(30) An Ignatian paradigm of experience, reflection and action suggests a host of ways in which teachers might accompany their students in order to facilitate learning and growth through encounters with truth and explorations of human meaning. It is a paradigm that can provide a more than adequate response to critical educational issues facing us today. It is a paradigm with inherent potential for going beyond mere theory to become a practical tool and effective instrument for making a difference in the way we teach and in the way our students learn. The model of experience, reflection and action is not solely an interesting idea worthy of considerable discussion, nor is it simply an intriguing proposal calling for lengthy debate. It is rather a fresh yet familiar Ignatian paradigm of Jesuit education, a way of proceeding which all of us can confidently follow in our efforts to help students truly grow as persons of competence, conscience and compassion.
Figure 2. Ignatian Paradigm
(31) A critically important note of the Ignatian paradigm is the introduction of reflection as an essential dynamic. For centuries, education was assumed to consist primarily of accumulated knowledge gained from lectures and demonstrations. Teaching followed a primitive model of communications in which information is transmitted and knowledge is transferred from teacher to learner. Students experience a lesson clearly presented and thoroughly explained and the teacher calls for subsequent action on the part of students whereby they demonstrate, frequently reciting from memory, that what was communicated has, indeed, been successfully absorbed. While research over the past two decades has proven time and again, study after study, that effective learning occurs through the interaction of the learner with experience, still much of teaching continues to be limited to a two-step instructional model of EXPERIENCE - ACTION, in which the teacher plays a far more active role than the student. It is a model often followed where development of memorisation skills on the part of students is a primary pedagogical aim. As a teaching model of Jesuit education, however, it is seriously deficient for two reasons:
- In Jesuit schools the learning experience is expected to move beyond rote knowledge to the development of the more complex learning skills of understanding, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
- If learning were to stop there, it would not be Ignatian. For it would lack the component of REFLECTION wherein students are impelled to consider the human meaning and significance of what they study and to integrate that meaning as responsible learners who grow as persons of competence, conscience and compassion.