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In February this year a group of teachers from Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview attended a workshop “Learning by Refraction” led by Fr. Johnny Go in Sydney.  We were all thoroughly engaged and enthusiastic in aiming towards bringing this re-imagined Ignatian Pedagogy to our staff. However, Covid 19 meant staff were immersed in a new range of professional learning activities to provide online learning for our students and our plans were delayed. At the commencement of this term we were able to focus on embracing “Learning by Refraction” during a Staff Development day developed by our Head of Professional Learning, Jennifer Jackson. Zoom webinar, smaller face-to-face workshop groups and Faculty discussions were held during the day.

We have staff who are relatively new to our school as well as a number of long-serving teachers who were involved in the initial implementation of Ignatian Pedagogy and so we needed to establish the context of Ignatian Pedagogy. This was provided by the Worldwide Secretary for Education of the Society of Jesus, Father Jose Mesa in his video presentation on “The Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm 25 Year Anniversary”.

This was followed by a keynote address by Father Johnny Go, Secretary for Secondary and Pre-secondary Education JCAP, where he referred to the original Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm published in 1993 and the work that practitioners were doing all over the globe. His presentation highlighted the intention he and co-author, Rita J. Atienza, had by reviewing and reflecting on the document in the light of subsequent changes in educational theory and practice. The Insights of practitioners gathered over 25 years have led to “Learning by Refraction: A Practitioner’s Guide”, the title being a fresh approach and a metaphor for the type of learning we wish to have in our schools.

The importance of Reflection and Action in Jesuit education, is re-emphasised by using “Refraction”. The re-imagined approach also enables the best of contemporary teaching practices to be adopted and this was integrated by a presentation by our Dean of Studies, Lloyd Walker, on the links between contemporary educational theory and Ignatian Pedagogy.  We were reminded that Ignatian Pedagogy is not merely a series of slogans. It is a challenge for us to re-invent Ignatian Pedagogy in a changing world so that the characteristics of an Ignatian education are evident in practical way in our classrooms.

Father Go’s keynote address prompted much discussion on “refraction” and the changes in education since the first introduction of Ignatian pedagogy 25 years ago.

A short video provided an overview of the three essential learning relationships and the 6 E’s of learning. Staff then moved into the following workshops groups:

  1. Teacher and their world – expertise and enthusiasm
  2. Teacher and the learner – empathy and engagement
  3. Learner and their world – engagement and excellence

In each workshop facilitators engaged teachers in a variety of thinking routines such as Think-Pair-Share, See Think Wonder, Peel the Fruit, and the North-South Compass activity to name a few. Teachers also recorded their ideas on Google docs, Padlet and Post-it notes and these ideas will form the basis for further development.

When our students are ‘learning by refraction’ our aim is to lead them to develop insights into their learning, hence gaining greater depth of understanding. To assist teachers in planning for Insights, the next workshop introduced Insights through a series of fun puzzles.  Examples of personal, cognitive and metacognitive insights from a variety of academic disciplines were provided leading to lively discussion amongst staff.

Armed with new knowledge, or for some renewing and deepening their prior understanding of Ignatian Pedagogy, staff broke into Faculty groups to develop overarching insights for their discipline.

Staff completed a feedback survey at the conclusion of the day and the overwhelming response showed staff were enthusiastic and excited to be immersed in “Learning by Refraction”. Some staff also felt that a significant amount of information had been presented in a short period of time. To enable staff to thoroughly engage in “Learning by Refraction” future professional learning days this term and next year will be devoted to going into depth on the 6 E’s and insights so that our staff and students are drawn to Human Excellence.