Graduates with Attributes that Matter – Ascham School

Ascham School graduates are generous collaborators, critical and agile thinkers, intrinsically motivated and authentically confident. In this article, members of the Ascham Senior Leadership Team, Dr Joanne Manning and Ms Myfanwy Stanfield, discuss two of these key graduate attributes.

by Dr Joanne Manning, Director of Curriculum and Learning, Ascham School

Remember when we had to use a dictionary or thesaurus to look up a word? Or when Encyclopedia Britannica and World Book were the fount of all knowledge? By today’s standards, our information was limited, out of date and our methods very time consuming.

The ease at which our students can gain information means they have access to diverse opinions, fast answers and when using reputable peer-reviewed sites, excellent resources. On the contrary, they can also end up in the wrong place. The internet, while a wealth of information, poses the 21st-century paradox that more information creates less truth.

Positions must be scrutinised and critiqued, and purpose questioned. Research must be reliable, corroborated and evidenced. Navigating this plethora of information requires experience, modelling and practice. Once this information is sifted and filtered, students face the equally challenging task of developing their own position.

The competing demands upon the time, energy and ethics of our students calls for a rigorous critical-thinking framework. At Ascham we have developed a teaching and learning framework that includes expectations of literacy and critical thinking.

First and foremost, students need to be taught literacy explicitly. The framework describes the important skills of reading and comprehending, including vocabulary, inferring, questioning and predicting; all essential skills for engaging with information and arguments.

Our critical-thinking framework describes our focus areas for critiquing material and developing a point of view. Students are required to grapple with concepts that might be ambiguous or paradoxical so they can sit with uncertainty and recognise multiple perspectives. We ask them to interrogate positions while empathising with another’s experience. These principles underpin problem-based questions that test our students’ ability to apply information in new ways to new problems.

Explicit teaching of the assumptions, implications and consequences of certain positions are also considered. Attention to logic such as cause-and-effect and reasoning helps them look for evidence. Flawed thinking is recognised and challenged, including cognitive biases such as prejudices and extreme positions that exclude the middle ground.

The Dalton Plan principles support agile and critical thinking, as teachers model thinking in Lessons and continue these discussions in Studies that afford opportunities for closer scrutiny of ideas and perspectives. We ask girls to take responsibility for their learning and arguments, basing their positions in evidence. We ask them to reflect on their emerging viewpoints and collaborate with their peers to evolve and develop their ideas.

Our graduates therefore go into the world confident in their ability to participate in their university curriculum and beyond, able to respond to the changing nature of society and quietly confident in their ability to sort the noise and hype from the sound arguments, the fads from what is meaningful. With the skills we teach them, the Ascham graduate is a leader of thinking.

This is the Dalton Plan in action.

by Ms Myfanwy Stanfield, Director of Enrolments and Community, Ascham School

You can instinctively feel if someone is authentically confident or not. They have an unshakable presence, are quietly assertive and capable of standing up for themselves. They are humble, secure and realistic.

Authentic confidence is neither arrogant nor superior; instead, it fosters trust and belief. We believe because it genuinely resonates within us.

Women’s voices and leadership matter now more than ever; our Ascham graduates know how to speak to their convictions and to stand up for others. Even more importantly, authentic confidence means they are open minded and curious—and can graciously accept criticism.

Authentic confidence runs deep, and with this inner knowledge our graduates know they will be okay, no matter what. It is a powerful tool for the 21st century world of polarity, fake news and cancel culture.

Through the unique programs at Ascham our girls are supported to take risks and fail forwards. Our teachers expertly guide dialogue and build professional relationships so that our girls engage in deep thinking and considered expression… in a nutshell, Ascham girls find their voice.

Our graduates leave the Ascham gates with authentic confidence in their toolkit, enabling them to continue to step outside their comfort zones and boldly pursue their goals with an unwavering faith in themselves.


For more information about Ascham School and the Dalton Plan, please visit our website:

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