by Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center
New academic years are filled with promise. All choices are open to us. We aim high, sure that the hectic pace of the old year has passed and we can finally achieve our most aspirational goals. It doesn’t take long for the calendar to fill and our best hopes to be tempered by the stack of essays to grade, the publication deadlines, the committee meetings. . . .
As we begin a new year, the Reinert Center team is renewing its fundamental commitments to our core values [LINK] and practices [LINK]. We are also looking back on our first twenty years as a formal teaching center and ushering in our third decade of service to SLU faculty and graduate students. This milestone is exciting for us. It gives us opportunities to reflect on our history. (You can read more about that in earlier blog posts here [LINK] and here [LINK] or on the History page on our website [LINK].) Perhaps even more importantly, it creates new energy to reflect on our future, on the future of higher education, the future of teaching and learning at SLU. As we renew our founding commitments, we’ll also continue to explore new ways to fulfill our vision to form and transform teachers, learners, and learning environments.
As you begin anew, we invite you to reflect on what it means to engage in the work of formation and transformation. For many of us, the vocation of teaching is partly about this commitment to formation; it is about helping learners grow as humans, not just about helping students learn course content. This year, the Reinert Center will focus a series of events and online resources on different aspects of transformative learning — what it is, what conditions create the potential for it, what methods and course designs promote it, and what technologies can support it.
We believe all learning involves change, but transformative learning occurs when learners themselves are changed by their learning experiences. In the classroom, this means students learn to master the content and skills needed for success in a discipline, and they also experience this learning as a shift in perspectives, in frames of reference – about themselves, their beliefs, and their actions. We believe the commitment to creating transformative learning experiences is fundamentally Ignatian. It is not limited to students, nor is it about influencing learners’ ideological views. Its purpose is to create meaningful learning experiences that have the potential to go beyond content and skills to foster in the learner a desire for more – and deeper – learning.
If you’re interesting in exploring – or contesting or expanding – ideas about transformative learning, stay connected during the year. We’ll hold various events [LINK] connected to this theme and develop new online resources (which we’ll post to our theme webpage here [LINK]). We even invite you to share your own reflections on transformative learning in this blog. (Contact the Reinert Center at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in contributing a guest blog post.
Before your committee meetings and essays and publication deadlines begin to pile up, take a moment to renew your commitment to student-focused, transformational teaching. If we can support you in that commitment, don’t hesitate to call upon us.