Graduate Profile & Attributes

I am currently completing a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) through Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) titled ‘Envisioning the Graduate of the Future’. It is a collaborative and exploratory design process to reflect on the purpose of secondary school. Participants are able to convey what their communities believe a secondary school graduate should know and be able to do. And it is free!

Engaging with a MOOC is a very effective way to learn. Learning now can take place anywhere at any time for both young and old. The digital online world has presented countless opportunities for this and it makes me wonder if schools currently tap into this effectively. As teachers, with technology as an enabler, quality learning experiences can be facilitated beyond the school gates.

Some significant shifts in the world are affecting schools. Justin Reich, instructor for this course, refers to:

  • Online Learning
  • Technology and the working world
  • How university instruction is changing
  • Our knowledge of how we learn (science of the brain)

Schools would benefit from unpacking what a graduate profile for their own setting looks like.

Some examples found within the U.S are depicted below.

Sacred Heart College in Geelong has done some wonderful work in articulating learner dispositions.

In starting a new school, I will be asking the questions:

  • What does an ideal “McAuley graduate” look like?
  • What do these students need to learn to thrive in life after high school? Soft skills, enterprise skills, capabilities and competencies, attributes?  What knowledge would they possess?
  • What type of person would they be?

Co-created with input from the community, a profile will ensure a clear representation of key teaching and learning goals and the driving philosophy for the school can be developed around these. With universities (i.e. Southern Cross University, UNE, UTS, University of Canberra, University of Adelaide) and employers increasingly identifying these attributes, particularly enterprise skills, as essential, it is time for schools to recognise these needs and be creative in how they teach and develop them. The Graduate Profile is an important step in ensuring our students are life ready.

The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) report suggests “It’s more likely that a 15-year-old today will experience a portfolio career, potentially having 17 different jobs over five careers in their lifetime“. They argue that such portable skills and capabilities are vital to succeed in the increasingly automated and globalised workplace of what it calls the “New Work Order”.

In returning to the question “what defines a good school”? John Hattie suggests we ask for a “basket of goods” instead of focussing on narrow outcome measures such as NAPLAN or PISA. What should be in the “basket of goods”? Let’s start with the question “what do we want our students to be”?

Where do I start?!

There are a number of challenges, and emotions, experienced when starting a new school. The first couple of weeks of 2019 were particularly strange in that I was not experiencing the usual chaotic and frantic start to a typical school year. In contrast to this, I found myself in a very quiet office without a clear game plan! Where do I start?

It has been good to have some time to contemplate my vision for the College. This is something that needs a lot of thought and it is my intention to articulate this in a few ways to best connect and communicate with different stakeholders.

I find myself now having to consider the staffing recruitment process. Like a coach picking his side, I am in a position of now having to plan for progressively recruiting and appointing a completely new staff team. This process is not too unlike some professional sporting codes and the challenges faced, such as the Salary Cap! I need to work within the constraints of the system and the resources that are made available to me.  

Shortly, I will be advertising for a Foundation Assistant Principal to join me at the start of next year in preparation for the College to begin in 2021. This is quite a unique opportunity! A school with a blank canvas, that will redefine learning with a vision for the future, will shortly be seeking a leader who will bring innovation and creative thinking to new and exciting challenges. This rare degree of autonomy in building a new school is sure to attract much interest.

I recently came across a report by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, ‘Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective’. One theme in this report is that of “Changing the Script”: Rethinking learners’ and teachers’ roles. It states (p. 4):

 “Twenty-first century ideas about knowledge and learning demand shifts in the traditional roles or ‘scripts’ followed by learners and teachers. If the purpose of schools is not to transmit knowledge, then teachers’ roles must be reconceived… This calls for a greater focus on … thinking about what role teachers can play in supporting the development of every learner’s potential… (and) how learners and teachers would work together in a “knowledge-building” learning environment.”

Peter Hutton, Advisor at the Future Schools Alliance (FSA), has encouraged me to consider assumptions about school before a staffing model. Think creatively in terms of flexibility and best use of resources and where they are really needed. This is a challenge to those of us who have experienced the narrow and somewhat prescriptive traditional model of education (which still dominates today). Peter was able to turn around Templestowe College in Victoria which has built a student driven and empowered culture.   

Some initial thoughts about staffing from ‘scratch’ include:

  • How do I effectively communicate my vision with clarity, so I am attracting the right staff ‘cultural fit’?
  • Can existing and conventional roles be changed to better meet the needs of today’s learners who will enter a complex and rapidly changing world?
  • What leadership structure do I want? How do I most effectively use the Staffing Guidelines and Base Establishment, for instance, to develop a team of leaders that will build capacity amongst staff and successfully drive the vision?
  • How do I ensure staffing structures are conducive to merging both student learning and wellbeing as one, not two separate entities? A priority will be to empower staff to strategically and collaboratively work in teams to plan, prepare, teach and co-teach.
  • What will be the teacher role requirements for Catherine McAuley Catholic College?

Your thoughts and feedback are welcome!

Time to Reimagine Learning?

(Source: Future Schools Alliance)

First time Blogger!

This blog (my first!) allows me to communicate my thoughts while planning and preparing for a new college. My hope is to elicit feedback through responses from a number of different people, including future stakeholders of the College. It is a digital forum that allows me to connect, engage and collaborate with those who have an interest in education, particularly those who will be joining the community of Catherine McAuley Catholic College, Medowie from 2021.

As the Blog title ‘Connect, Collaborate & Lead’ suggests, leading is a collaborative effort. Connecting with others allows me to share my thoughts and ideas, collaborate, seek feedback, learn and lead.

A new school is an opportunity to look forward and ask some challenging questions about how we best prepare our young people for a global world that is rapidly changing, including the nature of a changing workforce. This includes not only what jobs people do but how they do them. Is the traditional model of education, initially designed to prepare young people for a static occupational world, now relevant in a new digital age?

Planning for a new college can be overwhelming, so it is important to keep a few key considerations and driving questions in mind. This term I have been delving deeply into educational research and best practice and investigating what good innovative schools are doing. There is an incredible amount of information out there, many ‘ornaments’ for the tree, but it is important to focus on what is at the core, or ‘trunk’ of this tree! I am looking forward to connecting with the College community (particularly students and families) to listen to their thoughts on:

  • What are their hopes and aspirations for their children?
  • What are the values, mind-sets, skills, and capabilities they feel are important to lead a meaningful life in a fast-paced, rapidly changing and complex world?
  • What do they believe are the qualities and ingredients of a great school?

My aim is to collaboratively work with others; leaders, teachers, parents and students, to co-design a college that provides an innovative educational environment that prepares young people for today’s world, not yesterday’s. Does the traditional model of education do this? Some would argue that it ranks potential rather than develop it.

The above quote by John Dewey challenges us to reimagine learning; a new school, a blank canvas, provides a unique opportunity to do this. I read a great book recently by Ted Dintersmith, ‘What School Could Be’ who wrote that:

“Innovation thrives when a community celebrates the aspirational goal of reimagining learning to elevate life prospects for its children”.

It takes a village … I am looking forward to connecting with the community to engage in conversations about this. This is the exciting beginning of an ongoing conversation and journey in establishing a new secondary college. One in which I am committed to ensuring prioritises the development of individual potential. This is not achieved by a learning culture that ‘teaches to the test’ but instead:

  • identifies student strengths, motivations and passions
  • personalises learning, particularly through leveraging technology, to nurture and develop these to assist young people find their purpose
  • develops a self-awareness in students of who they are as unique individuals so they can identify their own learning pathway and be supported in pursuing this
  • is learner-centred and empowers students through choice, voice and agency
  • develops enterprise skills and capabilities, not only content knowledge, to thrive in today’s world &
  • is real world and globally focused, linking with local industry and beyond

Thank you for reading. Your reflections, thoughts and feedback are welcome.


Dintersmith, Ted. (2018). “What School Could Be”.