Learning to teach: GSAS's New seminar in jesuit pedagogy
For the last four years, the Seminar in Jesuit Pedagogy at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has empowered students to develop teaching philosophies rooted in the 500-year-old Ignatian tradition.
In the spring of 2006, Fordham University’s Graduate school of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) began planning for a new Jesuit pedagogy seminar for advanced doctoral students. It is an interdisciplinary class to explore how Jesuit pedagogy, a nearly 500-year-old tradition, could enhance classroom teaching and individual teaching philosophies.
The seminar, which is taken after the individual departments’ pedagogy classes, has quickly become an important part of GSAS’s curriculum. This past February, Michael Baur, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy, Moshe Gold, Ph.D., associate professor of English and director of the Writing Program at Rose Hill, and Christine Hinze, Ph.D., professor of theology, received the 2011 Award for Distinguished Contribution to Graduate Education for their work in preparing a new generation of teacher scholars through the seminar.
Instead of simply teaching the concepts behind Jesuit pedagogy, the class’s three professors—all from different departments—focus on how graduate students can effectively apply these techniques in their own classrooms, in any higher education setting.
Alexander Buzick, a doctoral student in classics, said the seminar made him reevaluate his place in the classroom.
“[It] changed the way I teach,” he said, “—and the way that I will teach regardless of whether or not I teach at a Jesuit school.”
Danielle Spratt, a doctoral student in English, said she is most inspired by the concepts of cura personalis (care for the whole person) and homines pro aliis (men and women for others).
“These concepts helped me clarify what my foundational goals were for the classes that I teach,” said Spratt, who recently accepted a tenure-track position at California State University, Northridge. “My goal, as a teacher inspired by these concepts, means that I won’t simply teach to the middle, but will address all of my students’ learning needs.”
Jane Van Slembrouck, a doctoral student in English and current director of the Rose Hill Writing Center, is drawn to the idea of eloquentia perfecta, which she describes as a mindfulness to precision in writing, and a belief that writing can lead to personal growth and even to social change.
“I appreciate the implicit idea that when you treat your students with care and respect,” said Van Slembrouck, “you’re not just being nice; you’re actually facilitating learning.”
Like Spratt, Van Slembrouck said that Jesuit pedagogy has helped shape her own personal teaching philosophy.
“[It has] helped me focus my efforts as a teacher,” she said. “It envisions learning as a process of stirred curiosity, discovery through action and knowledge savored through reflection.
When outcomes are less important than the individual’s experience of learning and discovery, we can rethink what it means to be educated, what it means to learn. This makes us reflect on our own experience of learning as well. I never want to get so far into teaching that I forget what it’s like to be the student.”
Buzick, Spratt and Van Slembrouck all point to the interdisciplinary nature of the new Jesuit pedagogy class, which includes observing teachers from other departments, as one of its most “We can get so insulated in our disciplines,” Van Slembrouck said, “that we forget—or we can’t visualize—the really exciting teaching that’s happening in other disciplines, the creative ways that instructors are linking challenging concepts with great pedagogical strategies.”
Spratt echoes this when she explains that the graduate students “were able to enhance our own interdisciplinary approaches by viewing our colleagues in action. There’s no doubt that all of the participants emerged as stronger teachers and members of our respective departments as a result.”
The Jesuit pedagogy class empowers graduate students as they adapt to their new roles as teachers. But, just as importantly, the philosophies that they have made their own will go on to empower their future students, wherever they may teach.
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