Details of Thesis

Title Paradoxes, Parallels and Pedagogy: A case study of Ignatian Pedagogy and of teachers’ perceptions of its implementation in Australian Jesuit Schools
Author Hayes, Christopher Xavier
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2006
Abstract In 1986 the International Commission on the Apostolate of Jesuit Education (ICAJE) produced a document titled The Characteristics of Jesuit Education. This document was an attempt to define the distinctive nature of Jesuit Education. Seven years later, Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach (1993) was written by the same body in response to the following questions: How can the principles and orientation of The Characteristics be made more useable for teachers? How can Ignatian values be incorporated into a practical pedagogy for use in the daily interactions between teachers and students in the classroom? This study investigates the nature and origins of Ignatian Pedagogy, and its implementation in Jesuit schools in Australia. The first part of the dissertation is a documentary analysis and interpretation. It traces the historical development of Ignatian Pedagogy in the context of Jesuit history and spirituality, and clarifies its purposes in relation to the educational mission of the Jesuit order. The inspiration for Ignatian Pedagogy is based on the purpose and methodology of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola. The dissertation describes the implementation of the Pedagogy within the five Jesuit schools in Australia in the period 1994 to 2000. Ignatian Pedagogy is then located and evaluated within an educational framework. Its purposes are compared and contrasted with 5 different learning theories (Behaviourist; Cognitivist; Humanist; Social Learning and Constructivist), and comparisons are also made with approaches to ‘personal change’ education such as Groome’s Shared Christian Praxis, Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Critical Pedagogy. It is shown that Ignatian Pedagogy has many points of similarity with elements in these various theories; the pedagogy was somewhat eclectic in the ideas it incorporated in trying to be faithful to the original vision of Jesuit education, while seeking to provide a coherent across-the-curriculum strategy for promoting the spiritual and moral development of pupils.The second part of the dissertation reports a qualitative empirical study of teachers’ perceptions of the Ignatian Pedagogy and its implementation in Jesuit schools. This data collection set out to investigate the level of congruence between the intentions of Ignatian Pedagogy and teachers’ perceptions of its purposes. A sample of teachers from all five Jesuit schools in Australia were interviewed in small focus groups and the data were analysed and interpreted using the method of grounded theory according to Strauss and Corbin (1990). Their responses were consistent with the findings from interviews with a selection of ‘key informants’ – very experienced educators/administrators within Jesuit schools who had a more extensive and responsible role in schools for the implementation of the Ignatian Pedagogy. 5 key themes were abstracted from the data. The core theme was the paradoxical nature of Ignatian Pedagogy. The teachers on one hand referred to it as “good teaching practice” and yet struggled to understand and implement the pedagogy. Other themes were the relational, methodological, Christian ministry and political categories. The data shows a level of congruence between the intentions of the Pedagogy, the historically stated aims and purposes of Jesuit education and the perceptions of current Australian teachers in Jesuit schools implementing the pedagogy. The data also shows problems with implementation: ecclesiastical/religious/educational terminology caused difficulties; the term ‘pedagogy’ itself resulted in misunderstandings; the politics of implementation were influential. The study shows that Ignatian Pedagogy as an attempt to sustain and develop the vision of Jesuit education for the lay people who now constitute the teaching staff in Jesuit schools incorporated ideas that are also prominent in other theories of education for personal change. Also, because of the natural complexities and uncertainties in links between pedagogy and actual spiritual/moral change in pupils, Ignatian Pedagogy, like other intentional spiritual/moral pedagogies, (e.g., critical pedagogy, values education), exhibits common problems with its conceptualisation and implementation. Ignatian Pedagogy is best interpreted as a ‘global ministry perspective’ informing teaching across the curriculum. The study helps put Ignatian Pedagogy into perspective within the context of contemporary Australian education. It shows how an educational thrust towards the development of critical thinking, social awareness and responsibility has been attempted within Jesuit education. The dissertation concludes with proposed implications for the more effective presentation and implementation of Ignatian Pedagogy. While these implications have particular relevance for Jesuit schools and religious schools in general, they also relate to the contemporary interest in the spiritual and moral dimensions to Australian education as evident in the national Values Education programme.
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