Old wine in new skin: Ignatian pedagogy, compatible with and contributing to Jesuit higher education

Joseph Anthony DeFeo, Fordham University


The Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (Ignatian pedagogy) forms the very core of Jesuit education for it is grounded in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and combines an Ignatian vision of the human being and the world with a dynamic five-step methodology of context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation. Through an online quantitative survey of administrators in centers of teaching and learning at Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, this study examined the extent to which administrators are making available and appropriating Ignatian pedagogy and the contributions it might make to the current pedagogical literature for Jesuit higher education. It explored whether similar components within Ignatian pedagogy are fostered through other pedagogical approaches including, John Dewey's philosophy of education, critical pedagogy, feminist pedagogy, Service-Learning, adult learning theory, and Fink's taxonomy of significant learning. Results indicate the majority of administrators are very familiar with, and offer programs on, Ignatian pedagogy. They unanimously care for the Jesuit mission and nearly all believe in providing pedagogical resources that foster the Jesuit mission. The literature review identified connections between Ignatian pedagogy and several pedagogical approaches while administrators' made the majority of connections between Ignatian pedagogy and Service-Learning and Adult Learning. More than three-fourths administrators promote three Ignatian teaching methodological elements, Context, Experience, and Reflection, while more than one-half promote the element Action. Greater than two-thirds provide programs that foster the development of the whole person, service to others, and social justice—core Jesuit values. Further, more than three-fourths of Center administrators believe Ignatian pedagogy is viable for higher education. These results positively affirm the validity and viability of Ignatian pedagogy, a nearly 500 year-old Jesuit educational tradition and way of proceeding, in light of 21st century higher education pedagogical knowledge and practices. Recommendations include: increasing faculty knowledge of, accessibility to, and opportunities for critique and debate of, Ignatian pedagogy; expanding student evaluation to incorporate maturation and moral growth; and expanding pedagogical practices to include spiritual development. Other recommendations include mission development through pedagogical development, and formally requiring lay faculty, staff, and administrators to take ownership of, and responsibility for, fostering the Jesuit mission.

Subject Area

Curriculum development|Higher education|Education philosophy

Recommended Citation

DeFeo, Joseph Anthony, "Old wine in new skin: Ignatian pedagogy, compatible with and contributing to Jesuit higher education" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3361350.