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Unit rationale, description and aim

Catholic schools have responsibility for the vision and mission of a faith-based education within an increasingly pluralistic, multicultural, and secular world. Theology, ecclesiology, history, spirituality practices, and charisms of Catholic education all contribute to the communal life of a Catholic school. Catholic educators and leaders are critical to realising this vision and mission. The authentic integration of these requires foundational knowledge and skill in applying this to a range of educational leadership contexts: aspiring, middle, senior, principal, or system leadership.

In this unit, students are challenged to develop personal and lived responses to these for their own professional practice in schools and wider Catholic education system roles. Educators and leaders in other faith-based educational contexts are invited to apply this approach in their own faith and professional context.

The aim of this unit is that students understand and articulate the function and purpose of Catholic schools as an expression of the mission of the Church. They learn to identify and how to apply appropriate leadership theories and practices within their particular context. It serves as a foundational unit which informs units across the entire course.

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.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Critically analyse the development of understandings related to the mission and purpose of Catholic education and schools (APST 1.3, 6.2 Lead)GC1, GC2, GC7, GC11
LO2Critique contrasting and contested understandings of the mission and identity of Catholic schools in various cultural contexts (APST 6.3 Lead)GC3, GC7, GC8, GC11
LO3Evaluate a range of perspectives in educational leadership, management and administration (APST 7.1, 7.4 Lead); APSP 3, 4, 5)GC1, GC2, GC10, GC11
LO4Propose practical actions in implementing the mission of Catholic, or other faith-based, education in their professional context ( APSP 1, 2, 4, 5)GC3, GC6, GC8, GC11

Australian Professional Standards For Teachers - Lead

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.

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. 

7.1 Meet professional ethics and responsibilities

Model exemplary ethical behaviour and exercise informed judgements in all professional dealings with students, colleagues and the community.

7.4 - Engage with professional teaching networks and broader communities

Take a leadership role in professional and community networks and support the involvement of colleagues in external learning opportunities.

Australian Professional Standard For Principals - Professional Practices

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:

  • Mission and purpose of Catholic schools
  • Purpose and function of Catholic education and schooling
  • Historical and contemporary perspectives
  • Catholic schooling as mission
  • “Leading learning” as mission
  • Schools as communities of faith
  • Catholic spiritual traditions
  • Spiritualities as culture in Catholic schools
  • Spirituality and Charism with Catholic schools
  • Catholic social teaching and social justice and its emergence from biblical justice through to recent Church documents
  • Biblical justice
  • Catholic social teaching
  • Catholic identity
  • Historical and contemporary approaches to educational leadership, management and administration, including but not exclusively, popular adjectival leadership (e.g., transformational, servant, authentic), biographic and reflective approaches, emancipatory approaches, school effectiveness and school improvement or successful schools (including instructional leadership), and the Indigenous management movement.
  • Practical application of these approaches and perspectives in Catholic and faith based educational organisations.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is offered in multi-mode (i.e., delivered online and in face-to-face contexts) and uses an active learning approach. It uses an integrated curriculum design model and process with two major areas of study: vision and mission of Catholic education, and educational leadership, Students examine a range of theological, ecclesial, and historical documents, then advanced concepts in application of these to schools. The second area of study reviews and critiques approaches to educational leadership, management, and administration (both historic and contemporary. Students then develop personal practice implications in response to the integration of the two areas of study. Key concepts are introduced through lectures and seminars, complemented by various modes of collaborative discussion (online tutorials/discussion groups, forums, face-to-face seminars – as relevant). A reflective journal is kept throughout the unit and contributes to the final assessment.

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 assessment strategy used allows students to progressively develop their knowledge, understanding and analytical skills to the level of sophistication where they are able to evaluate their professional practice.

Assessment 1 establishes the knowledge base of the vision and mission of Catholic education, and Assessment 2 critiques the field of educational leadership in light of this knowledge base. Assessment 3 requires students to develop practical responses to both areas of study, drawing on insights they develop throughout the semester in the form of a reflective journal (the journal itself is not assessed) and from wider literature.

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 CapabilitiesStandards

Assessment Task 1

Students use Church documents and related scholarly literature to critically analyse contemporary perspectives on the vision and mission of Catholic education.


LO1, LO2GC1, GC2, GC3, GC7, GC8, GC11APST(Lead)1.3, APST(Lead)6.2, APST(Lead)6.3

Assessment Task 2

Critically evaluate one of the models of educational leadership presented and consider the extent to which it can support the vision and mission of Catholic education.


LO2, LO3, LO4GC1, GC2, GC3, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC10, GC11APST(Lead)6.3, APST(Lead)7.1, APST(Lead)7.4, APSP 1, APSP 2, APSP 3, APSP 4, APSP 5

Assessment Task 3

Students will keep a reflective journal of their learning across the semester; at least one entry per week is expected. Drawing from their insights developed through the journal, and the theological, ecclesial, and scholarly literature they have encountered through the semester, they are to develop a personal manifesto of professional practice.


LO1, LO3, LO4GC1, GC2, GC3, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC10, GC11APST(Lead)1.3, APST(Lead)6.2, APST(Lead)7.1, APST(Lead)7.4, APSP 1, APSP 2, APSP 3, APSP 4, APSP 5

Representative texts and references

Belmonte, A., & Rymarz, R. (2021). Leading Catholic schools: A practical guide for emerging leaders, Garratt Publishing.

Branson, C.M., & Marra, M. (2021). A new theory of organizational ecology, and its implications for educational leadership. Bloomsbury.

Congregation for Catholic Education (2014). Educating today and tomorrow: A renewing passion. Rome: Vatican City. Available at

Cuff, S. (2019). Love in action: Catholic social teaching for every church. London: SCM Press.

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

Hawkslye, T. (2020). Peacebuilding and Catholic social teaching. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.

Lane, D. (2015). Catholic education in the light of Vatican II and ‘Laudato Si’’. Dublin: Veritas.

National Catholic Education Commission (2016). A framework for formation in mission in Catholic Education. National Catholic Education Commission.

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

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