Lessons Learned: Building Metacognition Using the Ignatian Examen

The Ignatian Examen is a 500-year old method of contemplation, identifying patterns in our life that help us become more human and identify obstacles to that growth. Students often view organic chemistry with great fear as a gatekeeper course that will “make or break” their future in STEM. This video describes how the Examen is used weekly in a sophomore-level organic chemistry course at Fairfield University. Accompanying students through the five movements of the Examen – openness, gratitude, reflection, growth, and future – helps students discern their deepest personal and academic motivations. A short two-minute free write, directly in their notebooks, after the Examen offers students a record of their growth over the semester. Students frequently request the Examen before assessments (exams, quizzes) as a method for centering and focusing.

The Examen is a uniquely Catholic approach to remind students, especially in highly competitive prerequisite courses, that “human beings are made so that they cannot live, develop and find fulfillment except in the sincere gift of self to others. Nor can they fully know themselves apart from an encounter with other persons” [Fratelli tutti].