of Judaism is cultural, developmental, and change oriented.

The subject of the lesson is the story of Abraham and the three angels from the book of Genesis. Rita read the whole chapter and asked the following questions:

Rita: The chapter has a unified structure, but has a distinct division into two parts. What are the themes of each part?

Boaz: One part is hospitality.

Rita: Hospitality is the theme of the whole chapter. What is the first part?

Rachel: The angels visit.

Rita: thats right . . . . . It is not just a visit. It is an appearance. What is the second part?

Boaz: The debate between God and Abraham.

Rita: Debate about what?

Many pupils [yelling]: About saving Sodom.

Rita explained, In addition to the simple storyline, there is also an educational message. Before we do anything, we let them think deliberately. This is what happened here [in the story]: first of all think, consider whether you are judging justly.

In line with her teaching approach, Rita pointed out the literary-academic aspects of the text. In line with her ideological stance, she connected the inquiry to educational-cultural messages.

Rita: Pay attention to the hospitality theme; pay attention to the literary structure.

Benny: There are a lot of repeated operatives.

Rita: Very nice . . . which core words we have in the chapter?

Pupils [together]: ran, fetched, took.

Rita: Hospitality is . . . something physical.

Rachel: There is an emphasis on the intention.

Yaron: It sounds as if it is very important to him.

Rita explained,

For me this is an essentialist chapter . . . . This is the story of the birth of the Jewish nation. It does not matter if it is a real story or an etiological one . . . . This is a central chapter . . . . because it describes how the father of the nation struggled with the issue of the destruction of Sodom.


5. The Normative-Value Pattern

A total of 14 teachers were identified as possessing a normative-value pattern of teaching. Five of them teach in primary schools, 8 in junior high school, and 1 in a high school.

The cultural ideology in daily life of this group of teachers is the most varied. Nine teachers perceive Judaism in terms of secular-developmental concepts, while 5 subscribe to traditional-religious ideology, although they do not follow any religious obligations.

For me, the meaning of being Jewish is first and foremost that I am living in my country . . . . The matter of sources is very important . . . I like very much to belong to the tradition [but] I do not observe what I cant observe . . . . I didnt grow up with Jewish observance and I cannot convey it to my pupils. (Ayalla, junior high school)

In the teaching process, all of these teachers relate primarily to moral and national-cultural values as sources of the Bibles value.

To project to social life today, to the poor, the underprivileged. [The students] need to know that they should respect all people, I hope to deal with the value of human life with them. Every person is a human being who has rights, no matter what their status is. (Hermona, junior high school)

Many of these teachers emphasize that the Bible expresses the spirit of the nation, even if certain aspects are, according to their understanding, not historically true but an expression of deeply rooted myths. These teachers expect the educated student to have positive attitudes toward these values and also to put them into practice in daily life.

They [the pupils] have to respect everybody. I hope to bring them to understand the value of every human being. Everybody is human, it is not important what his social status is . . . . Here, through the issue of slavery, we have the opportunity . . . to sharpen our attitudes towards human relationships. (Hermona, junior high school)

The educational objectives of these teachers are the dissemination of values inherent in the content of the text, both from the Jewish-particularistic viewpoint and from the universalistic one. Characteristic of the normative-value conception is the connection that teachers make between values in the text and actual social problems in the classroom and student society. Their assumption is that the most suitable way to make biblical texts meaningful to modern students is by removing religious meaning from the original text and giving it a new modern one based on humanistic-secular understandings.

I think that the messages in the Bible are the same universalistic messages that I would like to give to children . . . what has changed is the type of punishment, the way we relate to reward and to punishment . . . today human life is considered sacred . . . . In the Bible they used to stone people to death . . . today its not like that anymore. Today we understand how high the value of human life is, and this is something that I emphasize. (Ora, elementary school)

Like the others, these teachers also focused on the process of investigating the text and its commentaries, although they perceived this principally as instrumental. These teachers perceive their function mainly as imparting value content and cognitive skills. They set great store in involving students in learning and finding meaning in the text.

I see my function as a person who has to motivate pupils to love the Bible by studying the values inherent in the Bible. I want them to understand that the Bible is the culture of the people of Israel, and without a connection to the culture and to our past, we do not have any tie to this land. (Hava, junior high school)

Some of them relate positively to expressing their personal cultural ideology in teaching, while others are conflicted about doing so.


Nine of the 14 teachers with a normative-value approach exhibit an overlap between their personal cultural ideology and their conception of teaching the Bible. As adherents to the normative-value approach, these teachers stress moral and national-cultural values as sources of the Bibles value, which is congruent with their developmental personal cultural ideology Nurit, a teacher in a junior high school, identified her personal cultural ideology in daily life as secular-developmental.

I like the Bible; there is something special in the Bible . . . . It gives me a good feeling, it is something that united us . . . . This is my Jewish world. I do not go to synagogue . . . . I have a Jewish world. Even secular people have a Jewish world.

The following events are taken from a lesson devoted to the prophecies of Amos.

Nurit: It is possible that some people will say, We are the chosen nation . . . , so you [God] can burden us with your demands?

Ella: Only because they are a chosen nation do they have to be a role model.

Orit: There is a commitment toward God because he always helps. Nurit [writes on the board]: Commitment.

Nurit explained, I emphasized some themes. I used words like commitment and responsibility, words which are not written in the text. This is my own commentary.

Ella: This is quite similar to the relationship between father and son, and God is actually the father.

Nurit: Thats right.

Ronit: And the son is Israel. Suppose that your neighbors son does something wrong. You would not punish him, but if it were your own son, you would punish him.

Nurit: Thats right.

Nava: The neighbors son is not your responsibility.

Nurit: Right. . . I am your father and I have responsibility for you and I want to educate you to show you the correct way.

I want it to be relevant. I am very pleased when the kids react with examples from their world . . . I show them that Amos is a human being, that he confronts people and tries to convince them. The people do not believe because they are not in a good state. When a person is not in a good state, there is tendency not to believe.

The other 5 teachers who were also identified as adherents to the normative-value approach and whose ideology is traditional-religious did not place any emphasis on tradition in their teaching conception. Thus, there was no correlation between their personal cultural ideology and their teaching approach. However, there is certainly no contradiction here. The very fact that the normativeness of values is emphasized brings them closer, to a certain extent, to the traditional-religious viewpoint, which is normative in its very essence. Below are some notes from Morias story.

I am religious as you see . . . . For me to keep a religious commitment is equivalent to knowing one more chapter of the Bible . . . . My parents are religious, but in our house there was the option to choose . . . . The source of my behavior is Jewish . . . I absolutely agree that everybody can take the same text and understand it in a different way.

In a class devoted to Amoss prophecies, the following discussion takes place:

Moria: Why will God punish the people? What are their sins?

David: Sins between people

Moria: What they are doing?

Shosh: They steal . . .

Moria: What is their economic condition?

Ofer: They are rich.

Moria: When the economic situation is very good, people become bad. When people have a lot of money, they become worse.

Moria explained, I try to educate towards identification with the text; that you feel that the text belongs to you and talks to you . . . . There is almost no lesson without a social angle theme.

6. The Critical-Cognitive Pattern

Two teachers were identified as possessing a critical-cognitive pattern of teaching. One taught at a high school and the other at a junior high school. Both teachers expressed their cultural ideology in daily life as developmental and open to change. They believe that students must be presented with the source of the Bibles value as being a work written tendentiously by mortals. In their opinion, this is the definitive and exclusive presentation, and they completely avoid presenting the Bible as being of divine provenance.

I cannot use any text where God gives me orders or some higher power tells me what to do or what not to do . . . . I think that here in our school there would be problems because of the issue of [these orders from God]. These very clear instructions from someone who knows better than we do, this issue could cause problems. (Tamar, high school)

In these teachers view, educated students should master the Bible and investigative skills and be interested in both, irrespective of what they will do in their personal lives. I think that their exposure to the Biblical text is essential. I dont know what they will do with it. However, I believe that it is important to know the Bible (Yaffa, junior high school).

Educational objectives focus mainly on understanding and researching the biblical text and commentaries. Values arising from the text are not stressed, but emphasis is placed instead on those values deriving from research and investigation into it, such as openness, tolerance, curiosity, exposure to varied opinions, and serious intellectual study.

I respect everyone elses opinions, I think that everyone should accept the opinions of others and be tolerant of opinions that arent the same as their own . . . even if I tell the students about opinions, traditional explanations which are not acceptable to me personally, I tell them, I find it easier to accept the other opinion . . . whoever likes this explanation should choose it, and those whoever likes the other one, should choose that, but we should all be aware that there are a number of possibilities. (Tamar, high school)

Any meaning for daily life that may be derived from the text is not perceived by these teachers as part of their teaching objectives and therefore remains the private business of each individual student. I think that their exposure to the text is whats important. What they do with it afterwards, I have no idea, but I consider their introduction to it important (Tamar, high school).

These teachers emphasize their function as imparting the cognitive skills of biblical study. Whats important to me . . . are very specific tools for dealing with the text, no matter what text. It could be a text in geography or in history . . . perhaps . . . even a certain interest in it and a desire to investigate it (Yaffa, junior high school).

Unlike other teachers, those who display the critical-cognitive pattern do not see it as their function to point out any direct connection between the students world and that of the Bible. They believe that they spark students interest by exposing them to textual research processes and engage them in the intellectual experience of investigating texts. The teachers dismiss the possibility that their personal cultural ideology may be expressed during the teaching process.


Teachers who possess the critical-cognitive conception believe that their personal ideology is not relevant and should not be reflected in teaching. In practice, there is partial congruence between their personal cultural ideology and their conception of Bible teaching. Their developmental conception is reflected in an emphasis on seeking scientific-critical truth in the text. However, discovery of the texts relevance to the present day, another important aspect of developmental ideology, is not expressed in their teaching pattern.

Yaara taught in a junior high school and identified her personal cultural ideology as secular-traditional. By using the term traditional, she emphasized her sympathetic attitude toward tradition, and by the term secular, she referred to her style of life. My fathers is an Ultra Orthodox religious family. . . . We are, in general, secular but keep the religious tradition . . . I, for instance, eat only Kosher food . . . I simply grew up with it and continue to keep this tradition.

Although Yaara identified herself as secular-traditional, in her teaching there was no expression of her traditional leaning, but only of her secular views. In a lesson devoted to the story of Deborah the Judge, the following dialogue took place:

Yaara: Lets read the first phrase: Then sang [in the Hebrew text this verb is in the singular form] Deborah and Barak the son of Avinoam on that day, saying . . . Are there structural problems in this phrase?

Omri: There is Then sang in the singular, but the phrase relates to the plural: Deborah and Barak.

Yaara: So, how can we understand it?

Orna: Deborah is singing and Barak is listening.

Yaara: It is not written: Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Avinoam listened.

Yaara explained,

If we talk about the contents, then I focus on the contents and no other aspects. If we discuss the structure, I focus on the structure . . . . In places where Judaism is not appropriate, I dont force it into the lesson. The book of Judges is essentially a literary text.


This study used qualitative data from 50 Israeli Bible teachers to identify and classify six patterns of Bible teaching, focusing on the role of cultural ideology in teachers conceptions of the curriculum and teaching process. The main characteristics of the patterns follow.

Teachers who adhere to the pervasive-traditional pattern believe that the Bible should be presented to the students as a religious-traditional text and that their role is to educate the student to heed the biblical messages and commandments. The teachers expressing the restricted-traditional pattern also promote a religious-traditional attitude toward the Bible, but the sacred value of the Bible is narrowly focused and restricted to the biblical period. Students are educated to have a positive attitude toward traditional religious messages but are not expected to heed them in daily life. The teachers displaying the personal-value pattern understand the source of the Bibles value to be personal and individual. They believe that students should create a dialogue with the text and find personal meaning in it. The critical-value pattern teachers believe that the Bible should be presented in its scientific-academic frame, but they give prominence to the traditional and national-particularistic valuation of the Bible as a unique work. Teachers who adhere the normative-value pattern believe that the most suitable way to make biblical texts meaningful to modern students is to remove all religious meaning from the original text and give it a new modern one based on humanistic-secular understandings. The teachers who express the critical-cognitive conception focus mainly on understanding and researching the biblical text and commentaries and imparting the cognitive skills of biblical study. Any meaning for daily life that may be derived from the text is perceived to be not part of their teaching objectives. Table 1 summarizes the six patterns observed in the study, displaying the common and different characteristics of each.

Although the teachers taught the same obligatory national curriculum, with its defined cultural-ideological slant (as mentioned in the literature review), most of the teachers showed a clear overlap between their personal cultural ideology and the cultural ideology reflected in their teaching process. In most cases, this was not congruent with the ideological conception of the obligatory curriculum.

Of 50 teachers, 43 were found to have a high level of overlap between their presentation of the curriculum, their teaching pattern, and their personal cultural ideology. Thus, their personal cultural ideology was the most meaningful component in the construction of their conception of teaching. This is evident among teachers who were defined as expressing the pervasive-traditional (8 teachers), restricted-traditional (5 teachers), personal-value (7 teachers), and critical-value (14 teachers) patterns, and among most of the teachers who expressed the normative-value pattern (9 teachers). Seven teachers were found to have only a partial overlap; 5 of these had a normative-value pattern of teaching, while 2 had a critical-cognitive pattern.

Teachers displayed conflicting attitudes toward expressing their personal cultural ideology during the teaching process (see also Shkedi & Horenczyk, 1995). Even those who believe that it is their rightindeed, their missionto express their personal cultural ideologies or regard them as a part of creating dialogue between the students, the teacher, and the text emphasized that they are very cautious and enable the pupils to express themselves and their own ideologies toward the biblical texts. However, when describing what actually happened in their classrooms, teachers expressed teaching conceptions that were mostly congruent with their personal cultural ideology. Apparently, then, there is little or no direct congruence between these teachers attitudes toward their personal ideological involvement in the curriculum and teaching process, and the actual role of their personal cultural ideology in the curriculum and teaching process. It seems that when teachers display conflicting attitudes toward expressing their personal cultural ideologies, they give voice mainly to their pedagogical ideologies (a term explained in the literature survey) and less to their personal cultural ideologies. On the one hand, teachers perceive teaching in which there is no personal teacher involvement as lacking in credibility. On the other hand, for many teachers, teaching that includes too much of the teachers cultural ideology seems to smack of indoctrination. However, when we asked teachers to relate to what happened during observed lessons, their stories indicated that their personal cultural ideologies took dominance over their pedagogical ideologies and over the cultural ideologies of the obligatory curriculum. With respect to their actual teaching, in most cases, teachers did not display any conflict or intellectual struggle as a result of the dominance of their personal cultural ideology.

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As noted previously, this study was based on initial interviews, classroom observations of teaching processes, and, thereafter, follow-up interviews in which teachers were asked to describe and explain the observed teaching processes. Teachers were therefore given the opportunity to present their outlooks from several viewpoints: from a personal angle not necessarily connected to teaching, from a general teaching viewpoint, and from the viewpoint of the observed teaching process. The current study therefore investigated the ideology-in-use of teachers vis-a-vis teaching culturally valued texts and not only their general espoused ideologies.

The distinction between espoused ideologies and ideologies-in-use (Argyris & Schon, 1974) seems to be relevant to this study and points to a characteristic that is the essence of teachers knowledge. There is not necessarily an overlap between teachers espoused ideologies (not connected to the act of teaching) and their ideologies-in-use (expressed in teaching). This study has highlighted conflicts and dilemmas (Berlak & Berlak, 1981; Lampert, 1985; Shkedi & Horenczyk, 1995) created by the opposition between various espoused ideological demandsparticularly between those that arise from the teachers stance toward the biblical text (the cultural ideology) and those emerging out of his or her general educational outlook (the pedagogical ideology). Whereas uncovering the teachers espoused ideologies toward teaching culturally valued texts indicated tension, conflict, and dilemma, this study shows that teachers ideology-in-use seems more consistent than might be expected and that the personal cultural ideologies of teachers are dominant.

How would the difference between the content and characteristics of espoused ideology and those of ideology-in-use be described? Clandinin and Connelly (1996) claimed that teachers professional knowledge is considerably influenced by the context of surrounding events and relationships. Teachers professional lives provide different contexts in which they act and respond, such as the classroom context and the out-of-classroom contexts, and teachers pass from one context to another in their professional and daily lives. Each of the different kinds of teachers professional knowledge is expressed in different contexts, although each separately and all of them together express the full range of teacher knowledge. Because teachers ideologies are part of their professional knowledge, teachers are likely to relate to their ideologies in teaching in different contexts, and the conceptions presented in each of the contexts would not necessarily be identical; in fact, they might even conflict with each other.

When teachers in this study talked in general about their ideological involvement in the teaching process (espoused ideology), most of them expressed conflict and dilemma in relation to the legitimacy of the involvement of their personal cultural ideology in the teaching process. However, when they expressed their ideology-in-use, as exhibited in this study through their explanation of their practice, teachers revealed a deep ideological involvement in their teaching, without expressions of dilemmas and conflicts. There is no reason to believe that there was any attempt to mislead when these teachers talked about their general ideological involvement; rather, their professional lives offered different ways of relating so that in each context, whatever was said was authentic. It seems that when teachers relate to the process of actual teaching, they express their ideologies-in-use teaching stories and not their espoused ideologies, which are their viewpoints about teaching. The lived stories that were told were far more encompassingtouching as they did upon living examples from the classroomthan were the expressions of views about teaching in general.

The differences between espoused ideology and ideology-in-use exist not only, or perhaps not necessarily, because teachers avoid exposing their teaching stories to outsiders but also because much of their ideologies-in-use are in part tacit (Polanyi, 1967), so-called because even the teachers themselves are not aware of them. Teachers are indeed unaware of the extent to which their personal ideology is immersed in the teaching process. Reviewing teaching situations with the teachers by means of in-depth interviews (Seidman, 1991) and stimulated-recall interviews provided them with the opportunity to engage in reflection, during which their tacit knowledge became overt. Not only was the tacit knowledge revealed to a stranger but it also even became apparent to the teachers themselves.

What turns cultural ideology into such tacit knowledge? The discourse prevalent in teaching and curriculum guides does not deal with this aspect of teaching (Schwab, 1973). On the whole, neither ideology in curricula nor teachers personal ideology is discussed. Corroboration of the assumption that teachers are not aware of cultural-ideological aspects of curriculum and teaching, even as espoused ideology, was found in previous research that dealt with teachers conceptions of the curriculum of teaching the Bible (Shkedi, 1998). These teachers recognized the didactic patterns and disciplinary approaches of the curriculum but were unaware of the cultural-ideological patterns of the curriculum.


This research argues for the centrality of teachers personal cultural ideologies in the actual process of teaching of one culturally valued text. We suggest that this pattern may hold for the teaching of other culturally valued texts as well; it will be important for future research to investigate this hypothesis. Our evidence suggests that there is congruence between teachers personal cultural ideologies and their understanding of the cultural ideology of the curriculum and of the teaching process itself. Nonetheless, the cultural ideologies of teachers do not necessarily mesh with the official ideological directions in the written curriculum.

This research also argues for the dominance of teachers personal cultural ideologies over teachers pedagogical ideologies and over the cultural and pedagogical ideology of the official curriculum in teaching culturally valued texts. However, teachers are usually unaware of their personal cultural ideology despite the predominant role it plays in their approach to the curriculum and to teaching. This research also indicates that teachers are not always aware of or concerned about the differences between their personal cultural ideologies as expressed in their teaching, and the cultural ideology embedded in the official obligatory written curriculum.

It has been argued that the nature of teaching is determined by the methods that teachers use regardless of the teaching content (Lamm, 2002). This assumption is reflected in Marshall McLuhans famous notion, the medium is the message. The meaning of this assumption is that even when teachers relate to the content according to their personal cultural ideologies, what determines the quality of the teaching process is their method of teaching. The implication of this assumption is that if teachers are open to listening to their students, to letting them express themselves, and to conducting a dialogue between them, the pupils, and the content (or, in other words, if their personal pedagogical ideology is democratic, tolerant and pluralistic), this is what will determine the quality of their teaching rather than the contents. The findings of this study reveal clearly that in the actual process of teaching, the teachers conception of the contentsor, in other words, the teachers personal cultural ideologybecomes dominant over the teachers personal pedagogical ideology. It seems that the basic key in determining the nature of the teaching process is to be found in teachers conceptions of teaching content. It is likely that this conclusion is valid not only in cases of teaching culturally valued texts but in relation to other school subjects as well.

Although it is a very important issue, this research has not explored the influence of teachers cultural ideologies on their students. However, in an earlier study (Shkedi, 2001), we found that the encounter between students, teachers, and culturally valued texts is complex, and teachers do not always succeed in becoming acquainted with their students cultural views or in identifying their valuational concerns. Further research is needed to clarify the encounter between teachers and students cultural ideologies and the influence of teachers cultural ideologies on the learning process of their students.

The six patterns of approaches to the curriculum and teaching of culturally valued text revealed by this study emphasize the role of teachers personal cultural ideologies in their teaching and curriculum process. Although the literature on curriculum, teaching, and teacher education is concerned mainly with academic theories and thought, the findings of this study argue for the need to develop a literature focusing on teachers stories that will reflect their personal practical knowledge of teaching. This study is a step in this direction.

This study raises a challenge for teacher trainers and curriculum developers. Its findings strengthen Bruners assumptions (1996) of the cultural nature of teachers approaches to the curriculum and of teaching phenomena. We suggest that attention to teachers personal cultural ideologies and the cultural ideology reflected in the formal curriculum and proposed teaching methods should be an integral part of the process of teacher education and training. This is particularly important in relation to the teaching of culturally valued texts like Bible, literature, and philosophy. Disregard for this issue, as is common today, will allow these cultural-ideological aspects to remain tacit and neither seen nor heard. But because they nevertheless exist, they will continue to influence and shape teachers practice and approaches toward both the curriculum and teaching processes.

This study was funded by a research grant from the chief scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Education. Responsibility for the findings and interpretations in this paper belongs to the authors alone.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 4, 2006, p. 687-725
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12366, Date Accessed: 1/16/2022 4:28:06 PM

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About the Author
  • Asher Shkedi
    Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Melton Center for Jewish Education
    E-mail Author
    ASHER SHKEDI is the head of the Department of Teacher Education in the School of Education of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a faculty member of the Melton Center for Jewish Education. His research and teaching specializations, in which he has published widely, are teacher knowledge and beliefs, teacher education, curriculum development, and qualitative research.
  • Mordecai Nisan
    Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mandel Institute of Educational Leadership
    MORDECAI NISAN is the emeritus Melton Professor of Psychology at the School of Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Professor Nisan served as dean of the School of Education at the Hebrew University and is currently the academic director of the Mandel Institute of Educational Leadership. His areas of research, in which he has published widely, are moral development and behavior, the conception of “the good” as a motivational factor, and the preservation of identity as a guiding principle in human behavior.
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