Ignatian Pedagogy: Integration of Life Science into K-8 Classrooms

Sara Baltz, MS Biology
Mentor: Hem Raj Joshi, MS, Ph.D. Mathematics

Prior to beginning the Ignatian Mentoring Program (IMP) I knew very little about Ignatian pedagogy. Upon meeting with my mentor and doing research, I discovered that the pedagogy builds upon what many of us already do as educators. For this program, I decided to focus on a non-major biology course I teach, entitled "Introduction to Life Science for K-8 Education Majors" (BIOL130/131). I feel that working with future educators gives me a special platform to model skills that I hope they gain as they venture into their own classrooms. Elementary and middle school educators play an extremely important role in developing young scientists and a scientifically literate public. I believe it is especially important that my students come out of this course having the skills to reflect on prior knowledge and newly gained insights to put them into action in their lives and future classrooms.

This course runs in the fall every year and is a 2-credit lecture and 1-credit lab class that introduces the basic principles of biology that any K-8 teacher should know. When I took over the course, I started out by not changing the format from the prior year's instructor. From that experience, I felt I had a good grasp of the goal of the course and the following year I began making changes and implemented two new assignments: (1) lesson plans and (2) a project based on "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn. After some self-reflection and student feedback, I opted to keep the lesson plans, but due to time constraints I removed the Ishmael Project.

Now that I've gone through the IMP and learned more about Ignatian pedagogy, I believe that for subsequent years the Ishmael Project is worth implementing again, in some format. Details of the lesson plans and Ishmael project are provided below.

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Taking Time to Think: Bringing Reflection and Discernment into the Freshman Biology Laboratory

Heather Balyeat Ph.D.
Mentor: Rhonda Norman, Ed.D, LPCC-s, LICDI, CDFI

The Ignatian mentoring program gave me an opportunity to explore Ignatian pedagogy in an intentional way. I teach many freshmen in a difficult subject. Significant numbers of my students struggle, not just with passing, but also with making high enough grades to pursue their goals of medical school. Part of the reason I joined the mentoring program was in search of ideas that can help these students not just improve grades, but to also help them learn to deal with how their dreams might need to change. Working with my mentor, Rhonda Norman, I soon narrowed in on the Ignatian pedagogical concepts of reflection and discernment as a focus.

Acknowledgements: I want to thank my mentor, Rhonda Norman. Her insights into students and teaching were of great inspiration. I thoroughly enjoyed our coffee breaks, and ended up feeling much more integrated into our University community.

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Challenging Students' Preconceived Notions on Evolution

Neema Nourian, M. Sci.
Mentor: Roy J. Cohen, Ph. D. (Chemistry)

When I was offered the opportunity to participate in the Ignatian Mentoring Program, I was, to be honest, initially hesitant to join the program, because at the time I was afraid that the goal of the program was religious indoctrination. This reservation stemmed from the fact that up until then I knew very little about Ignatian pedagogy. At the same time, this lack of knowledge, along with my inherent curiosity, eventually motivated me to join the program and learn more about Ignatian pedagogy.

As a result of participation in the program, reading multiple articles, and several meetings with my mentor Roy Cohen, I quickly learned that the Ignatian approach to education, and to life in general, can offer valuable practical wisdom, even for a non-religious person like me. Consequently, I decided to apply the Ignatian approach in the spring semester of 2009 to a course that I teach and coordinate every spring semester: General Biology II Laboratory (BIO 163; 8 sections; 140 students; 5 different instructors).

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Beyond the Book Report: Reflecting on Social, Ethical, and Environmental Issues in General Biology II

Ann M. Ray, PhDAnn M. Ray, PhD
Mentor: Thomas G. Merrill, D.M.A. (Music)

The course
General Biology II (GBII) is the second in a two-semester sequence of introductory courses required of all first year biology, natural sciences, and environmental science majors. This course satisfies core requirements for chemistry, physics, and math/computer sciences majors. This course provides a survey of evolution, population genetics, ecology, animal behavior, biodiversity, and conservation biology.

The students
In spring 2012, the enrollment in my section was 40 students, and the majority of the students were freshmen. All of the students in my section this semester were traditional-aged students.

The challenge
During GBII, it is necessary to cover a large amount of factual material to prepare the students for upper-level courses. Thus, there is little or no time during class meetings to reflect upon the moral implications of the topics that we cover, and students are not always aware of the relevance of GBII to the "real world". Moreover, previously I had believed that it would be a challenge to directly address Ignatian values/concepts during a science survey course without seeming artificial or preachy.

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