Annotations: Ignatian Pedagogy

Although Ignatius and his early companions did not originally intend to establish universities, his humanistic spirituality provided a unique vision for higher education. This vision embraces a holistic view of students and seeks to engage the whole person—intellect and affect, heart and mind—through education. Inspired by Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, which invites participants into a dynamic experience of discovery through a prayerful consideration of one’s life and sense of meaning and responsibility, the Ignatian approach to education involves an interplay of experience, analysis, and reflection. 

The Ignatian pedagogical paradigm, first articulated in 1993 in the context of naming characteristics of Jesuit higher education, describes a cyclical process connecting context, experience, reflection, action, evaluation. Like critical pedagogies rooted in the insight of Paolo Friere, an Ignatian approach begins with the learner’s prior knowledge, questions, and lived experience. Within this view, learning occurs as a construction of knowledge rather than acquisition of information. Ignatian pedagogy shares insights from theories on experiential learning that recognize the significance of encounter and action in shaping knowledge. Rooted in an Ignatian vision of the learner as a whole person, emphasis is placed on reflection that engages the cognitive and affective dimensions of the student in the construction of knowledge. Finally, Ignatian pedagogy is praxis-oriented, recognizing that reflection and action are interconnected and dynamic. Like the circle of praxis, the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm resists a linear view of education and invites ongoing evaluation of one’s knowledge in light of new encounters and experiences. 

Faculty across disciplines have embraced Ignatian pedagogy as a tool for effective and transformative learning. It fosters inclusive and student-centered teaching as well as active inquiry. It also aligns with the University’s approach to community-engaged learning (CEL) by fostering social analysis, critical reflection on experience, and action for the common good.  

As we deepen our engagement with the mission, we might ask ourselves the following: 

  • What makes teaching and learning at USF transformative? 
  • How are community partners empowered as co-educators in their work with USF students? 
  • What are best practices for cultivating depth of thought and imagination in student learning?

Resources (n.d.). “Who Was Paulo Freire?” Freire Institute. (n.d.). The Spiritual Exercises. Loyola Press.

Korth, Sharon J. (n.d.). “Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach.” Department of Education, Xavier University.

O’Malley S.J., John W. (Spring 2015). “Jesuit Schools and the Humanities Yesterday and Today.” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, Seminar on Jesuit Spirituality. Vol. 47, No. 1.

University of San Francisco. (n.d.). “Community-Engaged Learning at USF.” University of San Francisco.

Zheng, (Jessica) Lu, and Vicki Rosen. (November 2015). “Practicing Ignatian Pedagogy: A Digital Collection of Resources.” Gleeson Library, Geschke Center, University of San Francisco.