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Joan Lee

A pandemic-inspired approach to the IPP

One of the key tenets of the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP) is Context. Perhaps never more in my teaching career has the impact of context been more critical than in the past year. I’ve always prided myself on meeting my students “where they are,” but where were my students this past year? Some were in front of me in the classroom, others were on zoom, and some moved back and forth between “room” and “zoom” in a haphazard manner as they experienced quarantines, isolation, etc. My “normal” teaching style includes a large amount flexibility for students, so I was easily able to accommodate students who needed extensions, alternate arrangements, etc. I also, for the first time, included an extra credit opportunity for students to recommend their peers for extra credit for helping them, an idea I borrowed from a colleague at another school. This seemed particularly appropriate to recognize the ties between us, even when those ties have been strained by the pandemic. When we first pivoted to remote, I expected that Experience, another tenet of the IPP, which calls for active learning would be a challenge. Fortunately, I became familiar with break-out rooms on zoom early in the pandemic. Faculty colleagues became a true community of learners as we practiced the skill of managing the break-out rooms using fellow faculty members as “students.” The break-out rooms allowed the students on zoom to work together on problems or debate issues in small groups, much the way they would have if we were all live in the classroom. I learned that clear instructions and an appropriate time limit improved the learning in the break-out rooms. I’ve always considered Reflection as the key tenet of the IPP. That was especially true during the pandemic. Reflection gave the students a “safe space” to explore not only the content of the course, but also the context of their own experience of the course during the pandemic. The biggest challenge I experienced was in taking the Context of the students’ lives into consideration in assessing their performance, for Evaluation also is a tenet of the IPP. Recognizing the interplay between Context and Evaluation, the standard accounting approach to assessment, using three major exams, didn’t seem appropriate. So, I completely changed the way I assess my students, relying on multiple low-stakes, out of class quizzes and projects. The students responded very favorably to the change. They especially appreciated that I sought their input on how the new means of assessment were working. Perhaps most importantly, my sense is that the students actually retained more of the material since their usual cram, spew and purge model no longer applied. Other fun things about Evaluation I learned along the way: • Multiple low stakes assignments mean more grading – a lot more! • Don’t make anything due on a Friday evening or weekend. • If you ask the class if they would like an extension on a due date, they always say “yes!”