slide6Research skills are vital for all educators. With more information available than ever before, teachers/leaders need techniques to sift through the volumes of data, to gather the information and then, analyse data for a reliable diagnosis of the perceived issues.

Of course, time seems to be an obstacle for all busy teachers/leaders. This is where TEC can be of assistance. TEC has at its core, staff who have a research base. Prof James Dalziel, Dr Thomas Smith, Dr Anne Knowles and Dr Tina Lamont are all familiar with research and want your staff to make the best decisions based on reliable results.

What we can help you with!

– Action-research projects, surveys or longitudinal studies.
– Tutoring in analysis of Naplan data.
– Scholarly gatherings for those leaders who wish to debate/discuss the current research findings on Schools and Colleges.


Core Values for Researchers:

Contentment – attitude of gratitude
Commitment to mentoring others
Emotional Intelligence – learning to be socially aware
Creating a community of like-minded academics
Mission and Service – to spread the word, publish in Australia and Worldwide, attend educational conferences
Relational – seek friendship with others, engage in Christian forums
Stewardship – to share resources and be generous with one’s gifts
Resolution – being committed to Biblical peer reviewed research

Workshops and Conferences

Twice yearly Scholarly gatherings “SCEG” – Prof James Dalziel

Twice a year there is a gathering of like-minded leaders and researchers who are passionate about the issues facing Christian education called the Scholarly Christian Educators’ Gathering (SCEG). They are generally held at St. Andrew’s Cathedral School and open to interested parties from schools, colleges, tertiary institutions and external providers.

Analysis of Naplan data

School wide analysis and discussion of data collected is proving to be a high priority for schools. As this is sometimes the starting point for school improvement, participants will need to bring, or have access to their own school data for use within this supportive workshop. Discussion around data collected regarding Christian character will be a focus point.

Action Research – in your Christian School – Dr T Smith

Ever wanted to know if your students are developing Christian perspectives and Christian character? This workshop facilitates deep engagement with Research in this area. Based on the exploration of current research and research evidence, participants will then have the opportunity to engage in a facilitated process of exploring ways in which they can translate the research to current practice, with a particular focus on improving Christian thinking and character development.

Research Projects

Action Research

This is where TEC will come and design, conduct and analyse an action research project. We will assist you in developing your research questions, conduct a literature review, assist you in choosing an appropriate research design (interviews, surveys, focus groups) analyse data and communicate the research findings. Research topics could include: Christian Character, Values and Beliefs.

Surveys of Community

Sometimes a survey is how you want to collect data on your Christian School community. We at TEC are experienced in all forms of survey methods. This includes questionnaires, interviews, cross-sectional surveys and longitudinal surveys. We are here to assist you with the types of questions, gathering information and dissemination of the results.

















What to do while waiting for God

James Dalziel

Devotion for Pacific Hills Christian School, 8/3/16

Many people have favourite Bible verses. Some are the great truths of the Bible, like John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes him shall not perish but have eternal life”, while others may carry unique personal significance.


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In recent years I’ve been drawn to some of the less noticed verses in the Bible. For example, in my late thirties my brown hair gently started fading to grey. Given my academic vocation, this had certain advantages, but in truth I would have preferred the grey to hold off for another decade or so. But I smiled the day I read Proverbs 16:31 which says “grey hair is a crown of splendour”. Perhaps there is a market for a Bible that highlights the verses to help middle-aged men adjust to the idea that the band they played in when they were twenty will probably never re-form and play a stadium concert.

Another less noticed Bible verse echoes my new love of organic farming and permaculture. As a young man I was quite dismissive of organic food and farming – is sounded like a lot of blouse-wearing to me – but about five years ago my wife encouraged us to get some backyard chickens. This was the start of a surprising journey for me towards a better understanding of where our food comes from; about the unnatural processes behind many mass-produced foods, about how poorly many animals are treated; and by contrast the joy of natural food production processes that enhance the land, rather than degrade it. I particularly like the work of Joel Salatin at Polyface farm – Joel says that the health of his soil and his earthworms is the best measure of his farm’s success.

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when in the middle of 2 Chronicles, not one of the most frequently read books of the bible, I discovered King Uzziah, who we are told in 2 Ch 26:10 “loved the soil”. Not just managed the soil, not just looked after it, but loved the soil. One day I hope to have a small farm, and I’ll be tempted to call it “King Uzziah’s farm”, although I wouldn’t want the neighbours to think I was a crazy person. Well, not the wrong sort of crazy person. And sometimes I imagine that great day when God makes all things new, and I think of how wonderful it will be to sit and listen to King Uzziah and Joel Salatin wax lyrical about the soil.

Now to one of my favourite less noticed verses – it comes from the story of Joseph in Genesis – do you remember the part where he is prison? There he meets Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, and each has a dream, which Joseph can interpret because God is with him. The cupbearer is soon lifted up and restored to his previous position, while the baker’s head is grimly “lifted up”. The cupbearer was meant to mention Joseph to Pharaoh, but he forgot. Then Pharaoh has his dreams, the cupbearer remembers Joseph, and Joseph is brought before Pharaoh to interpret. So… how long was Joseph waiting in prison after the cupbearer was restored? Three days? A week or so? A month?

Here is the verse – in fact, half a verse – that caught my eye. Genesis 41:1a “When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream”. Two full years. 730 days. That’s a lot longer than I had assumed when I missed this verse on previous readings.

And it’s not just that Joseph was in prison for a long time, it was that God had acted decisively in Joseph’s by helping him interpret the dreams, and then nothing seems to happen after this. For a long time.

I try to imagine Joseph’s prayers to God on day 600 – what did he say to God? If it had been me, I think would have been asking God what was going on – “why give me the interpretation and what seemed a golden chance to leave prison, and then nothing? Why did my earlier dreams seem to indicate my life had some significant purpose, and now day after day I’m stuck in prison without meaning?”

We don’t know what Joseph prayed, although we do know he worked so diligently to help the warden of the prison that he was given management of the prison – so he wasn’t just moping about.

There seem to me to be two possibilities for how Joseph responded during these two years – both involved trusting God, in believing that God has a plan, that God is Sovereign.

The first is that Joseph simply waited patiently on God, trusting that in whatever way God would use him he would serve faithfully. On day 600, he may have wondered whether God had some big event planned for him in the future, but whether God did or didn’t, he would seek to serve each day humbly and faithfully wherever he found himself.

We can apply this to our own lives and struggles. Sometimes God’s plans are different from what we think, and His timing is not our timing. In these cases, I think we can draw great strength and solace from the book of Job, one of the more extraordinary books of the Old Testament, where Job cries out to God in his suffering wanting to understand his dire circumstances. Following much misguided advice from his friends, when God speaks to Job at the end of the book, he doesn’t answer Job’s questions about his suffering. Rather, he gives Job a glimpse of the astonishing beauty and complexity of the world that God sees – the “big picture”. After this, Job humbly repents saying, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

God’s plans are often different from what we think, and His timing is not our timing. Sometimes events well beyond our understanding are progressing according to a divine plan we do not see, and this may involve hard times and extended periods of waiting. At the end of the story of Joseph in Gen 50:20, after his father has died and his brothers fear Joseph might finally seek retribution, he says this: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Two years in prison after the cupbearer was restored was a long time to wait on God, but others in the Bible waited longer – it was 25 years before God’s promise to Sarah was fulfilled when she bore her son Isaac, Joseph’s grandfather. Later, the nation of Israel spent a lifetime, 70 years, in exile; and it was 400 years between the end of the Old Testament writings and the coming of Jesus. And many today have seen far greater trials and suffering than I have. But whatever our circumstances, I think the challenge is the same – are we willing to patiently trust God in His plans and His timing? Will we trust that He loves us and that He is Sovereign?

There is a second possibility for Joseph, which ends in the same place of trust in God, but gets there by a different path. We know that part of God’s love for us is that he disciplines us and refines us to be like pure gold. For example, in Proverbs 3:11-12, and then again in Hebrews 12:5-6, we read:

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,

and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 

Was God testing Joseph to refine him while he was in prison? We don’t know for sure, but another less noticed verse may give us a clue. Right back at the very start of the story of Joseph in Gen 37:2 we read:

“Joseph, a young man of seventeen was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.”

Now given the bad behaviour of his brothers a little later, Joseph may have been simply speaking the truth when he gave this bad report to his father. But maybe he was not blameless in this bad report. And later when he told his brothers his dreams, perhaps he took a little too much pride in them.

We don’t know about Joseph, but in our own lives, there will be many times where God’s apparent delays or unexpected events can be God’s loving discipline to call us to repent and to know Him more deeply, and to change to become more like His Son Jesus. To refine us with fire to become more like pure gold.

God has been gracious to act like this in my own life, and perhaps that is why I am drawn to the verse about Joseph and his two years in prison after the restoration of the cupbearer. My hardest struggles have been opportunities to seek God more fully and turn away from that which is broken in me, relying on the transformative power of the Holy Spirit working within me.

In some of my other struggles, it has simply been about patient endurance while God’s plans unfolded in ways I could not foresee. In these cases, I tried to learn God’s lesson at the end of Job.

Either way, it comes down to trusting that God is in control, that God is Sovereign. Tolkien, the author of the Lord of the Rings, and a man who knew significant suffering in his early life, put it this way, “a divine ‘punishment’ is also a divine ‘gift’”. Steven Colbert (of the Colbert Report) recently paraphrased Tolkien when speaking of his own early suffering when he said, “What punishments of God are not gifts?”

What should we do when we lack understanding during our challenges? In the intellectual realm, I have found great comfort in the idea found in St Augustine and St Anselm of “faith before understanding”. This does not mean blind or irrational faith – rather, it means that there are some things about God that are only rightly understood from within a humble attitude of faith and trust; as St Anselm puts it, “faith seeking understanding”.

But in our hearts and the daily practice of our lives, what should we do? It is here that a related phrase hit home for me – “obedience before understanding”. When I was in my own very difficult period, and was not really sure what to do, it was simple obedience that God used to change me. Obedience like praying, even when I wasn’t quite sure how prayer worked; like turning away from things in my life that I knew were not what God wanted me to do; like making sacrifices for the benefit of others; and like reading God’s Word carefully, even when I had a great many questions about it. It is not the obedience that brought me to God – the faith had to come first – but the faith found flesh in obedience.

During years of close reading of the Bible, I found many treasures. The greatest is God’s persistence in reaching out to mankind, which culminates in the death and resurrection of God’s Son, and the call to all people to repent and put their faith in Jesus. And one day He will make all things new.

But I also found a great many little treasures, like the splendour of grey hair, King Uzziah who loved the soil, and Joseph spending 730 days in prison wondering why God gave him an interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream.

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Defiant Practices

James Dalziel

Devotion for Pacific Hills Christian School 25/5/16

The book of Job is one of my favourite books of the Bible. While it is best known for Job’s struggle to understand his suffering, in begins with a fascinating glimpse into the heavenly realms which is really quite surprising.


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 (Job 1:6-12a, NIV): “One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power.”

One of the implications of this passage is that when we choose to trust God in very difficult circumstances, we actually bring Glory to God, because by our decision to keep trusting God, we refute the challenge of Satan.

When I last spoke here, I talked about two phrases that have become very important to me in grappling with challenges in my faith. The first is “faith before understanding” – not as blind faith, but rather the idea that through persistent faith, I discover new understanding over time. The second was “obedience before understanding”, that my actions or “practices” matter. When I am faithful in right practices, this changes who I am, and as my character changes, I (sometimes) gain understanding that would not have come any other way. Today I want to focus briefly on this issue of our actions – our practices. Let me tell you a story of a practice that has affected me recently.

During the lead up to the second world war, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German church leader who refused to go along with the rise of the Nazis, and ended up running an “illegal” seminary to train church leaders. Bonhoeffer’s book “Life Together” describes many of his insights from this period – I have learnt a great deal from this little book.

During this time, he developed many practices to help future church leaders develop their Christian character, not just their Bible knowledge. While some of these are described in Life Together, others are scattered through his letters and the recorded memories of his students. David Smith from Calvin College is collecting all these practices, and one of them that David found was that if someone had something negative to say about another person at the seminary, they could only say it when that person was present to hear them say it.

If someone spoke negatively of another person without them being present (which still happened often, even despite good intentions), the speaker had to go and find the person who they had spoken negatively of, tell them what they had said, and apologise for saying it without them being present. This practice had a profound impact on life at the illegal seminary – it was no doubt very hard to live up to, but when done with love, it would have built a deep Christian community.

What I find interesting about this practice is how it changes the person speaking – they can still speak negatively about another, but only with the other person present to respond to what is said. It places a burden on the speaker to try to be fair and accurate in what they have to say; and while it does not block criticism (which can be healthy), it places a restraint on how it is done. It would also be a powerful antidote to gossip and slander.

Since I heard this story, I have been trying to live by a modified form of this practice – when I have a negative thing to say about another person, I try to imagine they are there in the room with me, and I try to speak as if they were there listening to me.

I have found this makes me try harder to understand another’s point of view and what they would want to say in their defence. I try to sympathetically imagine their circumstances that have led to my negative comment, and this tends to make me a bit more even-handed. I find myself saying things like “well, if so-and-so were here, I think they would want to say this in their defence, and they would have a point to some extent.”

Don’t get me wrong – I am no saint at this – it is all too easy to speak negatively about someone who has been annoying, or petty, or unkind, or unreasonable, or simply failed to live up to the calling we have. But if nothing else, I find this practice slows me down, and helps me to step out of my own skin for a moment to try to see the world from another perspective. It hopefully makes me a bit less judgemental.

I think that when we act on practices like these, and we get it right, we bring honour to God. And like in the story of Job, in a small way, we refute the challenge of Satan, that we only serve God because of His blessings to us; that we won’t serve God when it is difficult.

What other practices might we adopt in our lives? Some of the most obvious are nonetheless some of the most important: to pray regularly, to read God’s word regularly, to keep up meeting with other Christians regularly, to give financially to those in need, to love and help others regularly.

Other practices are about resisting temptations – the temptation to put ourselves first, to fail to live up to the life of purity that God calls us to, and the temptation to simply waste time – especially on the internet!

So how do we change our practices? Above all else, we must seek God to transform our hearts by His Holy Spirit, for it is the inward transformation that at first gives us strength to act rightly, and with time sees us changed in our inner being so that we naturally want to do what is right. While self-discipline is an important part of the process, we must start with reliance on God to change us from within by His Holy Spirit.

One part of the challenge is our capacity for self-deception – we deceive ourselves about the realities of our actions. To try to counter my self-deception, there is a phrase that I have been watching out for that alerts me to areas that need change in my life. The phrase is this: “It doesn’t matter if I just…”

“It doesn’t matter if I just skip prayer tonight…

“It doesn’t matter if I just look at one more website…

“It doesn’t matter if I just leave my Bible reading until tomorrow…

“It doesn’t matter if I just play one more level on this computer game…

“It doesn’t matter if I just have another beer…

“It doesn’t matter if I just check Facebook again…

“It doesn’t matter if I just have a bit more chocolate…

Now don’t get me wrong – the Christian life is not one of boring self-denial – we are called to know life to the full. All of the things I mentioned can have their right place – it is more about priorities and timing.

In fact, the phrase “It doesn’t matter if I just…” is itself an admission that something does matter – we wouldn’t bother saying this to ourselves if it genuinely didn’t matter. What we’re trying to say to ourselves is that it doesn’t matter very much, and it’s not like it is a big deal – doing this one thing won’t change us in any important way.

That seems true until you actually fight back against this part of you. You could say to yourself, “well, if it doesn’t matter much, then I might as well do the right thing instead – seeing as it doesn’t really matter.” I don’t know about you, but when I’ve actually tried to do this – to turn off the computer game, or actually put a beer back in the fridge that I just got out – it suddenly turns into quite a big deal.

Again, please don’t get me wrong on this – I’m no saint – I might win a proper battle like this with myself just a few times a week. But it’s not that long ago that I didn’t win any of these battles for months at a time, I just said “It doesn’t matter if I just…”

You may have heard it said that self-discipline is like a muscle, the more you exercise self-discipline, the more you strengthen that muscle, the more able you are to be self-disciplined in the future. To be honest, I have always disliked this analogy – a lot.

And I hate to say it now, but there is a deep truth in this analogy. But the truth came to me in a surprising way. It’s no so much the fighting against my desires that has been the revelation for me – it has been the moments of success. Because each time I do the right thing, then next time I hit a battle like this, I remember the time I did the right thing, and this encourages me a little bit to try to do the right thing again. For me, it is the positive experiences of self-discipline that help pull me forward when I hit the next hard moment.

I recently heard our faith in God and Jesus described as a “defiant hope” – a hope that continues defiantly even when we struggle. Job had a defiant hope – even in his troubles and uncertainty.

So building on our defiant hope, I’d suggest we also think about “defiant practices” – that is, practices where, even when it is hard, we will struggle on to do the right thing – to defy the parts of us that would tell us “It doesn’t matter if I just…”

And in a small way, when we choose the right path in our practices, we, like Job, refute the challenge of Satan that we only follow God because of his blessings. When our defiant hope gives birth to defiant practices, we bring glory to God.

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Dr Thomas Smith, The Excellence Centre Honorary Research Consultant

Dr Thomas Smith is a Research Assistant.  He is passionate about researching student values learning and moral decision-making processes. He desires to explore what it means for Christian teachers to encourage students to “hide God’s word in their heart.
Read more of Dr Thomas Smith’s bio here

Dr Anne Knowles, The Excellence Centre Research Assistant

Anne has been involved in Christian Education for many years.  Beginning at PHCS in 1986, as staff, teaching Science, Biology, PDHPE and Mathematics, as well as,

from 1996 as a parent. Anne has a Masters of Education (Hons) and a PhD in Behaviour Genetics/Education, studying Self-concept in Twins. Anne has a special
interest in Gifted Education.  “I have always been very interested in Research and in 2017 I have been given the wonderful opportunity to work as a Research Assistant with TEC.”
Read more of Dr Anne Knowles bio here

Visiting Consultants

The Excellence Centre offers a comprehensive range of tailored Consultants who are available to undertake the following activities:

Onsite Educational and Operational Audits and Reviews

Diagnostic Evaluations of Curriculum and of Teacher Performance

Preparation and presentation of Targeted Professional Learning experiences and individual Professional Learning Programs

Mentoring of School Leaders and emerging Leaders

Supervision of in house Action Research Projects

Enquire about a visit by one of our consultants