Reinert Center Hosts 4th Annual Ignatian Pedagogy Institute

DSC_0001[1]Over spring break, the Paul C. Reinert, S.J. Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning hosted its fourth annual Ignatian Pedagogy Institute. The day-long event brought together faculty and graduate students to increase and deepen their knowledge of Ignatian pedagogy as an extension of Ignatian spirituality and connected to contemporary contemplative practices. The concept of Ignatian pedagogy derives from the underlying principles, values, and actions realized in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, and is foundational to a Jesuit education.

Attendees were led through a series of reflective exercises focusing on themselves a teachers and on ways to engage their students in deeper, more intentional learning. Exercises also served as models of activities that may be adapted for a variety of disciplines and pedagogical purposes. Fr. Christopher Collins, S.J., SLU’s assistant to the president for Mission and Identity, presented on the role of the spiritual director in Spiritual Exercises.

The Ignatian Pedagogy Institute is offered in a three-year cycle, with each offering of the Institute focusing on a different aspect of Ignatian teaching: Contemplation (year one), Imagination (year two), and Discernment (year three). Attendees also are invited to join the Ignatian Pedagogy Academy, a multi-year community of practice in which faculty and graduate students meet regularly to discuss common readings and relevant topics of interest.

Academy members who complete the full three-year cycle of the Ignatian Pedagogy Institute and who participate in community of practice meetings are designated Fellows of the Ignatian Pedagogy Academy. At this year’s Institute, the Reinert Center acknowledges the first member of the Academy to complete the full cycle, Elizabeth Richard, Ph.D., associate professor in communication.

For more information on Ignatian pedagogy or on the Ignatian Pedagogy Academy, contact Gina M. Merys, Ph.D., associate director in the Reinert Center, at

Selecting and Providing Information

Icon squareby James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Transformative learning theory encourages instructors to question the meaning and purpose of information they provide to learners (Cranton & King, 2003). This requires a process of critical self-reflection on course content that can occur before, during, and after we teach. During the design phase of a course, for example, we might reflect on how different readings will prepare learners to be successful on assessment activities that support course learning outcomes. At the end of a course or lesson we might ask ourselves, “What happened here?” and “What content-related choices led to that outcome?” (Mezirow, 1991). Both reflection processes benefit learning because they enable us to critically consider “the source, nature, and consequences of relevant [information]” we provide to learners (Mezirow, 2009, p. 94). As a result, we can begin to make more intentional choices about the information we decide to include in our courses.

Questioning the meaning and purpose of course information also creates exciting opportunities for dialogue between instructor and learners about the goals of a course. This type of exchange is important for transformative learning because it invites learners to participate “freely and fully in an informed continuing discourse” about their learning (Mezirow, 2009, p. 94). By focusing on the content of the course, we can communicate to students the intention behind the choices we have made while also allowing space for learners to identify missing information (“Am I overlooking something?”) and to recommend different information (“What matters to you?”) that can also support course learning outcomes.

As we approach the middle of spring semester, try reflecting on these four information-related questions that support transformative teaching and learning:

  • What information do I provide to learners?
  • What is the meaning and purpose of that information?
  • What information do learners provide to me?
  • What is the meaning and purpose of that information?

To learn more about transformative teaching and learning, explore the Reinert Center’s theme web page here [LINK]. Please also share your thoughts on selecting and providing information for your courses – or your responses to the questions above – in the comments section below. For any inquiries about teaching-related resources or support, please contact us at


Cranton, P., & King, K. P. (2003). Transformative learning as a professional goal. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 98, 31-37.

Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mezirow, J. (2009). An overview on transformative learning. In K. Illeris (Ed.), Contemporary theories of learning: Learning theorists…in their own words (pp.90-105). New York, NY: Routlege.

New Resource Guide Available

Icon squareA new resource guide on Collaborative Assignments and Projects has been posted to the Reinert Center website [LINK].

If you want to talk with someone about collaborative assignments or projects in your own classes, you may request a teaching consultation by completing this form (LINK).

If you have ideas for resource guide topics you would like to see posted, share them here (LINK).

Reflection on Growth and Fixed mindsets: A Praxis Workshop Follow-up

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by Yang Li, Graduate Assistant, Reinert Center

A reflection on the Praxis workshop, “Harnessing Mindsets to Improve Student Success,” facilitated by Dr. Michelle Sabick on January 30, 2018.

The first time I heard about growth and fixed mindsets was in my first graduate level course. I was taught to become a change leader for a school. I used to think that as a practicing teacher, preparing principal or expert, I was supposed to know everything about my students, my school or educational field. However, I learned very quickly that there would always be things that I did not know, no matter how hard I worked to know everything. When I started to see these possible unknown areas, I found that growth mindset helps me to have a calmer and clearer state of mind to handle the challenges in my learning.

What is fixed mindset?

Fixed mindset learners in general live in a world where some are superior and some are inferior. They believe that intelligence and ability are set and cannot be changed. When they fail, it is because they are not capable, it is the fault of the other team members, or the circumstances. They avoid risks because failure is regarded as weakness (Fullan, 2011).

What is growth mindset?

Growth mindset learners learn through practice. They believe that they look for and seek growth in themselves and in others. When they make mistakes, they regard mistakes as a learning moment to improve themselves and others. They would like to take the risk because failure can indicate their inadequacies for further learning (Fullan, 2011).

How do these mindsets influence students’ performance?

According to Dr. Dweck, growth mindset learners achieve at a higher level than fixed mindset learners in general. This does not mean students with a fixed mindset cannot succeed in their academic endeavors. It means that within the top 20% of achievers, students with a growth mindset make up a greater part compared with students with fixed mindset. Students with a fixed mindset become timid to learn something new or challenging. Fear of failing reduces students’ motivation and effort in learning deeply, which will lead to students’ lower achievements. On the contrary, students with growth mindsets are more likely to take the risk to explore their limits of learning by investing more time and effort to investigate the reasons for misunderstandings or errors to solve problems. These two mindsets can be changed for instructors and students if we can have an inclusive conversation with our faculty and students at the beginning of each semester.

The mindsets of instructors’ feedback also influences deeply students’ academic achievement. There are four tips for instructors’ feedback. Firstly, do not focus feedback only on students’ talents or intelligence because talent and intelligence are stable and cannot be changed through a short period of time. Instead of emphasizing students’ talents, the feedback could emphasize more about students’ effort invested in the project or assignment and the strategies implemented in the specific situation. In addition, instructors should also provide feedback to encourage students to continue to improve their capacities in practice. Finally, instructors also can communicate with students clearly that assessment results are tools to diagnose students’ learning but are not the purpose of education. The most important part of learning is to make mistakes and take challenges to deepen their understanding.


Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset: The new psychology of Success.New York City, NY,

Ballantine Books.

Fullan, M. (2011). Change leader: Learning to do what matters most. San Francisco, CA:

John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Jesuit Universities as Sanctuaries for Truth and Justice

Conversationsby Debra Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

Although the spring issue of Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education is already out, I find myself still thinking about the fall issue, which focused on Jesuit universities as “sanctuaries for truth and justice.” (You can read the full issue here: LINK.)

From cover to cover, the Fall 2017 issue was provocative and inspiring and challenging. Articles tackled a wide range of topics (racial injustice, immigration, the current political climate), applying both legal and spiritual/moral concepts of sanctuary to advance our collective understanding of the complex roles Jesuit universities play in the lives of individuals and of societies.

Certainly, an originating impulse for the issue was the current political climate in the U.S. Many of our students continue to live in fear and uncertainty as the debate about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections rages on. Jesuit institutions have taken public stands on this important legislation (click  here for the AJCU’s Statement on DACA Rescission), and students across our institutions are embracing activism in various ways. On most campuses, faculty members have redoubled their efforts to help students learn the art and craft of sound argument-making, to “throw light on an issue” rather than “throwing verbal rocks at each other” (DiSanto and Adkins, 2017).

One passage in particular, from Howard Gray’s piece on “Sanctuary for the Heart,” has stayed with me — the idea of the university as a “sanctuary of dialogue”:

“Higher education invites the exchange of ideas, the opportunity for civilized debate, the plurality of approaches, all in the kind of climate where listening is as important as speaking. The soul of dialogue is mutuality, seeking the truth together. Higher education should provide safe places to work together to learn. Dialogue puts winning on hold . . . Dialogue needs a sanctuary.” (10).

As I continue to reflect on this passage, I wonder in what ways do we promote, teach, and model meaningful dialogue in our classrooms? How are we preparing students for the discomfort that comes in real dialogue — the discomfort of feeling challenged, of finding ourselves unsure, of not orienting ourselves toward “winning” and “losing” (hallmarks of debate, not dialogue)?

For universities — and especially Jesuit universities — to live up to their civic duty to help students continuously pursue truth and justice, we must create socially just learning environments in our courses.

If you have successful strategies for making the classroom into a refuge for authentic, respectful, rigorous dialogue, consider sharing those strategies with your SLU colleagues, in the comment section on this blog post – or in a blog post of your own.


DiSanto, Ron and Karen Adkins. “The Challenge of Making Good Logical Arguments.” Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education, Fall 2017/52. 21-23.

Gray, Howard. “Sanctuary of the Heart.” Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education, Fall 2017/52. 8-10.

Creating Instructional Videos to Scaffold Learning

Icon squareby Chris Grabau, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Within the short span of a decade, video tutorials have quickly become a common and pervasive aspect of how we share, consume, and communicate information online.  From yoga and guitar lessons, to cooking and home repair, viewers can learn all sorts of new skills through instructor-led online videos.  The tutorial video medium has become so popular that in 2015, YouTube reported over 135 million “how to” videos are hosted on their platform (“YouTube Trends: Search results for “how to”, 2018).  It should also come as no surprise to those within academia that video is now a common vehicle for instruction.   From streaming video, lecture capture, and other forms of video-related media, instructors increasingly rely on how-to videos to convey, demonstrate, and present course content to students. But what are some of the effective practices that help make online video useful for students?  Furthermore, how can instructors use video as a means to help scaffold learning?

Several research studies have identified some of the mechanical aspects of what makes a video tutorial useful for students.  A 2014 study found similarities in the types of videos students found were compelling and conducive for learning.  They noted that videos that were short in length (around 4 minutes), used a conversational language, tie directly to course assignments and assessments, and that often supplement course content are considered compelling for students (Hibbert, 2014).  Also as noted in an earlier Notebook post, a 2015 empirical study of over 6.9 million video sessions identified that videos that are shorter (under 6 minutes), have a personal feel, and that show instructor enthusiasm are often considered more engaging and interesting to students (Guo,, 2014).

However, Guo, also discovered that students watch different types of videos differently.  For instance, lecture based videos that present conceptual (declarative) knowledge are generally viewed in a continuous viewing stream whereas, students typically jump around and re-watch tutorial videos.

Understanding how students watch videos offers a great opportunity to consider how media can help scaffold learning.  Rooted in Vygotsky’s (1978) sociocultural theory of learning, scaffolding is an approach to instruction where new concepts and skills are introduced just beyond students’ existing level of performance and understanding.  Instructors provide important concepts but also provide enough support for students to practice and make meaning out of their own learning.  Video tutorials are particularly well suited to help scaffold learning because they can help introduce new concepts, processes, and skills, and also can offer students an opportunity to learn in a manner that best supports their learning needs.

Below are just a few ways to scaffold learning through the use of video tutorials.

  1. Ask students to recreate what they have watched:  Record a demonstration or a tutorial video and have students recreate what they have watched.  Have students either make their own tutorial, recreate the tutorial in their own words, or have students write about what they have watched in an online discussion board or writing assignment.
  2. Build from basic concepts:  Introduce basic concepts, step-by-step, in video form in a manner that students can understand.  Have students apply what they have learned in an online discussion or classroom assignment.
  3. Chunk course information into short video segments:  Divide course information into shorter videos by offering break points where student will have to pause and answer a few questions before moving on to the next concept.

If you would like to investigate how video tutorials can best help support your course, please schedule a teaching consultation with someone from the Reinert Center by completing the following form.  We are always happy to be a resource for you.



Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014, March). How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of mooc videos. In Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning@ scale conference (pp. 41-50). ACM.

Hibbert, M. C. (2014). What makes an online instructional video compelling? Educause Review Online.

Mayer, R. E. (2002). Cognitive theory and the design of multimedia instruction: an example of the two‐way street between cognition and instruction. New Directions for Teaching and Learning2002(89), 55-71.

Pan, G.; Sen, S.; Starrett, D. A.; Bonk, C. J.; Rodgers, M. L.; Tikoo, M.; Powell, D. V. Instructor-Made Videos as a Learner Scaffolding Tool. Online Learn. Teach.2012, 8 (4) 298–311

YouTube Trends: Search results for “how to”. (2018). Retrieved 25 January 2018, from

Vygotsky, L.S., (1978). Mind in Society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Call for Application for Innovative Teaching Fellowship

CTTL_ITF banner_sp2018The Paul C. Reinert, S.J., Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning invites applications from permanent, full-time teaching faculty for the Innovative Teaching Fellowship, which prepares and supports faculty for teaching in Saint Louis University’s Learning Studio, a highly-flexible, technology-rich experimental classroom.

This competitive, two-semester fellowship provides either a $3200.00 stipend or funding to cover a 1-course reduction in teaching in order to support course (re)design and instructional development activities during the semester prior to teaching in the Learning Studio, and classroom and ongoing instructional development support during the semester of teaching in the Learning Studio. The course development phase of the fellowship (semester one) includes participating in weekly meetings with a Reinert Center Instructional Developer; creating and/or revising course documents; and submitting a mid-term and end-of-term report on progress. The teaching phase of the fellowship (semester two) includes teaching the course in the Learning Studio, continued contact with the Reinert Center Instructional Developer, and sharing one’s fellowship experience with the larger SLU community.

The current call for applications is for the following fellowship period:

Course Development (semester 1):       Fall 2018

Course Teaching (semester 2):                Spring 2019

Faculty who wish to apply must complete all stages of the application process as described below, including: 1) attend a Pre-Application Information Session; 2) secure approval from both their department chair/program director and dean; and 3) submit a complete application no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, February 23, 2018.

Information Sessions will be held on the following dates in Des Peres Hall, room 213:

  • Wednesday, January 31, 8:30-9:30 a.m., in 213 Des Peres Hall
  • Thursday, February 1, 12:00-1:00 p.m., in 213 Des Peres Hall
  • Tuesday, February 6, 4:00-5:00 p.m., in 213 Des Peres Hall

Registration is required; to register, go to:

Detailed information about the fellowship and the application process, may be found on at

Questions about the Innovative Teaching Fellowship may be directed to Sandy Gambill at

Students-as-Producers: Exploring the Transformative Power of Student-Driven Assignments

002by Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

Last week, the Reinert Center held its annual Winter Institute, a day-long series of workshops and presentations focused on some aspect of our annual theme. This year, the focus of the event was Transformative Learning: Students as Producers.

Dr. Derek Bruff (Vanderbilt University) kicked off the day with an interactive keynote and workshop focused on the transformational value of shifting from a coverage-based instructional model to a student-centered one that strategically invites students to see themselves as producers of knowledge rather than simply as consumers of information.

Throughout his presentations, Dr. Bruff shared a wide range of concrete examples of what student-driven assignments and projects can look like. From “Twitter fiction” in a German literature course to infographics in a statistics course to podcasts in a poetry course to policy briefs in a health policy course, the examples inspired attendees to think beyond traditional papers and exams. As he shared examples, Dr. Bruff underscored three key principles that can help to ensure that student-driven projects live up to their transformational potential: open-ended problems, authentic audiences, and some degree of autonomy. In other words, students need to wrestle with real problems, for real audiences, with real power to shape the final product. When these elements are in place, student motivation can skyrocket, moving students beyond a performance-minded approach to coursework into a mastery-minded approach.

For faculty interested in incorporating a more students-as-producers approach, Dr. Bruff offered four guiding questions to jump-start the planning process:

Why this assignment in this course?

What skills will students need to practice?

How will you scaffold the assignment?

How will you grade the work?

Ultimately, for non-traditional, student-driven assignments to work, we must be intentional about how the task at hand aligns with our learning goals, how to break down the larger task into smaller components and lessons, and what successful performance will look like.

If you’re interested in incorporating a students-as-producers activity in your own courses — or in refining assignments that already place students in the role of “producer” — the Reinert Center can help you think through these four planning questions. We also can point you to existing resources in SLU’s new Academic Technology Commons that can support your students’ ability to create the kinds of assignments you’re interested in. To see Dr. Bruff’s presentations, visit his website on Agile Learning at Finally, if you’re successfully using a students-as-producers approach in a course of your own, consider writing a guest post for this blog — we’d love to highlight what you’re doing.


Congratulations to the Fall Certificate Ceremony Recipients

The Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning honored 7 Certificate in University Teaching Skills recipients and 3 Foundations Certificate in University Teaching Skills recipients at our spring ceremony on Friday, December 8, 2017 in the Sinquefield Stateroom in DuBourg Hall.

Associate professor in the Department of Psychology, Dr. Lisa Willoughby, began the ceremony by sharing a reflection on teaching with the recipients, friends, and family in attendance.

This semester’s Certificate in University Teaching Skills recipients are Cindy Bitter, Farah Habli, Shellie Hill, Sahar Joakim, Calvin Nyapete, Matthew Parker, and James Rooney. The recipients of the Foundations Certificate are Kholood Aldossary, Luis Pinto de Sals, and John Poehlmann.


The requirements for the Certificate in University Teaching Skills are themselves learning experiences that help participants to make deliberate and intentional choices about teaching. This ceremony acknowledged the time and commitment these participants gave to earning one of the Certificates. We also celebrated the dedication to teaching and learning shown by those faculty members who served as teaching mentors to the certificate recipients.

For more information about our certificates visit

2nd Issue of Technology for Teaching ejournal now available

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214The Reinert Center invites you to read the second issue of our ejournal Technology for Teaching.

Technology for Teaching is a semi-annual publication from the Instructional Developer team in Saint Louis University’s Reinert Center. Each issue will explore innovative ways technology might be used in teaching. It is available online at