Interview - Coffee Break with Peter Allen

4th Apr 2019 • Enrichment

Currently the Vice Principal of All Saints’ College in Perth, Peter was also the Director of Teaching and Learning (K – 12) at Scotch College in Perth - a role he held since 2014 – he has also served as the Head of HASS and then the Dean of Teaching and Learning at Penrhos College. Prior to that, Peter was Head of Humanities and Commerce at Deira International School in Dubai (2008 – 2011).

Peter has also held roles as the Coordinator of the Gifted and Talented program and the Head of Year 10 at Brentford School for Girls in London, Boarding House Master at Christ Church Grammar School and Middle School teacher at John Curtin College of the Arts.

In addition to completing a Bachelor of Education (History and ICT Studies) and a Bachelor of Arts (double major in History and Politics and Law) at UWA, Peter has completed a scholarship-awarded Master of Education (Leadership) at the University of Queensland. He has also attained Executive Coaching Accreditation through Growth Coaching International and has completed the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ course.

One of the recent projects Peter has enjoyed the most in his role at Scotch was chairing the project control group charged with delivering the next phase of that school’s master plan. Peter writes that two years of research has come to fruition with a space “designed to shift the pedagogical approach in the senior school whilst ensuring we also create spaces where the wellbeing of our students remains paramount.”

Peter kindly took some time out from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.

Can you tell us about your time working in Dubai? What philosophies or experiences did you take from your time there, that still inspires you today?

The school that I worked at in Dubai was Deira International School. It was in this setting that I was introduced to the International Baccalaureate philosophy of education. Perhaps the inspiration of the IB comes from its origins, formed after World War Two, its mission statement is to create a better world through education. However it is more the student centred approach that has led me to consider how we can re-shape education in Australia, an example also found within their extended mission statement which aims to encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

Please finish this sentence: Learning should be...

personalised. One of my favourite quotes is ‘Everybody is a Genius. But If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.’ Whilst the origin of this quote is disputed, it captures for me the essence of education.

There are as many success stories as there are individuals within schools. As educators we should be considering how we can best provide a multitude of pathways and platforms for individuals to identify their passions and then develop the skills needed to turn that into their pursuits beyond schooling. Tony Wagner authored a great book entitled ‘Most likely to succeed: Preparing our kids for the innovation era’ within this book he stated ‘Once again, the education model revolves around what makes life easy for test designers, not what’s best for kids.” We need to rapidly address this.

How important is learning space design?

Critical. Whilst I am accepting of the concept that a great teacher can teach under a tree, I also believe that we need to construct environments that support the pedagogy to maximise learning for young people. A space can be so many things and often when we work with students to design a space they see it very differently from the way that adults do. Student agency is important in how schools should be operated, designed and run.

What does learning look like 100 years from now?

Blended learning will dominate the landscape, I believe that we could move to an iTunes model of education where students are able to sign into courses, offered globally, in virtual classrooms powered by augmented and virtual reality. I still believe that students will congregate in communities called schools, yet these schools will be hyper-connected and be much more personalised. The boundaries between universities and schools will also be blurred with less importance placed on lengthy degrees and more placed on development of ‘soft skills’ and micro-credentialing.

Do you have any advice or 'words of wisdom' for any young aspiring teachers about to start their career?

Be prepared to change. Based on my previous answer, if you are looking at teaching as a repetition of your own educational experience, you may be disappointed. Teaching is a profession that is unlikely to be automated, even in a virtual setting you will be needed for your empathy, your relationships and the positive influence you will have on student wellbeing, as such it is a great industry to work in.

What was your favourite subject at school and why?

History. My teachers were inspiring and it connected me with a world that I did not know when isolated in Perth. It allowed me to see that people could be vastly different in the way they approached major issues and began my interest in travelling the world.