Transformative Education in the Jesuit Tradition
What is Ignatian Pedagogy?
The principles of Jesuit education continue to reflect the foundational values begun with St. Ignatius of Loyola over 500 years ago. Based on St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and grounded in the curriculum of the humanists, Ignatian education stresses the active appropriation of knowledge and skills to build ethical and learned human beings. But according to Fr. John O’Malley, the early Jesuits were aware of the limitations of the humanistic approach and worked to incorporated professional training into a student’s experience. The emphasis continued (and continues) to be placed on developing moral people (69). By 1599 the Jesuits attempted to articulate their practice and ideals in the Ratio Studorium, a guide that outlined all aspects of the Jesuit strategy for educating youth from instructional methods to student discipline. Through several revisions, the Ratio continues to be a guide to Jesuit educators.
Ignatian Pedagogical (IP) encourages education of the whole student (cura personalis). Captured in a schema (see below) that illustrates the interrelationship of the important concepts of Jesuit education, the Ignatian Pedagogy Paradigm (IPP) speaks to the continuous nature of the cycle of learning. The paradigm challenges faculty to know the background of their students and how that background impacts their learning. The paradigm reminds faculty to build in reflective practice where students attempt to make meaning of their learning and then move to action based on what they have learned then evaluate the success of the action to change their lives.
Why is Ignatian Pedagogy Valued in Jesuit Education?
While topics and texts may change, the underlying values of IP are the same: to educate “the whole person, head and heart, intellect and feelings” resulting in “a person who exhibits precision of thought, eloquence of speech, moral excellence, and social responsibility” (Kovenbach). Cura personalis: mind body and spirit. In challenging students to reflect on their learning, Jesuit educators hope to move students to assess how their learning impacts them as individuals and how it defines the individual’s relationship to the world.
As Fr. Pedro Arrupe outlined in his 1973 address, Jesuit education needs to reeducate for justice so our students become agents for change. Arrupe’s call is not a mere reiteration of the Church’s tradition but the “resonance of an imperious call of the living God asking his Church and all men of good will to adopt certain attitudes and undertake certain types of action which will enable them effectively to come to the aid of mankind oppressed and in agony.” Such work includes respect for all people, not profiting from our position of privilege and working to dismantle unjust social structures (Arrupe).
Ignatian Pedagogy in the 21st. Century
What has changed however, is the society in which our students reside: a virtually-enhanced world where conversations and interactions are as frequently communicated over mobile devices as in person and where a glut of information is available 24/7 from almost any location. And while this constant connectivity can assist faculty in dissemination of content and aide student learning, it can also present barriers to personal interactions at the heart of Ignatian pedagogical goals.
Former Superior General Adolfo Nicolas asserts that the nature of social media has a numbing effect on our students that makes it easy to “slip in to the lazy superficiality of relativism or mere tolerance of others and their views, rather than engaging in the hard work of facing communities of dialogue in the search of truth and understanding.” This superficiality, Nicolas contents, limits the “fullness of [students] flourishing as human persons and limiting their responses to a world in need of healing intellectually, morally, and spiritually.”
As Jesuit educators of the 21st Century, we are challenged to piece together the Ignatian principles to instill in our students a “depth of thought and imagination” that encompasses engagement with the reality of the world and the human condition (Nicolas). We are further challenged to leverage the technological tools that both enhance and distract from learning and put them to positive uses in and outside the classroom.
Ignatian Pedagogy Paradigm
Arrupe, Pedro, S.J. “Men and Women for Others: Education for Social Justice and Social Action Today.” Address to the Tenth International Congress of Jesuit Alumni of Europe, Valencia, Spain. July 31, 1973.
Kolvenbach, Peter-Hans, S.J. As quoted in “Go Forth and Teach: The Characteristics of Jesuit Education.” Jesuit Secondary Education Association Foundations, 1986, pp. 18.
O’Malley, John W., S.J. “How the First Jesuits Became Involved in Education.” In The Jesuit Ratio Studiorum: 400th Anniversary Perspectives.” Vincent J. Duminuco, S.J., Editor. New York: Fordham University Press. 2000. Pp. 56-74.
Nicolas, Adolfo, S.J. “Depth, Universality, and Learned Ministry: Challenges to Jesuit Higher Education Today.” Remarks for “Networking Jesuit Higher Education: Shaping the Future for a Humane, Just, Sustainable Globe.” Mexico City, April 2010.