QAM principal sheds light on how QF schools empower students through self-expression and two-way communication
In Qatar Foundation’s education ecosystem, self-expression is a seed for creativity. And, if nurtured from an early age, it can help contribute to building a sense of self, and help young people make sound decisions and form their own set of principles.
Louise Cullen, Principal of Qatar Academy Msheireb (QAM) – part of Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Pre-University Education – believes that the education a student receives plays a crucial role in the development of capabilities.
Cullen explains how a supportive learning environment can provide students with opportunities to explore different styles of self-expression, discovering ways to share thoughts and feelings.
“Learning is a collaborative process. And, in this sense, self-expression is encouraged along with social skills, which are equally important, so the exchange of ideas can be constructive and respectful,” she says.
Students are encouraged to develop confidence to express themselves, but at the same time to be open-minded and willing to listen to others and appreciate different perspectives
“Students are encouraged to develop confidence to express themselves, but at the same time to be open-minded and willing to listen to others and appreciate different perspectives. The value of expression is not just for self, it must be extended to others, which for young students is important learning.”
As a school that follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum, students at QAM are engaged in collaborative learning, where they are encouraged to ask questions, conduct research, formulate ideas, and construct new understandings.
Empowered, the students have agency to voice their thinking, and the conviction to take action
“Our students often take a stance on issues of personal significance and employ communication skills to express their opinions, or suggest changes. Empowered, the students have agency to voice their thinking, and the conviction to take action.” Cullen said.
As an education expert, Cullen believes that communication skills are central to successful self-expression, as students learn to consider purpose and audience to determine the most appropriate mode of communication.
“There are many different modes of self-expression, and creative expression is particularly encouraged in our school in weekly music and visual arts lessons.”
According to Cullen, teachers play a pivotal role in helping students understand that each person has their own unique character, and to appreciate differences. They are instrumental in moderating the learning process, providing equal opportunities for each student, and creating a safe and healthy environment for young people to express themselves.
“Every student is unique. Some students are quiet and lack confidence, or interest in expressing themselves, others need to learn constraint to allow others a turn at self-expression,” says Cullen.
“Our teachers are skilled at supporting students and nurturing them to express themselves, but not necessarily all in the same way. The positive relationships that a community of learners share in a classroom – between the students and teacher – allow for exploration and experimentation, for encouragement and risk taking.”
At school, students learn that their ideas are valued, that it is not only okay to make mistakes, but that mistakes are an important part of learning
On the importance of boosting the quality of self-expression in school, Cullen believes in the saying that two heads are better than one, which suggests that collaborative thinking increases outcome and effect. ideas need to be shared - this is how self-expression can be of benefit not only to a student, but potentially to the expansion of human knowledge and understanding.
“If a person is shy to share ideas or feelings, the world is missing out.
“At school, the seeds of self-worth are sown. Students learn that their ideas are valued, that it is not only okay to make mistakes, but that mistakes are an important part of learning. With a growth mindset, students reflect, adapt, and persevere.
“In a supportive learning environment, that promotes such a mindset, there is no silly idea, but instead confident self-expression, open sharing of ideas and feelings, and students who are well-situated to achieve their potential.”