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Seasons of professional development: Plenty Valley Christian College

ISV Member School Spotlight

Andrew Leslie and Dan Symons /
22 February 2023

3 min read

When Plenty Valley Christian College staff set out to re-imagine their professional learning cycle, they had one clear goal: to create a sustainable framework to develop inquiry mindsets and a culture that genuinely values thinking.

A complex confluence of catalysts

This project was developed in response to a suite of discomforting catalysts:

  • ‘Flash in the pan’ professional development (PD) that provides a shot of inspiration, but no long-term implementation related to school-wide objectives.
  • PD opportunities that fail to adopt the best practice learning strategies, which we use in our own classrooms.
  • Appraisal processes that emphasise ticking boxes and documentation, rather than improved practice.
  • Appraisal processes that emphasise individual performance, rather than collective efficacy and organisational flourishing.
  • A cultural crescendo of political polarisation in many countries, resulting in a moral imperative to build improve student curiosity and empathy.
  • A desire to improve VCE results and increase enrolments.

Strategy for cultural change

These catalysts provided impetus for our Secondary Learning and Teaching Team to engage with the Southern Cross program, offered by Independent Schools Victoria, to re-imagine our Professional Learning Cycle.

This initiative was in concert with adopting a secondary-wide pedagogical framework, leaning on the research of Ron Ritchhart’s ‘Creating Cultures of Thinking’.

It was clear that we needed to address the culture within the college. We needed to develop a model that acculturated our teaching staff into the kinds of mindsets we wanted to see widespread in our learning community, with the understanding that teachers would then lead their classrooms with these mindsets.

Mindful of Peter Drucker’s proverb that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’, we aimed at a process that resulted in a cultural shift.

A good goal

The first step was to create a goal statement that would give the team clear parameters for the project. This enabled us to create a process of introducing the ‘change of direction’ to staff with a clear articulation of the vision and their role in the process. A significant amount of thought was invested into articulating exactly what we meant, resulting in the following:

  • Goal: Create a clear and sustainable system for adopting inquiry mindsets.

The right ingredients

The parameters for the project sought to harness three key principles, which were aligned with our vision for Learning and Teaching and College values:

  • Teacher agency
  • Meaningful collaboration to develop collective efficacy
  • Leveraging the virtues of inquiry-learning in developing professional expertise.

In sync with the planet through seasonal motifs

A revelatory moment came when our Head of Science suggested matching the inquiry process with the seasons. We immediately fell in love with the idea that we could be in closer harmony with God’s design for the natural world.

Secondary schools are a fascinating mix of wildly disparate disciplines: mathematics, language, art, and science specialists develop expertise in epistemologies that lead to varied ways of interpreting the world and working as a community.

Few other professional organisations work in such a phenomenological blend; we should be quite amazed that schools generally operate so well!

Perhaps the highlight of the Southern Cross Program was having the time and space to witness the strengths of those who think differently to us. Our team had a dramatic organisational powerhouse, a vocational-relational humanitarian, a sustainability-driven community builder, a diversely-skilled green-wedge artist and a philosophical provocateur-empath.


The team who developed the project launched it together (sans our seasonal designer) at the start of Term 4 in 2022, and we’re off to a great start.

Teachers have organised themselves in groups related to Ritchhart’s cultural forces and developed a plan to deepen their understanding of the research behind this force.

We look forward to seeing the fruit of this for years to come, as we invest in each other’s professional practice, share our failures and joys, and pursue a culture that genuinely values thinking.

School transformation programs at ISV

PVCC’s Seasons of Professional Development framework was guided with support from Southern Cross Program at Independent Schools Victoria.

Want to know how ISV can support your school’s next innovation or change initiative? View our School Transformation flagship programs.

Andrew Leslie is a Teacher at Plenty Valley Christian College. Dan Symons is Assistant Principal at Plenty Valley Christian College.

We regularly spotlight innovative teaching and learning projects being undertaken at ISV Member Schools. Have you got a project you’d like to feature? Get in touch.

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