Ignatian Heritage and Teaching Mission: the Mission Within Us

Posted on: November 3rd, 2017 by Terry Moy

During the last few weeks I have been thinking a great deal about what the mission of Loyola means to me, personally, and how I embody those ideals. I have observed others around me in their work here and marveled at the how they exemplify the magis. I have come to understand that while mission is something that represents the university’s identify, the strongest sense of mission can be found within each of us: in our teaching, our mentoring, our commitment to social justice.

As we celebrate Ignatian Heritage month, we have the perfect opportunity to reflect on what our Jesuit heritage means to us.  How are we living the mission and how are we guiding our students to find and activate the mission within themselves?

Teaching is the perfect vessel for helping our students realize their internal mission and how to make it actionable. As Jesuit educators we have the tools of the Ignatian Pedagogical tradition to guide us toward helping students make meaning of their learning and take action as a result. The five traditionally recognized domains of Ignatian Pedagogy provide a framework that help us characterize our approach to our teaching methodology and our means to calling our students to action.

Context: In Ignatian Pedagogy the initial questions we need to ask involve context: Who are our students? What do they know? Where do they come from? Here we step outside ourselves and do a careful analysis of what our students bring to the course rather than relying on our assumptions. Turning this to the student focus, we challenge students to also identify who they are in relation to the course and to take stock of what they bring with them. Challenging assumptions allows faculty and student alike to take each course as a unique opportunity to identify who we are and what implications that identify provides.

Experience: The domain of experience suggests that we select our course content based on what the learners actually need: What technologies are relevant? What resources from within the class can we build on? How does the background of the students enhance or challenge the content and the way it is presented? We need to work with our students to help them begin taking some of the responsibility for their own learning and to begin considering how the course content challenges their beliefs and helps them to grow beyond their previously-held assumptions.

Reflection: Through reflection that is structured and guided by the faculty member, students begin to make meaning of their learning. Going beyond simply thinking about the course content, Ignatian reflection challenges us to investigate what we thought before, what we think now that we have studied this topic, and what we are going to do as a result of understanding our personal growth. 1 Students make meaning of their learning and determine what action they will take as a result of this learning.

Action: The heart of our experiences as Jesuit educators entails helping our students become men and women for others. In order to do this, we must challenge students to examine their learning and how that learning calls them to personal action. How do my actions exemplify the person I am becoming? Designing our courses around this plan to engage students in taking action on their learning requires deliberate planning. What steps do we have in place to ensure our students are being challenged to act on their learning?

Evaluation: OK, how did we do: Was content presented in a way that students learned and reflected and grew as a result? Are students able to articulate their growth? Are there things we will do differently next time?

For a more comprehensive overview of the principles of Jesuit education check the resources on Ignatian Pedagogy on our FCIP website: https://luc.edu/fcip/ignatianpedagogy/resources/

1 Thanks to Dr. Michael Boyle, Director, Andrew M. Greeley Center for Catholic Education, School of Education, Loyola University Chicago, for the ideas about characterizing prompts relating student behaviors in reflective activities.


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