A Shared Vision

A Shared Vision – Andragogical approach to pastoral care in boarding

“Every day when you walk back to the (boarding) house you know there’s a place where you belong” – Lord Wandsworth

Boarding staff are tasked with ensuring that the young men and women under their care develop into life-long learners with the ability to cope and thrive in an ever changing world. Many boarding houses, or the educational institutions they are associated with, try and develop these necessary skills and capabilities through a well defined pastoral care programme. A student-centred approach to pastoral care delivery needs to be governed by a set of learning goals that scaffold a pedagogical delivery of lessons throughout the year. Although this delivery method may expose boarding students to what is deemed necessary to cope and thrive in an ever changing world, it does not however, take into consideration their pervious experiences, background knowledge, personal situations and their social environment. This safe pedagogical scaffolding is transferred into the boarding environment as boarding communities engage their boarding students to become independent, self-motivated life-long learners. This direction often focuses on developing these skills and capabilities during their structured study/homework times, where boarding staff are again able to rely on safe pedagogical scaffolding of the academic curriculum to assist them in this delivery. Although these methods are tried and proven over decades of use they are not meeting the needs of the 21st Century student. Students will require the capability to effectively apply skills and competencies to new situations in an ever changing world (The World Bank, 2003; Kuit & Fell, 2010). As boarding students embrace the development of Web 2.0, cloud based collaboration, eLearning, flipped classrooms, and the use of social media, the traditional pedagogical pastoral care delivery methods of the 20th Century are no longer fully preparing students for a the digital and competitive global workforce.

The content of these aforementioned pastoral care programs is still applicable to the social, emotional and academic wellbeing of an adolescent boarding student. However, the delivery of these programmes needs to be assessed against, and adjusted to take into consideration the needs of the 21st Century student – that is Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication and Collaboration[1]. These skills rely on the student centred approach rather than the content-orientated pedagogical approach of the 20th Century. An andragogical approach needs to be considered where the learning is more transformational and self-directed.

As a boarding student matures and reflects on their life experiences in relation to their self-perception, beliefs and lifestyle, the boarder’s perspective is adjusted and transformative learning occurs. The primary role of boarding staff should therefore be that of mentor, supporting the boarder in developing the capacity to become more self-directed in their learning. Through the use of established goals and problem solving using real world situations, staff guide students along a transformational learning pathway. This andragogical approach is underpinned by 8 skills students must have for the future (Figure 1) learning to more heutagogical practices (self-determined) to support a boarding student’s post secondary education.

8 C's

Figure 1 – 8 Skills for the Future


There is a natural progression across the three approaches which allow for student to become life-long learners with the ability to cope and thrive in an ever changing world. In all cases there is an extension from one approach to the next which is determined by the student’s maturity level, involvement from staff (autonomy) and the programme structure. The matrix below outlines the progression from pedagogy to heutagogy.

Progression: Pedagogy – Andragogy – Heutagogy.


  1. Self-determined
  2. Capability based
  3. Boarding student-directed
  4. High autonomy
  5. High maturity
  6. Low boarding staff involvement
  7. Low programme structuring

  1. Self-directed
  2. Competency based
  3. Boarding staff-boarding student directed
  4. Andragogy sits in the mid-range for autonomy, maturity, boarding staff involvement and programme structuring.

  1. Boarding student focused
  2. Content-orientated
  3. Low autonomy
  4. Low maturity
  5. High boarding staff involvement
  6. High programme structuring

The matrix highlights the importance of cognitive development and maturity of the boarding student when assessing the introduction of an andragogical pastoral care programme. The social and emotional journey of each boarding student will be different and this will ultimately affect, and be reflected in their cognitive development and maturity. Therefore a boarding student may enter this style of pastoral care programme at any stage, as it is not necessarily determined by their age or grade level. However, it does stand to reason that boarding students in the later years of their secondary education would be more suited to this style of programme. Given these parameters, staff training and their ability to dedicate the necessary time in mentoring boarding students is an important consideration should a boarding community wish to commence this type of programme.

As I research andragogical practice further and begin to develop a sustainable model for staff training, the unique role of a boarding staff member as loco parentis becomes more apparent. The guidance, support, and feedback given by the boarding student’s primary pastoral carer is fundamental in ensuring the students mental and physical wellbeing. This sustained state of wellbeing further enhances their ability to learn effectively and their connectedness with their boarding and school community. I am excited by the opportunities this programme represents in developing a shared vision for pastoral care and wellbeing within any boarding community and assisting boarding students develop into lifelong learners equipped for the 21st Century.

[1] These 4 C’s are also mentioned in the ISTE Standard for Digital Citizenship


Your choice of words is important

Your choice of words is important

Many of you will have noticed that with the increased access to the internet, mobile phones and over 250 different global social media platforms the way in which people interact, talk, and behave has changed dramatically from a decade ago. What was once considered anti -social or offensive is now seen by some as more socially acceptable. The use of profanities, or swearing, is seen by many as one of the areas that has crossed over into a socially acceptable grey area. With the increased use of swearing within digital and print media, movies and digital games many people feel that the use of these words in the public and amongst mixed company is becoming more socially acceptable. Before I explore this statement further I would like to point out some scientific facts about “swearing”:

a) By the time a child starts school they know 30 – 40 swear words. Although the true meaning of some of these words are not always known,

b) The majority of swearing is done by adolescents, and unfortunately, male adolescents,

c) An increased use of swearing or profanities in conversation can be linked to an abnormal, impaired and slow development of the frontal lobe,

d) On average swearing makes up 0.5% of most people’s daily conversation (higher for those identified in c) above),

e) It is sometimes associated with a lack of creativity and a small vocabulary.

f) There is currently no link between swearing around children and their use of swear words or profanities. Most children will know some type of swear word or profanity by the time they are 2 years of age regardless of their exposure.

g) Exposure to swearing has increased, although there is no link between this increased exposure and an increased use of swearing.

The use of swear words and profanities is diverse and common in all cultures. They are often used to achieve some type of communication outcome such as, telling jokes or stories, stress management, fitting in with a crowd, a substitute for physical aggression or pain tolerance. The context, use and acceptability of swearing and profanities is ultimately determined by a community’s own moral and ethical values, and what they will considered to be socially acceptable.

Educational institutions recognise, promote and develop the values of courtesy, consideration, tolerance for others and respect for all. As a community these moral and ethical values usually support the institutions Mission and Vision. All educational institutions recognise that individuals will live their lives by certain standards and values in private. However, within the educational community of a school there is an expectation that all students live by the underpinning moral and ethical values and to maintain socially acceptable standards. These values are holistically maintained by the academic staff, school community and enforced by the Executive team. The moral and ethical values of the 21st Century student will ultimately be termed by the success of this holistic approach.

Engaging and Leading a Professional Staff

Engaging and leading a professional staff

“You need to wake up to the fact that if you’re not engaging your employees, you’re hurting them – and your company” Tucker Robertson CEO – CDL Helpers

In any organisation a critical factor underpinning its success, and the sustainability of that success, is employee engagement. The ability for a leader to communicate and develop a culture of engagement based on the organisations values and vision is central to ensuring that the employees are connected and in tune with what is important to that organisation. If employees are not engaged it will come through in their motivation, quality and accountability of their work.

Engagement of employees does not rely on a leader to display autocratic, top-down control. This by its very nature tends to have the reverse effect of demotivating and demoralising employees. The leader’s use of strong interpersonal skills to develop a professional culture based on empowerment, support, respect, competence and relatedness are major traits in providing the employees with the necessary connectedness to the organisations values and vision. These five traits not only add to the overall connectedness within the organisation but also increase productive employee engagement. In John Adair’s book “Lexicon of Leadership – The definitive guide to leadership skills and knowledge” , he tables the eight principles of motivation, of which number 5 is – Remember that progress motivates. For employees to be making progress towards a meaningful goal or vision produces greater productive employee engagement which leads to greater job satisfaction and organisation connectedness.

“When employees are not engaged, they generally aren’t paying attention to their work, and tend to be apathetic about their jobs” Orin Davis, Principal Investigator – Quality of Life Laboratory

The question still remains – How does a leader communicate and develop this culture of engagement, linked to the organisations values and vision? Throughout my leadership experiences in educational organisations I have found the Functional Leadership Model has greatly assisted me in developing a culture of productive and professional engagement amongst staff. It has enabled me to develop and communicate a shared vision, and transfer this vision into reality. The Functional Leadership Model, and its three areas of need, and how vision (leaders role) is used to encompass these needs is shown below in Figure 1.


Figure 1 – Functional Leadership Model

In order to fully appreciate this model one must first understand that the three areas of need are not separate or static, they are interactive and dynamic. The vision, which is linked to the organisations values and vision, is used to maintain the areas of need, and these in turn support the vision.

The vision enables the leader to communicate their task to the team and individual, giving them direction and the ability to develop this task into reality. The leader, team and individuals are able to monitor their progress based on how effectively they are maintaining the vision. The primary function of the leader is to maintain, communicate and support the vision. The leader also needs to ensure they are supporting and informing the team or individuals on the progress of the task and how this progress is achieving the vision. By continually celebrating team or individual successes and progress, the leader is able to promote organisation connectedness and productive employee engagement. The leader’s effective use of strong interpersonal skills and the five major traits of empowerment, support, respect, competence and relatedness across the three areas of need are central in achieving employee connectedness and engagement.

“We asked the students how they could best represent themselves and the school in a way that would make a difference. My mantra was that staff and student leaders should pledge to leave the school a better place than when we arrived. We should all make a mark.” Ray McLean


Blanchard, K. et.al. (1993). The One Minute Manager builds high performing teams. Harper Collins, London.

Collis, J. (1995). Work smarter not harder. Harper Collins, London.

Stark, P. and Flaherty, J. (2011). The Competent Leader. HRD Press, Massachusetts.

Stark, P. and Flaherty, J. (2010). The only leadership book you’ll ever need. Career Press, New Jersey.

Sutton, R. PhD (2012). Good Boss, Bad Boss. Business Plus, New York.


Adair, J. (2005). How to grow Leaders. Kogan Page Limited, London.

Adair, J (2011). Lexicon of Leadership – the definitive guide to leadership skills and knowledge. Kogan Page Limited, London.

McLean, R. (2010). Team Work – forging links between honesty, accountability and success. Penguin Group, Australia.

My educational leadership journey

Life is no brief candle, but a splendid torch to be made burn ever more brightly.

Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop AC, CMG, OBE

The educational leadership journey I have followed has seen me develop a transparent vision I share with my colleagues and those I report to. My Vision is to;

“Support and encourage all students within an educational atmosphere built on tolerance and mutual respect, so they are able to achieve to their full potential and develop into self-managed, and self-motivated lifelong learners.”

My vision is underpinned by my own values of;

  • Fairness and equity
  • Respect for all
  • Love of learning
  • Striving for individual excellence
  • Integrity and loyalty
  • Honesty
  • Appreciation of diversity and tolerance of difference
  • Promoting the value of teamwork and service to the wider community
  • The virtue of family values

Recently, as our Year 12 cohort leaves The SCOTS PGC College at the conclusion of 2013, I sought their feedback on how they believe I have shared, implemented and lived my vision and values. Through this open and honest communication they provided informed and reflective feedback. They confirmed that I shared a vision that was truly student-centred, and focused on the ideals of developing each of them into self-managed, self-motivated, lifelong learners.

I believe a student’s educational achievement cannot be measured through academic success alone. The focus for all exemplary educational institutions and education professionals should be on developing individual students into lifelong learners, each with a positive self-esteem to succeed. Further, our aim should be to enable them to develop and engage in an ever changing world. In 2008 I used this philosophy as the foundation for developing, in conjunction with boarding and College stakeholders, a Vision Statement for boarding at The SCOTS PGC College:

“To provide a boarding experience that will allow each boarder to develop life skills to cope with and engage in an ever changing world”

This Vision Statement now underpins the social, emotional, pastoral, and academic practices in the College’s boarding community. The attached Annex (Annex A) shows the relationship between this shared vision and all College stakeholders. Further supporting this vision, the College’s boarding community focuses on ensuring that, by the time a boarder leaves the formal education system they must have ‘learned how to learn under self-motivated and self-managed conditions. Thus the boarding community has developed into one in which the boarders not just live, but in which they live and learn how to learn.

To enact this, I developed a Pastoral Care Program that takes into consideration both the formal and informal learning opportunities within the boarding and wider College community. The framework for this program uses the four characteristics of lifelong learners as its supporting pillars:

Learning to do (acquiring and applying skills, including life skills)

Learning to be (promoting creativity and personal fulfilment)

Learning to know (an approach to learning that is flexible, critical and capable); and

Learning to live together (exercising tolerance, understanding and mutual respect)

The boarding pastoral care program is complemented by a pre-existing pastoral care program delivered by teaching staff once a fortnight during the school day. Formal aspects of the boarding pastoral care program are undertaken in the boarding community at nights and on weekends. They include training and reflective sessions on leadership, life skills, managing emotions, practical life skills and more. Some of these components are also embedded within the comprehensive boarding activity program that ensures boarders are fully occupied with meaningful pursuits. Informal aspects of this program focus attention on the need for all boarding staff and boarders to develop a significant, supportive and intellectual relationship. For boarders to feel truly supported and challenged on their educational journey they must know that the people charged with their well-being are passionate and committed about the ongoing pursuit of learning and their students’ individual needs.

The ongoing maintenance of this holistic vision, and its associated program, has required a strong collaborative and supportive leadership style. It has also required that each staff member feels connected and takes ownership of the shared vision so that they can, as a group, identify with its importance as a guiding set of principles. In this way we have developed an organisational culture in boarding. In practical terms, this has been achieved through ongoing staff training and professional development, challenging staff to strive for personal excellence, and embracing the idea that staff should know each student. It has also involved working closely with the College Executive, Principal, Deputy Principal and academic staff to ensure they also share in the organisational connectedness to, and embracement of the vision. I encourage all boarding and academic staff to use this vision when reflecting on their own best practices at the College, and will offer them support, advice and coaching on how this can best be achieved.

I have also extended this vision into my role as Head of Faculty, ensuring that the reconceptualising of the curriculum takes into account changes in employment and societal conditions. This has been achieved through the provision of expanded educational and vocational pathways, and pedagogies that focus on student-centred learning. This, in turn, allows for greater flexibility in student academic outcomes. As the Technology Faculty at the College moves towards the introduction of the National Curriculum (Technologies) there has been increased use and development of technological and digital production processes and widespread use of e-learning material and assessment methods. This has been done, not only to ensure compliance with the certain National Curriculum scopes and sequences, but to allow students to use their self–taught digital literacy to achieve greater success in their learning environment. Academic staff in the Technology Faculty embrace these new technologies and are encouraged to be effective modellers of lifelong learning by collaborating with students in the areas of digital literacy where they may not share in the same advanced capabilities. Staff then become learners themselves and share in the students educational journey, further developing their professional relationship with the student.

More recently I have proactively employed social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, to enhance the staff, parent and student connectedness with the wider boarding and College communities. Through posting status updates and photos of individual boarding or College achievements on a Boarding Facebook page, staff and parents can now share in the educational journey that was once isolated by distance and time. My understanding and use of these social media platforms has enabled me to instruct students on their safe use and ways in which these platforms can be used to enhance their learning environment, not just to merely update their social status. Through instruction on the use of web search engines such as Scoopit students are enabled to collate and manipulate information more effectively and share information through social media platforms.

The digital technology now available to assist students and educators in the learning process is widely diverse. It is still the case, however, that the quality of the teacher in the classroom is the most important factor in facilitating student success. Their passion for education and pedagogy, their ability to teach for understanding and to develop students into self-managed and self motivated lifelong learners, will still underpin a students learning.

You will be known for your footprints – not your fingerprints

Have you ever done an internet search on your name? Were you pleasantly surprised; a little disappointed or horribly shocked? Your digital footprint is the legacy that is left behind in the vast digital environment. It is a trail of what you post online, have searched , clicked on, liked, tweeted and sites you have joined. Are you aware that your IP address (a numerical code that is specific to the device you are using) is also recorded? For most of us who pre-date the World Wide Web and the internet (or can still remember the VIC-20 Commodore Computer) our digital footprint might only date back some 25 years. Unfortunately, many of our boarders have digital footprints that pre-date their births as parents posted images online of their prenatal scans. As the digital world of tablets, smart phones, social media and information sharing become a part of our boarders everyday lives, there is a need to ensure that they understand how their online actions create their personal digital footprint.

Employers are now using external recruiting agencies to find suitable employees for their business, cutting out the middle man of HR and streamlining the recruitment process. Many of these agencies simply perform an online search of a candidate’s name to see what type of digital footprint they have. There are thousands of stories of people failing to secure a job because of a poor digital footprint. Most often this occurs due to a post, a photo, or a like, that took place during their secondary schooling or whilst undertaking further studies – usually many years prior to applying for the job. As boarding staff we are tasked with ensuring that our boarders develop life skills that will allow them to engage and cope in an ever change world. We must therefore encourage our boarders to fully understand their responsibilities as a digital citizen, and ensure that their online behaviour creates a positive digital footprint.

There is endless literature on teaching digital citizenship in schools and how to create and maintain a positive digital footprint. I have listed below some strategies that I will incorporating in our College’s Life Skills Programme to assist the boarders in understanding both digital citizenship and digital footprints.

  • Encouraging boarders to attend afternoon “Internet Cafe” session on campus. These sessions will run for 30 minutes and are based on collaborative learning. Boarders will bring their digital device to the session where boarders and staff with similar interests will share how they use their device, talk about new apps they are using. This will assist boarders to understand how to better use their device for both social and educational purposes.
  • All Year 12 boarders will develop a Linkedin account. Staff will then assist the boarders with the maintenance and use of this account listing personal achievements, goals and objectives.
  • Boarders will be assisted to develop a Digital Portfolio. This is very useful for boarders involved in the arts or technology.
  • Boarders will be educated on the positive use of Twitter in setting up a Professional Learning Network (PLN).
  • Infographics (or Piktochart) will be used throughout the boarding houses as a way of educating boarders about digital citizenship and digital footprints.


The most important aspect of this learning process is to ensure that boarding staff role model positive and responsible digital citizenship. As we all know, adolescents are most likely to mimic the behaviour of adults. For many staff, it is likely that they will not have the same depth of digital literacy as some of the boarders in their care. Therefore it stands to reason that the educational processes outlined may well need to be taught to both staff and boarders.


Like many boarding communities, at SCOTS PGC College we use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to assist us in communicating with parents and the wider boarding community. I am always conscious of what I am posting and the digital shadow that this will create for the boarders who appear on these social media pages. What is your boarding school’s digital shadow saying about your boarders?

It would be great to hear from other boarding schools about what you do in relation to teaching your boarders about digital citizenship and digital footprints. Please feel free to contact me on twitter @BoardingSPGC or Greg.Wacker@scotspgc.qld.edu.au to share your ideas. I hope to develop a blog in coming months titled “Student Digital Welfare – the promotion, education, maintenance and provision of a conducive digital environment by educational intuitions, and provide students with the relevant knowledge and understanding of their rights, responsibilities and social well-being within this digital environment”. I hope to generate through this blog ideas and discussion on this very important topic within education and boarding.

I recently handed a boarder an envelope and asked them to write his address on it – a simple request, or so I believed. The boarder went away and came back with his email address written across the front of the envelope. I am sure all boarding staff are aware of how the immersion of technology is shaping and developing young people’s social identities. Unfortunately, the rate at which this immersion has taken place often surpasses our own knowledge and understandings leading us to feel less secure and, at times, relatively powerless. How often do you hear boarding staff, academic staff, or parents complain about a student using some type of digital media, or always being on “the phone”? Most educational institutions  address these insecurities by blocking access to certain websites (a little bit harder now with data packages on most phones) or banning the digital media device during certain times of the day and night. In a time of digital and online bullying, privacy issues and general inappropriate use of technology some may say that banning and blocking is justified. I am sure if I wished to start an on-line discussion about “Snapchat” and how boarding communities tried to address this at times, unsavoury digital application, the input would be vast and variable. I also wonder how many of us realise that “Snapchat” is now being used as a marketing tool to cash in on the rapidly growing purchasing power and increased use of digital socialisation by teenagers under the age of eighteen.

Students’ access to technology and digital media, not only to the aforementioned types of applications, but to learning materials and information, is shaping how they learn. Additionally, the increased use of technology and digital media in all educational settings has placed a greater demand on students to learn using these means. Unfortunately, this has also placed increased demands on those involved in the care of students to develop their understanding and competencies of these technologies. Most of us will develop a basic understanding of technological and digital developments to become technologically literate in order to remain productive and to develop and deliver new pedagogies to maintain our primary work function and accountabilities. Conversely, through their increased use of digital information, on-line social networking, ICT, and digital multitasking, students will develop and become digitally literate. There is a clear distinction between the two – someone who has the appropriate skills and competence in using technology (technologically literate) and those that have the ability to communicate, manipulate and function comfortably in an immersed digital environment (digitally literate).

The big question is what does this mean for our boarding communities? If I cast my mind back to 2005, the biggest threat facing many boarding communities at this time was the fact that mobile phones had cameras. Things have come a long way in less than 10 years – Where will they be in another 10 years? Boarding communities need to develop their ability to provide a truly supportive digital learning environment, as opposed to one that offers a simple technological one. They need to create an environment that offers the best opportunities for boarders to learn in a manner best suited to their preferred learning style. The impact of technology in education has resulted in learning becoming a far more collaborative endeavour. This has only been enhanced as wireless networks, smartboards, laptops and tablets have brought with them significant pedagogical change. These technologies, along with smartphones, digital media players and mass storage devices have become the educational norm for students. As the demand on our boarders to be digitally literate in methods of social interaction, learning on-line and communicating increase, there will be a need for them to continually develop their digital literacy. Boarding communities need to ensure that their policies, procedures and infrastructure developments include how boarders interact in their environment which is now saturated with technology and digital media, as well as the societal and social contexts created by this technological and digital immersion.

Effective relationships in education

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou
The focus for all staff at The SCOTS PGC College is on developing the individual student into a lifelong learner with a positive self-esteem to succeed, and enable them to develop and engage in an ever changing world. Students spend approximately 7 to 8 hours a day for 10 months of the year with their teachers. Given the amount of time a student spends at school, the ongoing maintenance of quality, positive student/teacher relationships at school is central to a student’s long lasting academic and social development. The outcomes associated with a positive educational experience can vary greatly, given that all students are at a different stage of the learning process. However, the values that students and teachers possess in a quality, positive educational relationship are the same, regardless of educational ability. Values of a quality student/teacher relationship:

Mutual respect, both in and out of classroom.

Good communication and listening.

Interest in teaching – from the teacher’s point of view.

Interest in learning – from the student’s point of view.

For the teacher to value the student’s sense of belonging.

For the student to value each other’s right to learn.

In summary, the key element to quality student/teacher educational relationships is the ability for teachers to learn from their students and students to recognise their ability to succeed. There are many ways that both staff and students can develop quality relationships in their daily interactions with each other. Not only will it contribute to a positive learning environment, but it also improves the quality of school life for everyone – staff , students and parents. We are fortunate at the College that all staff value learning and quality relationships in education. The ability for students to develop into self managed and motivated lifelong learners, underpins their resilience to learning. This enhances quality educational relationships between staff , students and their parents. Staff are well aware of the importance of these relationships in combination with their teaching methodology to help students achieve and go beyond their inherent potential. “It is easier to build strong children than to repair a broken men” – Fredrick Douglass