Finally, the long-planned Learning by Refraction/Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP) Trainers’ Training Workshop organized by Jesuit European Committee for Primary and Secondary Education (JECSE) was held from October 3 to7, 2022 in El Campello, Alicante, Spain. Coming from 17 countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific, a total of 42 educators converged in Casa Salesiano for this truly global program, hosted by our friends from Educación Jesuitas (EDUCSI).

Participants from Ireland, Spain, and Portugal discuss their module designs and offer one another constructive feedback.

Fr. Johnny Go SJ and Rita Atienza, the authors of the book Learning by Refraction: A Practitioner’s Guide to 21st-Century Ignatian Pedagogy, flew in from Manila to conduct this trainers’ training. This course is a follow-up to the partially online IPP Writeshop held in Barcelona, Spain in October last year, the fully online “Learning by Refraction” Masterclass, and the introductory workshop in Dublin in 2020 right before the Pandemic.

Rita Atienza (Philippines) guides the participants for their project for the workshop.

You could say that Fr. Johnny and Rita tried to walk the “Learning by Refraction” talk by waiting and watching in the wings as the trainees took center stage and conducted most of the teaching. Inputs were kept to a minimum, presented only to provoke the participants or to clarify particular points.

Grainne Delaney (Ireland) shares what they have produced as a result of the task designed by the group of Yolanda Baquero, Minerva Porcel, and Javier Valdes (Spain).

The participants came well-prepared with their homework. A few months before Alicante, they were instructed to form groups and design a module introducing a topic on “Learning by Refraction.” The objective was for the trainees precisely to “learn by doing.”

Participants from Malta discuss their design in preparation for their presentation: Fr. Jimmy Bartolo SJ with John Paul Vella, Gabby Abela, and Precovia Deidun.

The workshop provided them many opportunities to revisit their designs, as well as to give feedback to other groups. Many participants found this chance to collaborate and critique one another’s work very helpful.

Each group was paired with another, and using the rubric they agreed to use, feedback was exchanged in order to help one another improve their design.
Fr. Johnny Go (Philippines) proposes some reflection questions for the participants.
The workshop was designed to be instructive but also enjoyable, as evident in the faces of Lar Duffy (Ireland), Gellert Merza (Educate Magis), and Adrian O’Neill (Ireland).
The delegates from France and from Croatia present their modules to one another.

The participants worked very hard throughout the five days. Many confessed that they had been stressed about their presentation since they wanted to do a good job, but immediately felt relief the moment they received the supportive and constructive feedback from their colleagues.

Sarah Reubens (Belgium) shares ideas with Gabby Abela (Malta), while Javier Valdes (Spain) chats with Caspar van Papendrecht (Netherlands).

It was great to see the enthusiasm of the participants for Ignatian Pedagogy. One participant, speaking of the interplay between the learner, world, and teacher, had this to say: “It can ground teachers, give them something practical and meaningful to work with. It is also extremely important for today’s particular context and young people, because it offers them a way of learning that runs counter to the shallow, superficial values they are immersed in.”

Many embraced their new role as learning designers and this updated approach to the IPP: “Learning by Refraction will definitely help me design more effective teaching that aims to shape my students into responsible conscientious future generations. I will no longer teach just the content to my students, but how to prepare themselves for the real world with a different Ignatian perspective.”

Geert Schoeters (Belgium) checks with the participants during her group’s module.

The participants also got the chance to visit the College of the Immaculate, a Jesuit school in Alicante, where Johnny and Rita presented “Learning by Refraction” to the faculty, but the participants were able to interact with the faculty and share experiences and insights with them.

Fr. Johnny and Rita introduce “Learning by Refraction” to the faculty of College of the Immaculate.
Inspiring conversations between the participants and the teachers in the Jesuit school in Alicante.
Pablo Miñano (second from right), the newly appointed Principal of the school, not only presented the innovation efforts, but also led us in a guided tour of the city, capped by a sumptuous dinner!
The group composed of participants from Spain, Portugal, and Timor Leste hard at work: Pedro Valente (Portugal), Juan Rueda (Spain), Isaias Caldas (Timor Leste), and Alberto Gilsanz (Spain – partially hidden).
Our friends from the Netherlands worked hard but also played hard. Caspar and Dorien van der Deijl went swimming almost every morning.

Asked about their most valuable takeaway from the trainers’ training workshop, one participant responded this way: The key importance of clear insights and action goals is one main one, and this took some time to understand. The importance of a good design for an effective learning experience.”

One participant may as well have spoken for everyone when she summed up the entire experience by saying: “It makes not only learning but also teaching even more meaningful than before. It helps us teachers clarify our goals and offer better learning experiences to our students. It motivates me to reflect more and I also believe that if we try to apply the IPP approach, our students will enjoy and appreciate learning more. Last but not least, the network that was developed to connect us teachers has great potential and will in the future hopefully become even more important and a wonderful source of many different materials and insights to share.”

Despite the fact that English was not the first language of many, the participants were enthusiastic, actively participating in the workshop.

A bonus for the workshop was the presence of Isaias Caldas SJ (Timor Leste) and our four colleagues representing FLACSI: Hugo Gomez SJ (Colombia), Fernando Guidini (Brazil), Natalia Patiño (Ecuador), and Felipe Carrillo (Executive Secretary of FLACSI). Thanks to their participation, the workshop conversations were further enriched by the wider diversity of contexts and experiences.

Our friends from Latin America brainstorm ideas in preparation for conducting their module.

The hands-on training course was the first of its kind to be organized for Learning by Refraction. It has not only provided a template for future trainings (the next one is in Australia!), but has also strengthened a truly global Ignatian professional learning community among those who attended.

The workshop closed appropriately with a meaningful Eucharistic Celebration led by Fr. Johnny, along with the other Jesuit priests, Fr. Hugo (Colombia), who preached, Fr. Jimmy Bartolo SJ (Malta), Fr. Isaias (Timor Leste), and Fr. Stefano Corticello (Albania).

Fr. Jimmy (Malta) led the blessing to mission the participants to their respective schools and regions.

Congratulations to JECSE Director, Agnieszka Baran, along with JECSE Deputy Director, Brian Flannery, and host, Miguel Poza Mateos, who all worked hard behind the scenes to make sure that the workshop would run smoothly. Special thanks as well to Agnieszka who was also our unofficial photographer!

Miguel Poza and Yolanda Baquero (both from Spain) join Brian Flannery (Ireland) in leading the discussion on next steps.
The facilitators, organizers, and participants in the customary class picture.

Article written by Fr Johnny Go SJ, Ms Rita Atienza. All images courtesy of Agnieszka Baran.

The text was originally published on: (17 Oct 2022)