Article Title

Cultivating Discernment

Document Type



Discernment is critical to Jesuit spirituality and education. Consequently, Jesuit universities should make discernment an integral part of the academic learning environment by structuring the undergraduate college experience intentionally so as to cultivate discernment. This essay gives a brief theory of discernment, explaining its relationship to education philosophy in general and to Jesuit educational goals in particular, and demonstrates how discernment can be cultivated through activity. In my conclusion I will also offer some practical suggestions for how discernment can be incorporated into the college curriculum. As a philosophy professor, I explain how the discipline of philosophy is uniquely situated to offer important contributions to the teaching of discernment, whether the discernment occurs in discipline-specific philosophy courses or in more general kinds of courses. I explain how I have incorporated discernment in my introductory philosophy and senior seminar courses. The specific goals and expectations for the students differ in each of these contexts, partly because of where students are in their intellectual and emotional maturity, and partly because of the nature of the course and the role that discernment plays within it. In both of these courses, students practice discernment through a project in which they perform an activity of their choice and reflect on the activity and their process of learning from the activity. Through these projects—in which self-directed activity and continuous guided reflection are integral to each other—students develop a habit of discernment about who they are, what they do, and what they value.



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