The Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm comprises three main elements: experience, reflection and action. For such a learning process to be successful, it must include a pre-learning element, that of context, and a post-learning element, that of evaluation.
This is concerned with all the factors that help or hinder the learning process.
From the administrators’ and teachers’ points of view this means:
i) Personal knowledge of and care for the student by the teacher.
ii) A conducive environment for learning and growth in commitment to values.
From the students’ points of view, it is related to:
Readiness to learn and readiness to grow.
Ignatian pedagogy aims to ensure that the student will have a full learning experience of mind, heart and hand. In the handbook entitled Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach, issued by the International Centre for Jesuit Education in Rome in 1993, experience as an key element in education was described as follows: “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. . . .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 his pedagogy, Ignatius highlights the affective/evaluative stage of the learning process because he is conscious that in addition to letting one ‘sense and taste,’ i.e., deepen one’s experience, affective feelings are motivational forces that move one’s understanding to action and commitment.”
This is the KEY to the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm. Reflection is the process whereby the student makes the learning experience his/her own, gets to the meaning of the learning experience for self and for others. Ignatian Pedagogy describes it at some length:
“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 . . . At this level of reflection, the memory, the understanding, the imagination and the feelings are used to capture the meaning and 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 … If learning were to stop at experience, 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.”
Action is not mere activity. It is rather the student’s attitudes, priorities, commitments, habits, values, ideals, internal human growth flowing out into actions for others. Ignatian Pedagogy defines the term, making specific reference to the ideal so typical of Ignatius Loyola, seeking not just to serve God but to excel in such service, to do something even more (in Latin, magis) than what is required:
“The term ‘Action’ refers to internal human growth based upon experience that has been reflected upon as well as its manifestation externally. It involves two steps: i) Interiorised Choices; ii) Choices Externally Manifested . . . 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.”
This is an evaluation of the student’s growth in the acceptance of the school’s aims and objectives for the student. Once again, from Ignatian Pedagogy:
“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. “