Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Schools exist within multiple systems, each of which impact the work of school leaders. These can be governments and their departments (local, national), diocesan or other wider school authorities, and curriculum authorities. These are situated in wider global systems that impact school leadership and performance discourse (e.g., OECD, UN SDGs, UNESCO, World Economic Forum, World Innovation Summit in Education).

This unit examines how these various systems impact the work of leaders across the school: senior, middle, and emerging. It is an interdisciplinary examination of theories and research on collaborative policy design, stewardship, political philosophy, and policy and system evaluation. It aims to help system leaders consider how their work influences and shapes the mission and experience of school leaders, and to help school leaders identify how to work with, and through, the wider systems through which their work is enacted.

This unit equips students with a range of theoretical and critical perspectives on educational systems and their relationship to leading and learning in schools. It critiques the role and function of systems from the perspectives of Catholic social teaching, stewardship, well-being, and sustainability.

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 - Describe and explain features of system and policy frameworks in which students’ professional work is located (e.g., global, national/state/territory government, diocesan RI/PJP, school-based) (GA1, GA2, GA5, GA8; APST 1.3, 5.4, 6.2, 7.2 (Lead); APSP 1, 3, 4, 5) 

LO2 - Develop ethical and theological understanding of system leader responsibilities, including to the sustainability and transformation of the system (GA2, GA3, GA4; APST 5.4, 6.1, 6.2, 6.4, 7.2 (Lead); APSP 1, 3, 4, 5)

LO3 - Evaluate current practices within your sphere of system influence (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9; APST 1.3, 5.4, 6.2, 6.3, 7.2 (Lead); APSP 1, 3, 4, 5)

LO4 - Design enhancements to the operation and culture of the system (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA9; APST 6.2, 6.4, 7.2 (Lead); APSP 1, 3, 4, 5)

Graduate attributes

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

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

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

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

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


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

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.

5.4  Interpret student data

Coordinate student performance and program evaluation using internal and external student assessment data to improve teaching practice.

6.1  Identify and plan professional learning needs

Use comprehensive knowledge of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers to plan and lead the development of professional learning policies and programs that address the professional learning needs of colleagues and pre-service teachers.

6.2  Engage in professional learning and improve practice

Initiate collaborative relationships to expand professional learning opportunities, engage in research, and provide quality opportunities and placements for pre-service teachers.

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.

7.2  Comply with legislative, administrative, and organisational requirements

Initiate, develop and implement relevant policies and processes to support colleagues’ compliance with and understanding of existing and new legislative, administrative, organisational and professional responsibilities.


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:

  • From local to global:
  • Defining systems, boundaries, and fields
  • Australian education governance and architecture
  • Sectors and systems
  • Local systems: school-based structures and processes
  • Policies and impact: PISA, NAPLAN, local priorities
  • System theory, design, performance, and evaluation:
  • Models and practices
  • Case studies
  • Humanity and stewardship
  • Systemic vision and mission

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit assists students to understand the policy assemblages and system architectures that govern their professional practice. Conceptual and theoretical frameworks are first introduced so that students can locate those policy frameworks and systems which most directly impact their professional work. Critical perspectives on design and operation of systems are then evaluated. Case studies are employed to explore ethical considerations for policy actors and those who are governed by enacted policy. System architecture is critiqued through ethical and Catholic social teaching lenses. Students then consider possible personal actions that seek to critique, improve, transform the system to the extent they have scope to do so.

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the teaching period, comprising directed tasks and self-study.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The first assessment invites students to locate their professional practice within a conceptual policy and system map. This provides students with a clear context for their learning across the rest of the unit. The second assessment provides opportunity for students to use evaluative tools to critique a range of policies or system operations (this choice provides for the varying professional contexts in which students work). Having developed skills in using critical analysis tools in Assessment 2, these tools are mobilised in Assessment 3 to identify priorities and a plan for policy or system improvement.

The assessment tasks and their weighting for this unit are mapped to demonstrate achievement of the learning outcomes and the related academic and professional standards. 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

A conceptual map of the policy and system architecture in which you currently work.


LO1, LO3

GA1, GA2, GA5, GA8

Assessment Task 2

Critically analyse system and policy evaluation tools that are relevant for your context. Include consideration of ethical and ecclesial obligations.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Assessment Task 3

Develop key priority actions to enhance the improvement of your contribution to the system in which you work.


LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) (2021). 200 years young: A pastoral letter from the Bishops of Australia to the leaders, staff, students and families of Catholic education in Australia. ACBC.

Baker, T. & McGuirk, P. (2017). Assemblage thinking as methodology: commitments and practices for critical policy research. Territory, Politics, Governance, 5 (4), 425-442.

Block, P. (2013). Stewardship (2nd ed.). Berrett-Koehler.

Cleary, M. (2021). When the mission system is the bottom line: The governance of Catholic schools in Australia. La Salle Academy, Australian Catholic University.

Congregation for Catholic Education (2007). Educating together in Catholic schools: A shared mission between consecrated persons and the lay faithful.

Education Council. (2019). Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration. Education Services Australia.

Greany, T., & Earley, P. (Eds.) (2021). School Leadership and Education System Reform. Routledge.

Netolicky, D., Andrews, J., & Paterson, C. (2019). Flip the system Australia: what matters in education. Routledge.

OECD (2018). The future of education and skills: Education 2030. OECD.

Parkhurst, J. (2017). The politics of evidence: From evidence-based policy to the good governance of evidence. Routledge.

Savage, G., & O’Connor, K. (2019). What’s the problem with ‘policy alignment’? The complexities of national reform in Australia’s federal system. Journal of Education Policy, 34(6), 812-835. https://doi.org10.1080/02680939.2018.1545050

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