Dynamics of the Paradigm

(32) A comprehensive Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm must consider the context of learning as well as the more explicitly pedagogical process. In addition, it should point to ways to encourage openness to growth even after the student has completed any individual learning cycle. Thus five steps are involved: CONTEXT; EXPERIENCE; REFLECTION; ACTION; EVALUATION.

(33) 1. CONTEXT OF LEARNING: Before Ignatius would begin to direct a person in the Spiritual Exercises, he always wanted to know about their predispositions to prayer, to God. He realised how important it was for a person to be open to the movements of the Spirit, if he or she was to draw any fruit from the journey of the soul to be begun. And based upon this pre-retreat knowledge Ignatius made judgments about readiness to begin, whether a person would profit from the complete Exercises or an abbreviated experience.

(34) In the Spiritual Exercises Ignatius makes the point that the experiences of the retreatant should always give shape and context to the exercises that are being used. It is the responsibility of the director, therefore, not only to select those exercises that seem most worthwhile and suitable but to modify and adjust them in order to make them directly applicable to the retreatant. Ignatius encourages the director of the Spiritual Exercises to become as familiar as possible beforehand with the life experience of the retreatant so that, during the retreat itself, the director will be better equipped to assist the retreatant in discerning movements of the Spirit.

(35) Similarly, personal care and concern for the individual, which is a hallmark of Jesuit education, requires that the teacher become as conversant as possible with the life experience of the learner. Since human experience, always the starting point in an Ignatian pedagogy, never occurs in a vacuum, we must know as much as we can about the actual context within which teaching and learning take place. As teachers, therefore, we need to understand the world of the student, including the ways in which family, friends, peers, youth culture and mores as well as social pressures, school life, politics, economics, religion, media, art, music, and other realities impact that world and effect the student for better or worse. Indeed, from time to time we should work seriously with students to reflect on the contextual realities of both our worlds. What forces at work in them? How do they experience those forces influencing their attitudes, values and beliefs, and shaping our perceptions, judgements and choices? How do world experiences affect the very way in which students learn, helping to model their habitual patterns of thinking and acting? What practical steps can they and are they willing to take to gain greater freedom and control over their destinies?

(36) For such a relationship of authenticity and truth to flourish between teacher and student, mutual trust and respect that grows out of a continuing experience of the other as a genuine companion in learning is required. It means, too, being keenly conscious of and sensitive to the institutional environment of the school or learning centre; being alert as teachers and administrators to the complex and often subtle network of norms, expectations, behaviours and relationships that create an atmosphere for learning.

(37) Praise, reverence and service should mark the relationship that exists not only between teachers and students but among all members of the school community. Ideally Jesuit schools should be places where people are believed in, honoured and cared for; where the natural talents and creative abilities of persons are recognised and celebrated; where individual contributions and accomplishments are appreciated; where everyone is treated fairly and justly; where sacrifice on behalf of the economically poor, the socially deprived, and the educationally disadvantaged is commonplace; where each of us finds the challenge, encouragement and support we need to reach our fullest individual potential for excellence; where we help one another to work together with enthusiasm and generosity, attempting to model concretely in word and action the ideals we uphold for our students and ourselves.

(38) Teachers, as well as other members of the school community, therefore, should take account of:

(a) the real context of a student's life which includes family, peers, social situations, the educational institution itself, politics, economics, cultural climate, the ecclesia situation, media, music and other realities. All of these have an impact on the student for better or worse. From time to time it will be useful and important to encourage students to reflect on the contextual factors that they experience, and how they affect their attitudes, perceptions, judgments, choices. This will be especially important when students are dealing with issues that are likely to evoke strong feelings.

(39) (b) the socio-economic, political and cultural context within which a student grows can seriously affect his or her growth as a person for others. For example, a culture of endemic poverty usually negatively affects students' expectations about success in studies; oppressive political regimes discourage open inquiry in favour of their dominating ideologies. These and a host of other factors can restrict the freedom which Ignatian pedagogy encourages.

(40) (c) the institutional environment of the school or learning centre, ie the complex and often subtle network of norms, expectations and especially relationships that create the atmosphere of school life. Recent study of Catholic schools highlights the importance of a positive school environment. In the past, improvements in religious and value education in our schools have usually been sought in the development of new curricula, visual aids and suitable textbook materials. All of these developments achieve some results. Most, however, achieve far less than they promised. The results of recent research suggest that the climate of the school may well be the pre-condition necessary before value education can even begin, and that much more attention needs to be given to the school environment in which the moral development and religious formation of adolescents takes place. Concretely, concern for quality learning, trust, respect for others despite differences of opinion, caring, forgiveness and some clear manifestation of the school's belief in the Transcendent distinguish a school environment that assists integral human growth. A Jesuit school is to be a face-to-face faith community of learners in which an authentic personal relationship between teachers and students may flourish. Without such a relation much of the unique force of our education would be lost. For an authentic relationship of trust and friendship between teacher and student is an indispensable dispositive condition for any growth in commitment to values. Thus alumnorum cura personalis, ie, a genuine love and personal care for each of our students, is essential for an environment that fosters the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm proposed.

(41) (d) what previously acquired concepts students bring with them to the start of the learning process. Their points of view and the insights that they may have acquired from earlier study or picked up spontaneously from their cultural environment, as well as their feelings, attitudes, and values regarding the subject matter to be studied from part of the real context for learning.

(42) 2 EXPERIENCE for Ignatius meant "to taste something internally." In the first place this calls for knowing facts, concepts, principles. This requires one to probe the connotation and overtones of words and events, to analyse and evaluate ideas, to reason. Only with accurate comprehension of what is being considered can one proceed to valid appreciation of its meaning. But Ignatian experience goes beyond a purely intellectual grasp. Ignatius urges that the whole person -- mind, heart and will -- should enter the learning experience. He encourages use of the imagination and the feelings as well as the mind in experience. Thus affective as well as cognitive dimensions of the human person are involved, because without internal feelings joined to intellectual grasp, learning will not move a person to action. For example, it is one thing to assent to the truth that God is Father or Parent. But for this truth to live and become effective, Ignatius would have us feel the tenderness with which the Father of Jesus loves us and cares of us, forgives us. And this fuller experience can move us to realise that God shares this love with all of our brothers and sisters in the human family. In the depths of our being we may be impelled to care for others in their joys and sorrows, their hopes, trials, poverty, unjust situations -- and to want to do something for them. For here the heart as well as the head, the human person is involved.

(43) Thus we use the term EXPERIENCE to describe any activity in which in addition to a cognitive grasp of the matter being considered, some sensation of an affective nature is registered by the student. In any experience, data is perceived by the student cognitively. Through questioning, imagining, investigating its elements and relationships, the student organises this data into a whole or a hypothesis. "What is this?" "Is it like anything I already know?" "How does it work?" And even without deliberate choice there is a concomitant affective reaction, eg "I like this" ... "I'm threatened by this;" "I never do well in this sort of thing" ... "It's interesting" .. "Ho hum, I'm bored".

(44) At the beginning of new lessons, teachers often perceive how students' feelings can move them to grow. For it is rare that a student experiences something new in studies without referring it to what he or she already knows. New facts, ideas, viewpoints, theories often present a challenge to what the student understands at that point. This calls for growth -- a fuller understanding that may modify or change what had been perceived as adequate knowledge. Confrontation of new knowledge with what one has already learned cannot be limited simply to memorisation or passive absorption of additional data, especially if it does not exactly fit what one knows. It disturbs a learner to know that he does not fully comprehend. It impels a student to further probing for understanding -- analysis, comparison, contrast, synthesis, evaluation -- all sorts of mental and/or psychomotor activities wherein students are alert to grasp reality more fully.

(45) Human experience may be either direct or vicarious:


It is one thing to read a newspaper account of a hurricane striking the coastal towns of Puerto Rico. You can know all the facts: wind speed, direction, numbers of persons dead and injured, extent and location of physical damage caused. This cognitive knowing, however, can leave the reader distant and aloof of the human dimensions of the storm. It is quite different to be out where the wind is blowing, where one feels the force of the storm, senses the immediate danger to life, home, and all one's possessions, and feels the fear in the pit of one's stomach for one's life and that of one's neighbours as the shrill wind becomes deafening. It is clear in this example that direct experience usually is fuller, more engaging of the person. Direct experience in an academic setting usually occurs in interpersonal experience such as conversations or discussions, laboratory investigations, field trips, service projects, participation in sports, and the life.


But in studies direct experience is not always possible. Learning is often achieved through vicarious experience in reading, or listening to a lecture. In order to involve students in the learning experience more fully at a human level, teachers are challenged to stimulate students' imagination and use of the senses precisely so that students can enter the reality studied more fully. Historical settings, assumptions of the times, cultural, social, political and economic factors affecting the lives of people at the time of what is being studied need to be filled out. Simulations, role playing, use of audio visual materials and the like may be helpful.

(46) In the initial phases of experience, whether direct or vicarious, learners perceive data as well as their affective response to it. But only by organising this data can the experience be grasped as a whole, responding to the question: "What is this?" and, "How do I react to it"? Thus learners need to be attentive and active in achieving comprehension and understanding of the human reality that confronts them.

(47) 3 REFLECTION: Throughout his life Ignatius knew himself to be constantly subjected to different stirring, invitations, alternatives which were often contradictory. His greatest effort was to try to discover what moved him in each situation: the impulse that leads him to good or the one that inclines him to evil; the desire to serve others or the solicitude for his own egotistical affirmation. He became the master of discernment that he continues to be today because he succeeded in distinguishing this difference. For Ignatius to "discern" was to clarify his internal motivation, the reasons behind his judgments, to probe the causes and implications of what he experienced, to weigh possible options and evaluate them in the light of their likely consequences, to discover what best leads to the desired goal: to be a free person who seeks, finds, and carries out the will of God in each situation.

(48) At this level of REFLECTION, the memory, the understanding, the imagination and the feelings are used to capture the meaning and the essential value of what is being studied, to discover its relationship with other aspects of knowledge and human activity, and to appreciate its implications in the ongoing search for truth and freedom. This REFLECTION is a formative and liberating process. It forms the conscience of learners (their beliefs, values, attitudes and their entire way of thinking) in such a manner that they are led to move beyond knowing, to undertake action.

(49) We use the term reflection to mean a thoughtful reconsideration of some subject matter, experience, idea, purpose or spontaneous reaction, in order to grasp its significance more fully. Thus, reflection is the process by which meaning surfaces in human experience:

(50) * by understanding the truth being studied more clearly. For example, "What are the assumptions in this theory of the atom, in this presentation of the history of native peoples, in this statistical analysis? Are they valid; are they fair? Are other assumptions possible? How would the presentation be different if other assumptions were made?"

(51) * by understanding the sources of the sensations or reactions I experience in this consideration. For example, "In studying this short story, what particularly interests me? Why? ..." "What do I find troubling in this translation? Why?"

(52) * by deepening my understanding of the implications of what I have grasped for myself and for others. For example, "What likely effects might environmental efforts to check the greenhouse effect have on my life, on that of my family, and friends ... on the lives of people in poorer countries?"

(53) * by achieving personal insights into events, ideas, truth or the distortion of truth and the like. For example, "Most people feel that a more equitable sharing of the world's resources is at least desirable, if not a moral imperative. My own life style, the things I take for granted, may contribute to the current imbalance. Am I willing to reconsider what I really need to be happy?"

(54) * by coming to some understanding of who I am ("What moves me, and why?") ... and who I might be in relation to others. For example, "How does what I have reflected upon make me feel? Why? Am I at peace with that reaction in myself? Why? ... If not, why not?"

(55) A major challenge to a teacher at this stage of the learning paradigm is to formulate questions that will broaden students' awareness and impel them to consider viewpoints of others, especially of the poor. The temptation here for a teacher may be to impose such viewpoints. If that occurs, the risk, of manipulation or indoctrination (thoroughly non-Ignatian) is high, and a teacher should avoid anything that will lead to this kind of risk. But the challenge remains to open students' sensitivity to human implications of what they learn in a way that transcends their prior experiences and thus causes them to grow in human excellence.

(56) As educators we insist that all of this be done with total respect for the student's freedom. It is possible that, even after the reflective process, a student may decide to act selfishly. We recognise that it is possible that due to developmental factors, insecurity or other events currently impacting a student's life, he or she may not be able to grow in directions of greater altruism, justice, etc at this time. Even Jesus faced such reactions in dealing with the rich young man. We must be respectful of the individual's freedom to reject growth. We are sowers of seeds; in God's Providence the seeds may germinate in time.

(57) The reflection envisioned can and should be broadened wherever appropriate to enable students and teachers to share their reflections and thereby have the opportunity to grow together. Shared reflection can reinforce, challenge, encourage reconsideration, and ultimately give greater assurance that the action to be taken (individual or corporate) is more comprehensive and consistent with what it means to be a person for others.

(58) (The terms EXPERIENCE and REFLECTION may be defined variously according to different schools of pedagogy, and we agree with the tendency to use these and similar terms to express or to promote teaching that is personalised and learner-active and whose aim is not merely the assimilation of subject-matter but the development of the person. In the Ignatian tradition of education, however, these terms are particularly significant as they express a "way of proceeding" that is more effective in achieving "integral formation" of the student, that is, a way of experiencing and reflecting that leads the student not only to delve deeply into the subject itself but to look for meaning in life, and to make personal options (ACTION) according to a comprehensive world vision. On the other hand, we know that experience and reflection are not separable phenomena. It is not possible to have an experience without some amount of reflection, and all reflection carries with it some intellectual or affective experiences, insights and enlightenment, a vision of the world, of self, and others.)

(59) 4 ACTION: For Ignatius the acid test of love is what one does, not what one says. "Love is shown in deeds, not words." The thrust of the Spiritual Exercises was precisely to enable the retreatant to know the will of God and to do it freely. So too, Ignatius and the first Jesuits were most concerned with the formation of students' attitudes, values, ideals according to which they would make decisions in a wide variety of situations about what actions were to be done. Ignatius wanted Jesuit schools to form young people who could and would contribute intelligently and effectively to the welfare of society.

(60) * Reflection in Ignatian Pedagogy would be a truncated process if it ended with understanding and affective reactions. Ignatian reflection, just as it begins with the reality of experience, necessarily ends with that same reality in order to effect it. Reflection only develops and matures when it fosters decision and commitment.

(61) * In this pedagogy, Ignatius highlights the affective/evaluative stage of the learning process because he is conscious that in addition to letting one "sense and taste", ie, deepen one's experience, affective feelings are motivational forces that move one's understanding to action and commitment. And it must be clear that Ignatius does not seek just any action or commitment. Rather, while respecting human freedom, he strives to encourage decision and commitment for the magis, the better service of God and our sisters and brothers.

(62) * The term "Action" here refers to internal human growth based upon experience that has been reflected upon as well as its manifestation externally.

It involves two steps:

1. Interiorised Choices

After reflection, the learner considers the experience from a personal, human point of view. Here in light of cognitive understanding of the experience and the affections involved (positive or negative), the will is moved. Meanings perceived and judged present choices to be made. Such choices may occur when a person decides that a truth is to be his or her personal point of reference, attitude or predisposition which will affect any number of decisions. It may taken the form of gradual clarification of one's priorities. It is at this point that the student chooses to make the truth his or her own while remaining open to where the truth might lead.

2. Choices Externally Manifested.

In time, these meanings, attitudes, values which have been interiorised, made part of the person, impel the student to act, to do something consistent with this new conviction. If the meaning was positive, then the student will likely seek to enhance those conditions or circumstances in which the original experience took place. For example, if the goal of physical education has been achieved, the student will be inclined to undertake some regular sport during his free time. If she has acquired a taste for history of literature, she may resolve to make time for reading. If he finds it worthwhile to help his companions in their studies, he may volunteer to collaborate in some remedial program for weaker students. If he or she appreciates better the needs of the poor after service experiences in the ghetto and reflection on those experiences, this might influence his or her career choice or move the student to volunteer to work for the poor. If the meaning was negative, then the student will likely seek to adjust, change, diminish or avoid the conditions and circumstances in which the original experience took place. For example, if the student now appreciates the reasons for his or her lack of success in school work, the student may decide to improve study habits in order to avoid repeated failure.


All teachers know that from time to time it is important to evaluate a student's progress in academic achievement. Daily quizzes, weekly or monthly tests and semester examinations are familiar evaluation instruments to assess the degree of mastery of knowledge and skills achieved. Periodic testing alerts the teacher and the student both to intellectual growth and to lacunae where further work is necessary for mastery. This type of feedback can alert the teacher to possible needs for use of alternate methods of teaching; it also offers special opportunities to individualise encouragement and advice for academic improvement (eg review of study habits) for each student.

(64) Ignatian pedagogy, however, aims at formation which includes but goes beyond academic mastery. Here we are concerned about students' well-rounded growth as persons for others. Thus periodic evaluation of the student's growth in attitudes, priorities and actions consistent with being a person for others is essential. Comprehensive assessment probably will not occur as frequently as academic testing, but it needs to be planned at intervals, at least once a term. A teacher who is observant will perceive indications of growth or lack of growth in class discussions, students' generosity in response to common needs, etc. much more frequently.

(65) There are a variety of ways in which this fuller human growth can be assessed. All must take into account the age, talents and developmental levels of each student. Here the relationship of mutual trust and respect which should exist between students and teachers sets a climate for discussion of growth. Useful pedagogical approaches include Mentoring, review of student journals, student self-evaluation in light of personal growth profiles, as well as review of leisure time activities and voluntary service to others.

(66) This can be a privileged moment for a teacher both to congratulate and encourage the student for progress made, as well as an opportunity to stimulate further reflection in light of blind spots or lacunae in the student's point of view. The teacher can stimulate needed reconsideration by judicious questioning, proposing additional perspectives, supplying needed information and suggesting ways to view matters from other points of view.

(67) In time, the student's attitudes, priorities, decisions may be reinvestigated in light of further experience, changes in his or her context, challenges from social and cultural developments and the like. The teacher's gentle questioning may point to the need for more adequate decisions or commitments, what Ignatius Loyola called the magis. This newly realised need to grow may serve to launch the learner once gain into the cycle of the Ignatian learning paradigm.