School principal Aleksandr Taylor-Gough's journey to become an education leader

Aleksandr Taylor-Gough is a school principal who had a goal to further refine the knowledge, skills and practices required to deepen his leadership capabilities. He is currently studying the Master of Education, with the finish line in sight. He was drawn to study online with SCU after having put a Master of Education course with a different institution on hold for a few years. 

School Principal Aleksandr Taylor-Gough is completing a Master of Education
School Principal Aleksandr Taylor-Gough is completing a Master of Education.

“I wanted to recommence my study at an institution that valued the principals and concepts of adult learning, whilst recognising and providing Advanced Standing for the two foundation units already completed. SCU ticked both boxes, and I was able to re-commence my Masters at the end of 2017, with a view to graduate by the conclusion of 2018!”

We asked him a few questions about his online learning experience, using his new knowledge immediately at work and his perspective on finding a work, life, and study balance.

Is studying online different from what you expected before you started?

This form of study has allowed me to engage in the content at my own pace, during my own time. It is different in that everything is available electronically. It has been therefore critical to have sound internet connectivity. The Blackboard Collaborate sessions are a good concept for checking-in with the Student Learning Facilitator or for any general questions. However, the use of email is also beneficial in this space.

Studying online does require a certain degree of self-regulation and control. Given the intense study period, weeks can move rather quickly, it is important to make a plan of when assessments are due and how study and assignment writing can be scheduled in between. I have found this a useful concept to adopt throughout my time studying with SCU.

What has been your favourite unit to study so far, and why?

I enjoyed the introductory leadership units, coupled with the unit entitled Valuing Diversity. I was able to further my knowledge around a range of target learner groups in schools, value adding to my role. In saying that, I have also enjoyed learning more around the theoretical construct of well-being – given that was my chosen specialisation. The current unit I am studying, Educational Leadership and Wellbeing has also provided me with further theoretical constructs that can be applied more practically.

Have you felt supported during your study?

Having studied at a couple of institutions and been involved in other professional learning, I do feel like I have been supported.

My time at SCU has been akin to eating a pizza – you really want to savour it, but you eat it quickly, and then it’s gone!

Given I received two units of Advanced Standing, I will literally have completed my Masters in under 12 months … albeit in a fast-paced learning environment.

Having access to the Student Success Advisors – in my case, Tes Sampoh – has enabled me to ensure I am focusing on what is important … my study and assessment completion. Tes took care of all the little reminders, such as enrolment dates, textbook lists, weekly updates on study tips and other areas of encouragement. He was also a great critical friend in all aspects of my study period. I felt this support, coupled with the online availability of the Student Learning Facilitators and Unit Assessors has set me up for success.

What course content have you been able to apply to your job immediately?

Given I am undertaking the Wellbeing specialisation, I have found multiple links to my current role (currently acting in a regional role), along with my substantive position of principal at a Queensland state school. Having a knowledge of ways to support students and staff is critical, along with links to evidence-based best practices. Connecting elements of wellbeing, diverse learners and leadership experiences to schools is important – and gaining additional skills in how to improve student outcomes has also been very relevant.

How do you juggle study with work and life commitments?

SCU Online student Alexandr Taylor-Gough
Aleksandr is motivated by the support and encouragement of his wife and family.

This is a huge concept. The balancing act between work, life and study is never a balance! It is perhaps a concept of satisfaction. The ability to keep a level see-saw amidst all my responsibilities will not, and has not, occurred. Instead, I have had to prioritise my commitments. I am fortunate in that I have a supportive wife (and I would like to think, a supportive two and a half-year-old) and family who provide continual encouragement. The fact that I had completed two units almost eight years ago meant that I have been pretty keen to ensure I graduate this time!

What would be your advice to others considering studying online with SCU?

Studying online is a great platform to be able to integrate adult learning with other responsibilities – such as family and work commitments. To effectively make the most of your time, I would suggest a strong personal desire to complete the work is critical, given the self-directed nature of the units and the learning environment. There are no 16 week semesters with multiple reminders about assessments or work. An accelerated platform means that individual students need to be self-directed learners who can cope with the demands of study through a screen.

Of course, these elements aren’t negatives. The ability to use computers are essential for Master level courses, and the ability to plan and timetable study routines and/or schedules occurs in other domains such as family or work commitments. The time saved driving to and from university (let alone parking and other fees) is sometimes the exact time that you would take to study for part of a week anyway! However, having the support of those around you will make all the difference – as sometimes, the ability to ‘offload’ about a topic, theory or assessment at the dinner table with a family member or friend may help you see things in a different light.

Take the next step in education

If you’re working in Education, consider refining your skills and knowledge by gaining your qualification with a Master of Education. Call our Advisors on 1300 589 882 for further information.