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


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.