One of the central aspects of Jesuit education is “Finding God in all Things.” For me, this is summarized in the experience of awe. Exclamations like, “Wow, that was so cool.” and “I wonder what would happen if…?” are recognitions that there is something greater at work.
It is amazing how much we learn without even realizing it. I have always thought that it is important for students to see how much they have learned in a class. This insight gives them a deeper appreciation for the subject and for the process of learning. A key to this process of noticing is reflection. Ignatian Spirituality teaches that reflection is also a fundamental step in maintaining a growing relationship with God.
In order to provide my students with an intentional opportunity for reflection, I ask students, near the end of the term, to think back over the course and identify a topic, experiment, or idea from the class that stirs an emotion of amazement, awe, or wonder. Students are then asked to write a reflection on their experience of wonder and awe.
After the completion of the assignment, I explain how this process of reflection, noticing, and responding with a sense of awe can be a form of prayer. Prayer does not have to be formally addressed to God and it does not have to involve an intention (the way many of us were taught in grade school). Feelings of awe and wonder bring us joy, and can be a way in which God speaks to us. When we recognize the beauty of Creation, the fact that our human minds can comprehend it, and revel in the love of learning, we experience wonder. This experience can even help us find our passion and calling.
I have found that this simple reflection activity is fruitful for all students. It can work for any discipline and at any academic level. Even students who are not as aware of the spiritual power of reflection benefit from pausing and realizing how much they have learned throughout the semester.