Second stage of Education Development Institute event analyzes recommendations for making schools more sustainable amid and beyond COVID-19.
Recommendations that could help to make school learning more resilient have been explored in the second phase of Qatar Foundation’s Teaching & Learning Forum – as educators gathered online to look at the actions they can potentially take.
The issue of identity is a worldwide concern, and the challenges differ between societies
Held by the Education Development Institute (EDI), part of Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education, the first stage of the forum – which took place in October – saw participants tackle the question of how learning can be made more sustainable both amid and after COVID-19.
The newly published recommendations developed under six streams – Personalizing Teaching and Learning; Building Inclusive and Accessible Learning Communities; Fostering Community and Individual Wellbeing; Glocalizing the Curriculum; Identifying and Solving Problems; and Redefining Communication – have now been analyzed to assess how they can potentially be taken forward within schools, curriculums, and specific education areas.
Speaking at the second stage of the forum, education expert His Excellency Dr. Abdulaziz Al Horr, Director of the Diplomatic Institute at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “The issue of identity is a worldwide concern, and the challenges differ between societies.
“We cannot import a specific identity-making project and apply it on a certain community, as we must have sufficient understanding of our society – its data, its strengths and weaknesses, its history and geography – to enable us to formulate a proper national identity project. There are societies that have already succeeded in finding solutions to reach a common concept of identity.
“Today, we need to discuss the issue of identity, define commonalities and concepts and design frameworks on the issue of identity. If educators and teachers are unable to agree on common concepts, how can we be able to teach them to children and pass them on to different generations and translate these concepts and components in our curriculum?
Creating an identity requires a lot of societal, practical and behavioral projects and programs, not just knowledge content that we communicate to children and test them on
“Building a national identity is not a state project, but rather a community one. Creating an identity requires a lot of societal, practical and behavioral projects and programs, not just knowledge content that we communicate to children and test them on.”
Also speaking at the forum was Eric Sheninger, Associate Partner with the International Center for Leadership in Education, whose work is focused on how the digital age can move schools forward.
“How do we create schools that work for kids, whether or not we’re in a pandemic?” Sheninger asked. “So much attention has been paid to the pandemic, and rightfully so. But prior to the pandemic, the most disruptive force that was really compelling us to think about what we were doing was the fourth industrial revolution.”
Explaining how the Fourth Industrial Revolution is defined by automation, advanced robotics, and Artificial Intelligence – such as Siri and Alexa – Sheninger explained how students in today’s world need digital skills for the future.
If we think about what our learners need right now, in the midst of pandemic – with the Fourth Industrial Revolution – our learners need to think
“If we think about what our learners need right now, in the midst of pandemic – with the Fourth Industrial Revolution – our learners need to think,” he said. “They need those personal skills, especially since they’re isolated behind their computer screens. They need job-specific skills, which are going to be radically different to what we thought they might have been even a few months ago.
“We must think about where we are, and where we want to go, knowing that change isn’t coming, it’s here on our doorstep; knowing that when the dust settles, we pretty much are not going to go back to the world that we were accustomed to. And this is a lesson for us, because if we want to prepare kids for their future, we cannot be stuck in the past.”
Participants in the forum also heard from Dan Kindlon, a faculty member at Harvard University and founder of Edumetrics Inc., a company that helps schools to assess students, teachers, and their environment; and education specialist and activist Nayla Khader Hamadeh, President of the Lebanese Association for History, whose work is focused on designing and implementing new approaches to teaching history.
A total of 58 recommendations across the six streams have emerged through the forum, with those relating to glocalizing curriculums including linking what is taught in schools to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Qatar’s primary challenges; using local issues as the basis for learning opportunities; offering “authentic” learning experiences through schools teaming up with organizations in fields such as industry, environment, and culture; and creating partnerships between schools within Qatar and beyond to understand global issues from different perspectives.
Ideas for shaping the personalization of teaching and learning included providing students with the opportunity to have a say in lesson planning, forming closer connections with parents to ensure they recognize their role in their child’s education, and setting aside time for social conversations with students, as well as academic ones. In making learning communities more inclusive and accessible, participants suggested pathways such as creating interdisciplinary projects that allow students to learn from people with different skillsets and strength, and promoting student agency through greater self-assessment, self-monitoring, and involvement in setting goals.
Meanwhile, recommendations in the Fostering Community and Individual Wellbeing Stream included offering mindfulness activities, encouraging children to talk about and record their feelings, and creating positive classroom relationships by acknowledging strengths and focusing on students’ efforts rather than abilities. The full list of recommendations can now be viewed here.