Educating the Whole Person for Beginners: TLISI 2017

At Georgetown, one of our core values is teaching in the Jesuit tradition. At this year’s TLISI, we focused one of our plenary lunches on these values and hosted a panel discussion titled “Educating the Whole Person for Beginners” on Tuesday, May 23. The panelists discussed themes of well-being, mindfulness, and reflection in the classroom, with David Ebenbach moderating. He began this session by quoting educationalist Nel Noddings:

“We will not find the solution to problems of violence, alienation, ignorance, and unhappiness in increasing our security apparatus, imposing more tests, punishing schools for their failure to produce 100 percent proficiency, or demanding that teachers be knowledgeable in “the subjects they teach.” Instead, we must allow teachers and students to interact as whole persons, and we must develop policies that treat the school as a whole community. The future of both our children and our democracy depend on our moving in this direction.”


To watch the full video of this session, please click the above image (note: you must be logged in with your Georgetown NetID).

Taking the concept of the “whole person” as a starting point, panelists Sabrina Wesley-Nero (Education, Inquiry and Justice), Jason Tilan (Human Science), Christine Evans (Performing Arts), and Kathy Maguire-Zeiss (Neuroscience) highlighted programs and resources specific to whole-person learning available to faculty and staff at Georgetown. In particular, panelists discussed the Engelhard Project, which incorporates health and well-being issues into the classroom, as well as various other resources such as the Teaching Commons Pages.

Panelists discussed the importance of one key component of educating the whole person specifically—appealing to students’ experiences outside of the classroom. A simple way of actualizing this concept that was shared is to ask students to introduce themselves at the beginning of class without subscribing to traditional labels or goals—an exercise Evans (Performing Arts) uses in her class. She asks students to tell personal stories or experiences around prompts like “water,” for example, to help get students begin to build and define themselves from the bottom up. Later in the sessions, panelists shared their experiences as Engelhard Fellows in the Engelhard Project, and how Engelhard components helped to support whole person learning. 

The Engelhard Project’s Connection to Self Care
When discussing the Engelhard Project, many panelists noticed students in their Engelhard courses focusing on their own well-being just as much as their academic-based goals throughout the semester. Wesley-Nero (Education, Inquiry and Justice) saw an increase in students from her Engelhard course who visited her during office hours to share challenges and personal experiences. She was also surprised to read in post-course  student reflections that students had struggled with the well-being issue discussed in the course in their own personal lives. She found that her course served as a reminder to students to practice their own self-care by using the counseling support services on campus, eating healthier, or utilizing a campus resource that they might not have otherwise. Maguire-Zeiss (Neuroscience) was surprised by the lifestyle changes students reported throughout the year, as well as their plans to maintain these changes after the class concluded.

All panelists felt the Engelhard Project to be a tremendous help in brainstorming and implementing a course focused on teaching to the whole person. By connecting with health professionals and other speakers who come into classrooms and talk to students, the panelists felt like they were giving a gift of holistic teaching and learning to themselves as educators that they could then pass to their students. Being part of the Project helped them gain the confidence needed to jump into educating the whole-person.

If you are interested in learning more about educating the whole person or the Engelhard Project, we invite you to visit the Engelhard website and contact us with questions.


If you missed the 2017 Teaching, Learning and Innovation Summer Institute (TLISI) or would like to revisit a TLISI topic, follow along with us as as we feature various sessions on the Prospect blog over the course of the 2017-18 academic year. We’ll be sharing posts on the following themes: Teaching in the Jesuit Tradition, Incorporating Difficult and Timely Topics, Innovative Teaching Practices, Technology Enhanced Learning, Evidence-based Teaching and Learning, Inclusive Pedagogies, and Cross-Institutional & Cross-Departmental Collaborations. Many of the sessions were recorded and are viewable on Digital Georgetown (accessible by anyone with a Georgetown NetID). You can also find a links to all of our recorded sessions on the TLISI Resources page. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on posts and more!