The authors compare innovative learning strategies in medical education today with the traditional educational methods of Jewish Talmudic study. These methods began to be developed in yeshivas (the highest Jewish educational institutions) in the third century BC and continue to be used in yeshivas today. The teaching in thousands of yeshivas of Talmudic study worldwide emphasizes student-centered, problem-based, small-group, and lifelong learning. Further, in the yeshivas rote memorization is discouraged; students are selected on the basis of merit rather than social status; and the teachers (particularly master teachers) are expected to act as role models for all aspects of living. Over the centuries, the yeshiva has been slightly modified and specialized, and the number of students has increased, but the institution has retained its basic instructional format. The authors briefly describe each aspect of Talmudic study and how it relates to current educational practices in medical schools. They argue that comparing these two educational institutions--the yeshiva and medical school--is valuable, in that the history of the yeshiva educational system, which has successfully produced generations of creative scholars, educators, and leaders, as well as an enormous body of literature, validates the innovative teaching approaches being used in medical schools today.
(C) 1998 Association of American Medical Colleges