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EDLE636 Leadership in Catholic Schools

Unit rationale, description and aim

The contemporary Catholic school is a complex, interdependent, multi-faith and multicultural community. The challenge for leaders within this profile is to engage with their immediate and wider community, operate in harmony with mission, and nurture informed, committed, professional and engaged personnel within a distinctive educational philosophy. Social and emotional learning, as well as the emergence of health and well-being as critical components of school education, presents new challenges for school leaders in Catholic and other faith-based contexts. Holistic and integrated approaches to education embrace well-being support for students, teachers, and the wider community.

This unit is for all who are engaged directly or indirectly in the governance, leadership and educative practices in Catholic schools and other faith-based contexts. The unit expands on professional practice as shaped by Catholic Christian foundations, explores this through spirituality, mission and leadership, and promotes ministry that integrates professional practices supported through the formation of generic capabilities.

The aim of this unit is to assist educators to recast these contemporary priorities in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1  -  Critically analyse historical and contemporary developments in ecclesiology and missiology, which respond to issues challenging Catholic school leaders (GA4, GA8; APST 2.2 (Lead); APSP 3)

LO2 -  Interpret and critically reflect on how cultural meanings influence the development of meaning and identity and impact on the culture of contemporary Catholic schools and the particular responsibilities this requires of leaders (GA1, GA4, GA5; APST 1.1, 1.3 (Lead); APSP 5)

LO3 -  Evaluate how young people perceive the Gospel and generate strategies to initiate dialogue which explain and interpret the notion of ‘relevance’ of spiritual values in their experiences and expectations (GA1, GA5, GA7; APST 1.5 (Lead); APSP 1, 5).

LO5 - Interpret the notion of ‘educating’ young people in meaning, wellbeing and spirituality (GA5; APST 3.1, 3.5, 6.4 (Lead); APSP 1, 2)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


On successful completion of this unit, students should have gained evidence towards the following standards:

1.1  Physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students

Lead colleagues to select and develop teaching strategies to improve student learning using knowledge of the physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students.

1.3 Students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds

Evaluate and revise school learning and teaching programs, using expert and community knowledge and experience, to meet the needs of students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

1.5 Differentiate teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities

Lead colleagues to evaluate the effectiveness of learning and teaching programs differentiated for the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.

2.2 Content selection and organization

Lead initiatives that utilise comprehensive content knowledge to improve the selection and sequencing of content into coherently organised learning and teaching programs. 

3.1 Establish challenging learning goals

Demonstrate exemplary practice and high expectations and lead colleagues to encourage students to pursue challenging goals in all aspects of their education.

3.5 Use effective classroom communication

Demonstrate and lead by example inclusive verbal and non-verbal communication using collaborative strategies and contextual knowledge to support students’ understanding, engagement and achievement.

5.3 Make consistent and comparable judgments

Lead and evaluate moderation activities that ensure consistent and comparable judgements of student learning to meet curriculum and school or system requirements. 

6.3 Engage with colleagues and improve practice

Implement professional dialogue within the school or professional learning network(s) that is informed by feedback, analysis of current research and practice to improve the educational outcomes of students.

6.4 Apply professional learning and improve student learning

Advocate, participate in and lead strategies to support high-quality professional learning opportunities for colleagues that focus on improved student learning.


In addition to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers this unit addresses the following Professional Practices: 

APSP 1 - Leading teaching and learning

Principals create a positive culture of challenge and support, enabling effective teaching that promotes enthusiastic, independent learners, committed to lifelong learning. Principals have a key responsibility for developing a culture of effective teaching, for leading, designing and managing the quality of teaching and learning and for students’ achievement in all aspects of their development. They set high expectations for the whole school through careful collaborative planning, monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of learning. Principals set high standards of behaviour and attendance, encouraging active engagement and a strong student voice.

APSP 2 - Developing self and others

Principals work with and through others to build a professional learning community that is focused on continuous improvement of teaching and learning. Through managing performance, effective continuing professional learning and feedback, they support all staff to achieve high standards and develop their leadership capacity. Principals support others to build capacity and treat people fairly and with respect. They model effective leadership and are committed to their own ongoing professional development and personal health and wellbeing in order to manage the complexity of the role and the range of learning capabilities and actions required of the role.

APSP 3 - Leading improvement, innovation and change

Principals work with others to produce and implement clear, evidence-based improvement plans and policies for the development of the school and its facilities. They recognise that a crucial part of the role is to lead and manage innovation and change to ensure the vision and strategic plan is put into action across the school and that its goals and intentions are realised.

APSP 4 - Leading the management of the school

Principals use a range of data management methods and technologies to ensure that the school’s resources and staff are efficiently organised and managed to provide an effective and safe learning environment as well as value for money. This includes appropriate delegation of tasks to members of the staff and the monitoring of accountabilities. Principals ensure these accountabilities are met. They seek to build a successful school through effective collaboration with school boards, governing bodies, parents and others. They use a range of technologies effectively and efficiently to manage the school.

APSP 5 - Engaging and working with the community

Principals embrace inclusion and help build a culture of high expectations that takes account of the richness and diversity of the wider school community and the education systems and sectors. They develop and maintain positive partnerships with students, families and carers and all those associated with the wider school community. They create an ethos of respect taking account of the spiritual, moral, social and physical health and wellbeing of students. They promote sound lifelong learning from preschool through to adult life. They recognise the multicultural nature of Australia’s people. They foster understanding and reconciliation with Indigenous cultures. They recognise and use the rich and diverse linguistic and cultural resources in the school community. They recognise and support the needs of students, families and carers from communities facing complex challenges


Topics will include:

  • Critical analysis of Australian societal changes, the national goals for Australian education, and their impact on Catholic schools.
  • Knowledge and appreciation of Second Vatican Council and other Church documents and their vision for contemporary Catholic education.
  • Critique of influences and forces on the generation of school culture and the culture of the contemporary Catholic school so as to determine how leaders should respond authentically and effectively.
  • A critical appraisal of the Catholic school in secular, pluralist cultures and the place of Catholic Social Teachings and the New Evangelisation is responding to them.
  • The importance of social and emotional approaches to learning, well-being priorities for both students and staff, and holistic responses to these in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit may be offered in online, on campus or in multimode, for the equivalence of 150 hours of study. The use of the Learning Management System will be integral to the unit in exploring concepts and testing understandings and propositions. Lectures, scholarly readings, and other online artefacts ground the unit in core knowledge of Vatican teachings and wider educational policy positioning. Student forums and online interactive strategies (e.g., video/audio content and response, questionnaire/polls, other H5P tools) provide opportunity to develop critical insights to their own contexts, as well as draw from insights of other students. Students are consistently challenged throughout the unit to apply content and critical insights to their unique leadership context. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for students to demonstrate achievement of each of the learning outcomes. Assessment tasks build on each other through a developmental and applied approach. Assessment 1 identifies key texts and concepts that ground the learning in a knowledge body. This knowledge then forms the basis for critical reflection on lived practice within broad educational contexts (Assessment 2). Finally, students then draw from both assessments in a critical evaluation of contemporary developments in health and well-being; this is a practical application task.

Across the three graded assessments, students' progress from descriptive analysis of key texts and literature, to critical analysis, and then culminate in evaluation of professional practice in light of their new understanding. In order to pass this unit, students are required to successfully complete all assessment tasks regardless of their mode of enrolment.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1

From your reading of Church documents and other scholarly literature, describe the purpose of the Catholic (or other faith-based) school and identify the challenges faced in achieving this purpose; student from other faith traditions are encouraged to locate and draw from relevant documents in their own tradition.


LO1, LO2, LO4

GA4, GA8

Assessment Task 2

Based on the purpose for Catholic schools you articulated in Assessment Task1, develop and detail strategies that leaders in Catholic education could use in ensuring that schools are authentically Catholic  (or according to students’ other relevant faith traditions). 


LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA7

Assessment Task 3

Evaluate how Catholic (and other faith-based) schools can authentically respond to contemporary priorities of social and emotional learning, mental health, and well-being.


LO1, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA7

Representative texts and references

Albrecht, N. J. (2018). Teachers Teaching Mindfulness with Children: Being a Mindful Role Model. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 43(10).

D'Orsa, J., & D'Orsa, T. (2020.) Pedagogy and the Catholic educator: Nurturing hearts, transforming possibilities. Garratt Publishing.

Education Council (2019). Alice Springs (Mparntwe) education declaration. Education Services Australia.

Gleeson, J., & Goldburg, P. (2020). (Eds). Faith-based identity and curriculum in Catholic schools. Routledge: New York.

Hall, D., Sultmann, W. F., & Townend, G. (2019). Constants in context: An exploration of conciliar and post-conciliar documents on the Catholic school. Journal of Religious Education. doi:10.1007/s40839-019-00074-6

National Catholic Education Commission. (2017). A Framework for formation for mission in Catholic education. Retrieved from  

National Catholic Education Commission. (2020). Australian Catholic schools why we have them? What they aim to do. Retrieved from option=com_content&view=article&id=16 

Nouwen, H., (1989). In the name of Jesus. Crossroad Publishing Company.

Spesia, D. (2016). Forming Catholic School Principals as Leaders of the New Evangelisation. Journal of Catholic Education, 20 (1). Retrieved from

Sultmann, W.F. (2018). Cornerstone: Encountering the spirit of Christ in the Catholic school. Melbourne, Coventry Press.

White, M. A., & Kern, M. L., (2018). Positive education: Learning and teaching for wellbeing and academic mastery. International Journal of Wellbeing,n8(1), 1-17. 

Willis, A., Hyde, M., & Black, A. (2019). Juggling With Both Hands Tied Behind My Back: Teachers’ Views and Experiences of the Tensions Between Student Well-Being Concerns and Academic Performance Improvement Agendas. American Educational Research Journal56(6), 2644–2673.

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