Ignatian Pedagogy: The Meaning of Reflection

How can we make learning mean something? How can we go beyond conveying information to helping students grow in understanding and wisdom?

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At a Jesuit institution like Georgetown, we might turn for answers to the rich tradition of Ignatian Pedagogy. This contemplative approach to teaching is rooted in the sixteenth-century spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius—and it continues to offer paths to deeper learning today. In a class steeped in Ignatian Pedagogy, students move through a repeated cycle of experience, reflection, and action. They take the time to connect course material to other things they’ve studied, to their own lives, to the world outside the classroom, to societal concerns. In turn, these connections help to guide them as they decide what to do next, including everything from in-class decisions (e.g., what topic to focus on in a paper) to larger academic pursuits (e.g., what to go on to study) and their lives more generally (e.g., what kinds of jobs call to them; what they want to do with themselves in the long term; how they want to improve the world for others). Of course, all these decisions lead to new experiences and more opportunities to reflect. As the cycle continues, meaning emerges at every step along the way.

At CNDLS, we’d be happy to help you think about how to include Ignatian Pedagogy in your course. To find out more, visit the Teaching Commons’ new Ignatian Pedagogy page. And, as always, reach out to us if there’s anything we can do to help!


This spring, we’re using the CNDLS blog to highlight the Teaching Commons, a compilation of resources and case studies designed to help faculty revitalize their courses and gain insights into practical issues in pedagogy at Georgetown. As a living resource, the site evolves to encompass new scholarship in teaching and learning, as well as technological innovations that are changing and enhancing the current teaching landscape. To help you explore all that the Commons has to offer, we’re showcasing tools and other information on a semi-weekly basis, guiding you through the semester in real time. Missed the other posts? Check out our takes on crafting a syllabus, starting the semester, leading discussions, evaluating learningdesigning assignments, and active learning, then hear from fellow faculty in our interview highlights.

Really, Though: How’s the Semester Going?

The typical greeting on campus these days involves the question “How’s the semester going?” There are common answers, too, maybe involving how fast time is going by, or how much the grading is piling up—but, beyond those habitual observations, it can be hard to be sure just exactly how class is going. Most students at Georgetown are game, can-do, and polite—so how can you know what they’re thinking about their learning experience?

Well, you could wait until the end-of-semester evaluations—but why not find out sooner? Maybe there are mid-semester course adjustments that could improve things along the way. But first you have to discover what, if anything, needs adjusting.

CNDLS can help. One of the services we offer is Mid-Semester Group Feedback Sessions (MSGFs). When a faculty calls on us to do an MSGF, the first step is that one of our staff—an experienced teacher—meets with the faculty member to discuss any questions they have about the students’ experience of the course; second, the CNDLS staff member goes into class to talk to the students about their experience; third, there’s another one-on-one conversation with the faculty member to debrief. The whole thing is informal, and can’t end up in your file; it’s purely intended to help you grow as a teacher. People who’ve used this service get a lot out of it—insights into their students’ learning processes, feedback on particular pedagogical strategies and assignments, ideas for new things to try to get more people more involved. Find out more about MSGFs on the Teaching Commons.

There are also things you can do on your own—invite a friendly departmental colleague in to observe your class informally, for example, or collect some brief anonymous feedback yourself. Our Teaching Commons also has a Gathering Teaching Feedback page that can help you with ideas.

Here’s to a great semester—and, as always, reach out to us if there’s anything we can do to help!


This spring, we’re using the CNDLS blog to highlight the Teaching Commons, a compilation of resources and case studies designed to help faculty revitalize their courses and gain insights into practical issues in pedagogy at Georgetown. As a living resource, the site evolves to encompass new scholarship in teaching and learning, as well as technological innovations that are changing and enhancing the current teaching landscape. To help you explore all that the Commons has to offer, we’re showcasing tools and other information on a semi-weekly basis, guiding you through the semester in real time. Missed the other posts? Check out our takes on crafting a syllabus, starting the semester, leading discussions, evaluating learningdesigning assignments, and active learning, then hear from fellow faculty in our interview highlights.

Keeping Goals in the Picture

In the bustle (and sometimes chaos) of the semester itself, it can be easy to get lost in the day-to-day details and forget the bigger picture. But of course there is a bigger picture, and it’s the answer to this question:

What do you want your students to achieve in your course?

The answer to this question comprises your learning goals, and they’re an important touchstone whenever you find yourself mired in the muddle. They serve as a reminder—what’s the aim of my class again?—and they’ll help guide the choices you make as a teacher.

Learning goals probably already affect many of our pedagogical decisions, either implicitly or explicitly. We assign certain readings because we want our students to assimilate relevant information; we give students problem sets because we want them to be able to solve those kinds of problems; we ask for essays because we want to foster critical thinking and writing skills. We intend that students who pass our courses will know and understand certain things and be able to do certain things—and maybe even that they’ll feel certain things. But here’s another question: have you ever spelled out those goals?

Maybe you’ve been explicit, listing your learning goals on the syllabus; we think that’s a great way to let students know what they should be striving for. Even if you haven’t consciously articulated your goals, however, there’s still time. As you launch into a session or a new section of the course, you can tell the class what you’re hoping they’ll get out of it. And you can use this touchstone—goals—as a way to make sure that your teaching choices are the right ones, supporting your students as they try to reach the mark. It’s also important to keep track of students as they go, to make sure they’re making progress and, ultimately, achieving those goals.

For more on all this, consult the Teaching Commons—we’ve got a Learning Goals page and an Evaluating Student Learning page that can get you started—or, as always, reach out to us if there’s anything we can do to help!


This spring, we’re using the CNDLS blog to highlight the Teaching Commons, a compilation of resources and case studies designed to help faculty revitalize their courses and gain insights into practical issues in pedagogy at Georgetown. As a living resource, the site evolves to encompass new scholarship in teaching and learning, as well as technological innovations that are changing and enhancing the current teaching landscape. To help you explore all that the Commons has to offer, we’re showcasing tools and other information on a semi-weekly basis, guiding you through the semester in real time. Missed the other posts? Check out our takes on crafting a syllabus, starting the semester, leading discussions, evaluating learningdesigning assignments, and active learning, then hear from fellow faculty in our interview highlights.

The Coming Storm: Snow, Emails, and Other Forces

We’re not too deep into the semester, but you may already be buried.

Maybe you’re under a pile of emails—or voicemails, or requests for appointments outside your office hours. Things can get overwhelming. Hopefully you’ve already established some guidelines for your students in terms of how and when you want them to communicate with you outside of class; if not, it’s probably time to establish them now. We discuss this and other issues on the Teaching Commons Communication and Contact page.

One hurdle this time of year is the possibility of snow and the issue of instructional continuity. With January almost behind us, it can be tempting to think we’re done with winter. But we’re still in the season of extremely unpredictable weather here in Washington, D.C., and there’s always a decent chance of a city-burying storm—or, in D.C., even just a couple of inches of snow—that will close the campus down. At Georgetown, the expectation is that we’ll keep the learning going even when classrooms are closed and you’re unable to meet in person. Both the Instructional Continuity and Tools pages provide a plethora of ideas on ways to stay in touch when it’s not possible to get to campus.

As always, reach out to us if there’s anything we can do to help!


This spring, we’re using the CNDLS blog to highlight the Teaching Commons, a compilation of resources and case studies designed to help faculty revitalize their courses and gain insights into practical issues in pedagogy at Georgetown. As a living resource, the site evolves to encompass new scholarship in teaching and learning, as well as technological innovations that are changing and enhancing the current teaching landscape. To help you explore all that the Commons has to offer, we’re showcasing tools and other information on a semi-weekly basis, guiding you through the semester in real time. Missed the other posts? Check out our takes on crafting a syllabus, starting the semester, leading discussions, evaluating learningdesigning assignments, and active learning, then hear from fellow faculty in our interview highlights.

Teaching Through Political Change and Tension

This week of the Presidential Inauguration is likely to be a challenging one for many students. Those who are concerned about the incoming administration may well be distracted and upset, and those who are excited about the change could well feel defensive and tense. In some classes—e.g., political science, history, sociology—these issues might come out naturally because of the subject matter, but this will probably be on students’ minds regardless of the course, and may burst out even in situations where politics isn’t directly relevant to the material.

Rather than waiting for something to bubble up, you could open a dialogue intentionally. At CNDLS, we think that difficult discussions are a good thing, if they’re handled well—if respect is maintained, if classroom norms channel talk away from attacks and toward ideas, if people get the chance to feel heard. Please visit our Difficult Discussions Teaching Commons page for ideas and resources. Contentious discourse can be constructive! 

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Even if you don’t want to open a full conversation about the particular political moment, this will be an important time to keep an eye on student well-being, and aim to support it. Our Teaching Commons page on Teaching Well-Being may help you think about how to approach the classroom going forward, and it also contains links to important campus safety net resources.

All the best as you teach your way through this tricky time. As always, reach out to us if there’s anything we can do to help!


This spring, we’re using the CNDLS blog to highlight the Teaching Commons, a compilation of resources and case studies designed to help faculty revitalize their courses and gain insights into practical issues in pedagogy at Georgetown. As a living resource, the site evolves to encompass new scholarship in teaching and learning, as well as technological innovations that are changing and enhancing the current teaching landscape. To help you explore all that the Commons has to offer, we’re showcasing tools and other information on a semi-weekly basis, guiding you through the semester in real time. Missed the other posts? Check out our takes on crafting a syllabus, starting the semester, leading discussions, evaluating learningdesigning assignments, and active learning, then hear from fellow faculty in our interview highlights.

Building a Course for Everyone

No two courses are ever the same, even if it’s one you’ve taught over and over again, even if you’re not planning to make any changes. That’s because every time you teach a class you’re teaching a new group of students. Each group comes with its own range of learning styles, abilities, experiences, motivations, and perspectives.

Of course, you won’t know what those ranges are until the semester’s in motion. But you don’t have to wait until mid-semester to account for that diversity. Right now, before anything begins, you can design a course that allows everyone to learn.

That goal is the heart of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) philosophy. The idea is to be proactive rather than reactive, building accessibility into the structure of the course. Making a course accessible involves providing students with multiple ways to express themselves and interact with the material through a variety of the following:

  • representation—varying the way you present material on the page, aloud, visually, and so on;
  • engagement—providing different ways for students to invest themselves in the material, such as theoretical problems, real-world simulations/case studies, and applied work outside the classroom; and
  • expression—offering multiple ways for students to convey what they know, such as papers, written exams, oral exams, presentations, and performances.

There’s a lot to consider, as UDL is relevant to every aspect of a course. But even modest, targeted changes in these areas will broaden the reach of your teaching, and it’s certainly easier to take these things on before the semester begins.

We’re happy to help in any way we can. Find out more on our UDL page on the Teaching Commons. And, as always, reach out to us if there’s anything else we can do!

Welcome to the spring 2017 semester!

Calling Interested Faculty: Join the Engelhard Project in Spring 2017

This spring, the Engelhard Project for Connecting Life and Learning continues its eleventh year at Georgetown University. And we’re looking for new faculty fellows to work with us next semester in integrating innovative approaches to student well-being into their courses. Read on for more information about the project and how to apply.

Rooted in the Georgetown values of cura personalis (“care of the person”) and educating the whole person, the Engelhard Project works with faculty to incorporate health and well-being issues into the classroom and encourages students to reflect on their own attitudes and behaviors. For eleven years, the Engelhard Project has worked with nearly 100 Georgetown faculty, touching over 450 undergraduate courses. The Engelhard course model is based on a collaboration between Engelhard faculty fellows and Georgetown health professionals, who together create a space in the course for students to explore the important connections between well-being issues, lived experiences, and academic course content.

Engelhard faculty fellows propose a well-being topic of choice to pair with their course offerings and link this topic with their academic course content through readings, presentations, and in-class guest discussions led by campus health professionals. Faculty who teach an Engelhard course receive a small stipend and are invited to participate in the greater Engelhard community through discussion gatherings, campus-wide events, and reflection on Engelhard work.

You can find more details on the fellowship here, and any faculty interested in proposing a course for spring 2017 should submit their course plans here. And check out our ten-year anniversary video for stories about the project’s impact and faculty experiences:

We are also happy to talk with any faculty interested in discussing ways to incorporate Engelhard into their courses—feel free to reach out directly to the project team: Joselyn Lewis (jks38@georgetown.edu) or Laura Dunn (lhd6@georgetown.edu).

Inclusive Pedagogy Fall 2016 Wrap-Up: Difficult Discussions and Gender Identity

The semester-long Inclusive Pedagogy Series came to a close with workshops on best practices for talking about the election—a contentious topic—and gender identity in the classroom. In total, this fall’s series reached nearly 100 faculty members, staff members, and graduate students through eight workshops. In addition to the main CNDLS facilitators, our collaborators came from across campus, including CMEA, the LGBTQ Resource Center, GSP, Student Financial Services, and the Department of Biology. We were pleased to see the interest and engagement of participants, and thank all of those who made these conversations possible. For a full list of the sessions held throughout the fall semester, please visit our workshop website.

Stay tuned for more information on spring Inclusive Pedagogy offerings! We also invite you to contact us (cndls@georgetown.edu) if your department is interested in a customized workshop on a particular topic.

How to Talk about the Election and Other Difficult Discussions

On November 14, Joselyn Schultz Lewis (CNDLS) and James Olsen (CNDLS, Philosophy) facilitated a session on how to handle difficult discussions, framed to focus on the recent U.S. presidential election and resulting tensions. This session offered faculty a space to talk about how to create a classroom atmosphere conducive to fruitful discussion of sensitive topics so the intense and difficult dialogues that inevitably arise can remain constructive. After asking participants to share their experiences discussing (or not) the recent elections with their students, Olsen highlighted a two-pronged approach for difficult discussions in the classroom.

  • Lay groundwork: From the beginning of the semester, set the classroom up as a space for productive conversations. This could take the form of setting explicit learning goals, laying out ground rules and participatory expectations, or even weaving in reflective activities throughout the classes. Groundwork and intentionality are crucial for creating a classroom atmosphere from the beginning that allows for difficult dialogues. “How can you begin to talk about race in a classroom when there hasn’t been a space?” Olsen asked. Faculty should consider part of their role to be facilitating a space where all feel comfortable expressing themselves, something they can impact in both explicit and implicit ways.
  • Develop strategies and tactics: Faculty should also be prepared with strategies and tactics for handling difficult discussions and situations in the moment, when they arise without warning. In these situations, Lewis and Olsen recommended being aware of one’s own “hot buttons” and potential emotional triggers—and to have a plan such as taking deep breaths or turning to face the chalkboard and taking a few steps away. Another strategy is to “take statements away” from the speaker and to review them objectively as a way to consider alternative perspectives. Faculty should be prepared to encourage (and improve upon) communications from various sides of an issue.

Faculty and staff had an opportunity to share their own experiences and recommendations as well, in small group discussions.

Gender Identity in the Classroom: Strategies for Inclusivity

Michelle Ohnona (CNDLS) and Julian Haas (LGBTQ Resource Center) facilitated the fall’s final IP workshop on gender identity, held on November 29. This session offered faculty and staff a space to discuss how to create an environment in which students’ gender expression doesn’t compromise their learning.

Ohnona, a scholar of sexuality studies, and Haas, an activist and educator, led the discussion, beginning with current terms and perspectives on gender identity. Noting that more than 75% of transgender, genderqueer, and gender nonconforming (TGQN) undergraduate students report experiencing harassment during the course of their studies (according to a 2015 study conducted by the Association of American Universities), Ohnona and Haas stressed that professors are uniquely positioned to impact the well-being of TGQN students by promoting inclusive and respectful classroom environments.

While participants discussed their experiences and strategies that they have tried, Ohnona and Haas shared a few recommendations as well:

  • Anticipate how gender identity manifests itself in the classroom. Address gender identity in your syllabus. Outline a policy allowing students to identify what their preferred names and pronouns are and discuss this with students.
  • Develop strategies to support an inclusive classroom culture around gender identity. Lay out clear expectations for your students and model behaviors that exemplify respect for the rights of students to self-identify and self-disclose information about their gender identity and preferred pronouns.
  • Don’t minimize the issue. Pronouns might not be important to everyone in the room, but they are probably important to at least one person in the room. And it may not be obvious who that person is.
  • Develop exercises that reflect a commitment to inclusivity. Think about which voices are represented in your class readings. Encourage students to seek out the perspectives of TGQN scholars in their research.

Curriculum Enrichment Grant Helps Students Study River Health

Launched under the auspices of the Georgetown Learning Initiative (GLI), Curriculum Enrichment Grants (CEGs) support class-related activities that strengthen the intellectual climate around introductory level undergraduate courses. They help faculty and students gain access to the larger DC/MD/VA community, bringing the curricular and co-curricular together to give students in introductory classes a richer sense of the broader implications and applications of work in a particular discipline.

This fall, Sarah Stewart Johnson (SFS-STIA) collaborated with Mark Giordano (SFS-STIA) to take students in three of their courses to the Anacostia River for a boat trip with the Anacostia Watershed Society to study the the health of the river. Students from Johnson’s Environmental Geoscience course and Giordano’s freshman Water Proseminar and his senior seminar, Water Futures, took part. The trip, funded through a CEG, enabled the professors to bring students off-campus to see firsthand issues with water in the DC area and engage with the topic of environmental racism. The following is a reflection from one of Johnson’s students, Isabella Todaro, on her experience traveling to Anacostia for this grant-supported activity. If you’re interested in learning more about CEGs or want to apply for a grant for the spring semester, please visit our website


Reflection on Anacostia Boat Trip

By Isabella Todaro, an STIA Energy and Environment major (SFS 2017)

Standing huddled at the front gates, we waited for the vans to take us across town to the Anacostia River for a boat trip. We had so many reasons to be excited as we sipped our coffees, waiting for the caffeine to shake off our morning grogginess. This was the boat trip! We’d been hearing about it since syllabus day and had been told that it was a highlight of the course. We had performed a water quality analysis of the Potomac, and only after we took samples from the Anacostia on our trip could we compare the results. But most of all, we’d been excited to get away from Lau for a day to exchange the browns and grays of our favorite Brutalist study spot for a little adventure and some fresh air.

We boarded the vans (driven by generous student volunteers) and set out toward Maryland. The van ride was a nice tour of DC, and we passed the time scoping restaurants, markets, cool parks, and new neighborhoods through the window and saving them as starred locations in Google Maps, contributing to our ever-growing senior year bucket list. When we finally arrived, we were in a part of town that few of us frequent, but I’m sure many of us will visit again.

The dock was situated in a beautiful park, with a playground and rolling grassy hills. We met up with Sarah Johnson (SFS-STIA), who had brought her family, and waited for the earlier boat to return, the promise of donuts onboard fueling our anxiety. Johnson’s two children, who were so sweet and well behaved—plus, maybe smarter than any of us (they knew the definition of turbidity)—kept big smiles on all of our faces and reminded us of the excitement of a day on the water.

When the boat docked, we met our captain, a gruff man named Jim with a soft spot for river conservation. Jim helped us board (and passed out the promised donuts), and we were off. It was a pontoon boat that meandered slowly down the peaceful river, so we were able to make careful observations and listen closely to all of the wisdom that Jim was sharing with us. The sun filtered through perfectly just-changed leaves, and there was a briskness to the air that was unmistakably fall.

Jim told us about environmental regulations, battles with local government and industry, successes, failures, and his dreams for the river. He had made the health of this river—and his dream of seeing it one day be swimmable and fishable—his life’s work. His passion and personal stake in the future of the Anacostia was impressionable, and when he talked about the river, although he was talking about local government zoning laws and EPA regulations, we were entranced.

Jim had lived on the river his whole life and knows it to be a source of lifeblood for the people that live on its banks and downstream. He knows the impact that the health of the river has on each of their lives, and he personally mourns every piece of trash along the river banks, every wetland lost. But he is also optimistic. The bike path for which he has been advocating for 20 years was slated to open the day after our visit. He proudly told us that the water quality had been slowly improving, and he expected to see this rate of improvement increase even more.

We stopped mid-trip to take our samples, measuring turbidity, pH, dissolved oxygen levels, bacteria levels, and temperature. We are waiting to get the results of all of these tests, but soon we will be able to compare the water quality of the Potomac and the Anacostia. Sadly, we can expect the Anacostia samples to be far dirtier, a river that runs through a poorer part of the city and epitomizes the struggle of environmental injustice and racism.

The trip back was more reflective. We all spoke less, watching the beauty of the river pass us by, noticing the sins of pollution that Jim had talked about. When we arrived back at the vans, we were full with new insights, but mostly with new questions about the future of the river, about environmental responsibility, and about our part in all of this.

Finish the Semester Like You Mean It

This time of year, we can clearly begin to see our courses winding down. For some of us, it might be a shock—didn’t class just begin? For others, it might feel like we’re in the last quarter-mile of a very long hike up a very tall mountain. Either way, the end of the semester is coming.

What will you do with it?

The key to a good finish is to see these last sessions not as “playing out the string” but as an opportunity to do some new, substantial, complex, integrative work—work you can only do when you and the students can take a full view of what you’ve already done.

For ideas on how to make the most out of these final sessions, whether by guiding students through a reflection on the course, gathering feedback on how the semester went, or helping students think forward about how course material might inform their future experiences, check out our Ending the Semester page.

All the best as things come to a close—and, as always, let us know how else we can help!

 

This fall, we’re using the CNDLS blog to highlight the Teaching Commons, a compilation of resources and case studies designed to help faculty revitalize their courses and gain insights into practical issues in pedagogy at Georgetown. As a living resource, the site evolves to encompass new scholarship in teaching and learning, as well as technological innovations that are changing and enhancing the current teaching landscape. To help you explore all that the Commons has to offer, we’re showcasing tools and other information on a semi-weekly basis, guiding you through the semester in real time. Missed the other posts? Check out our takes on crafting a syllabus, starting the semester, leading discussions, evaluating learningdesigning assignments, and active learning, then hear from fellow faculty in our interview highlights.