SOT Pedagogy: ‘The Scheyville Experience’ and Student Performance Objectives

Differentiating from other academic, knowledge-driven approaches, the School of Thinking has always been focused on SKILLS since its inception in 1979. We are driven not by SLOs (Student Learning Objectives) but rather by SPOs (Student Performance Objectives). The SPO pedagogy was imported from the military.

Because the School of Thinking training strategy is strongly based on it, I’ve been asked to tell a little more about the Scheyville Experience.

The war movie that had the biggest impact on my life was a little known movie called National Service Officer, a military infomercial about a rigorous and elite finishing school for young army officers at an almost secret place called, Scheyville OTU (Officer Training Unit).

1967 201a Entrance

During the Viet Nam War, on being drafted for National Service, they showed it to us in boot camp and, as a result, we could volunteer to apply for leadership training at the Scheyville Battalion of Officer Cadets.

After a rigourous selection procedure a few of us were selected from each recruit training battalion around the country and I was one of the 23 selected from Puckapunyal in Victoria in July, 1967. I was a member of the class of 3/67 and 4/67. During less than a decade before it was closed down at the end of the Vietnam war, almost 1,800 men graduated from OTU Scheyville.

The Officer Training Unit (OTU) Scheyville (pronounced like ‘sky-ville’) was a place in Western Sydney of which most Australians have never heard. However the Scheyville Battalion’s leaders have gone on to be extraordinarily successful in their chosen fields; the famed DFAT class of ’69 pales in comparison. It has been argued that they are perhaps one of the most successful cohorts Australia has ever produced. In Australian military history this is now known as the Scheyville Experience.

Now you can watch that movie the Army made to recruit for the Scheyville Experience here

Most schools couldn’t claim as many successful sons as Scheyville. To be sure, schools like Perth Modern can claim a Prime Minister, departmental secretaries, ministers and a Governor-General – but it did not produce them within the space of seven years.

Scheyville can claim a Deputy Prime Minister (Tim Fischer), a state Premier (Jeff Kennett), parliamentarians, the leader of the famous airline strike, a Vice-Chancellor, scientists, a coterie of Brigadiers, successful broadcasters, journalists and advertising men and a bevy of prominent businessmen like Marcus Blackmore – all from but seven short years.

Scheyville also produced some very gallant young men.

The founding Commandant and ‘Father of Scheyville’ was Brigadier Ian Geddes. His training motto which he commended to the Officer Cadets was … I Can and I Will!


The founder of the Scheyville Battalion of Officer Cadets was Brigadier Ian Geddes who was born in Tamworth, New South Wales on 4 February 1921 and he suffered a stroke and died on Saturday, 21 July 2007.

3 thoughts on “SOT Pedagogy: ‘The Scheyville Experience’ and Student Performance Objectives

  1. Following 20 years of military service as an officer in the British Army, I still reflect on the training and how pertinent it is today as it was then. At the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, the instructors training methodology consisted of – Demonstrate, Imitate and Replicate. It was the replication of a specific drill and/or skill that was critical to ensure that it became second nature and could be conducted under pressure.

    Some of these skills included the ability to ‘think’. Taking the time to allow the brain to wonder and formulate different opinions and ideas was just as important, if not more so, to learning any other military skill. To encourage ‘thinking’ the British Army adopted the term “Mission Command’ which translated to telling subordinates ‘what to do’ but not ‘how to do it’. The result was that soldiers would always present a solution to a problem rather than just a problem.

    Today, as a civilian, I still use the Mission Command concept with my staff and the results are encouraging; Firstly, time wastage at meetings is reduced resulting in an increase in productivity and secondly, staff are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions and therefore have buy-in to the solutions.

    The only way I could get the Mission Command concept accepted by staff members was to follow the military training methodology of Demonstrate, Imitate and Replicate and eventually it became common practice. So after all these years the military system, in my opinion, has continued to be a been a valuable resource and experience.

  2. Nice article Michael. Apart from my initial entry training which consisted of the usual drill, repeat, drill, clothing inspections and never walking anywhere but running it all changed.

    I was a Navy undergraduate Medical Officer. Officer training was surprisingly a mixture of how one should dine, deal with pleasantries and Wardroom affairs balanced with leadership and basic premise of how to intuitively have others follow your command. It was all very much self managed in that if you didn’t do your best you knew you were out. No hype like Hollywood would suggest, simply an approach of ownership, outcome and timing with a degree of flexibility. On reflection now, I know this was the ‘think’ component which was taught to us as the process of understand, do, review and go back to understand.

    There was a subliminal message always and that was how as a young man would I be able to easily have other young men not only carry out my requests but do it with vigour and without question. Not for the reason I was an Officer but because those other young men wanted to. Again, on reflection this was a meme of think and balance the think component with the drill that ensures congruence of action.

    There are too many learnings and life long habits to mention from my time in service. I know many of these are intuitive and simply just happen now in my work. However, the key thing for me in my leadership style is empowerment of those around me. Inevitably they know the answers and actions and by encouraging the balance between a course of action and applying their experience and thoughts a better outcome may develop, be deployed and owned.

    Naturally, a sense of purpose and belief are critical otherwise it is blind leadership, not to mention the need for humour and fun along the way. It has stood the rest of time for me and I find many colleagues curious as to my seemingly simple approach to leadership and the results it brings.

  3. What struck me most in this article are the abbreviations SLO and SPO. Since the beginning of studies of the Intellectual Capital (IC) in the mid-1980s, the SLO was regarded as the essential ingredient in an organization’s quantity of IC. I was always wondering how does, for instance, powerful artifacts created by very skilfull artisans compare with (say) a lawyer sitting in the office and shuffling paper. I now see that the wonderings were justified. Others thought that way even earlier, which justifies the inclusion of exceptional skills into the treasury of IC.

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