ACS International School Doha adopts neuroscience techniques to better prepare its students for the future

neuroscience techniques

ACS International School Doha will start its new school year at a new campus designed to inspire exploration, innovation and collaboration for its students.  

Speaking to Qatar Tribune, Head of School, Robert Cody, said that the school has made a commitment to revisit its education strategy, with work started a few years ago across ACS International Schools three campuses in the UK and one in Doha to ensure all their students are prepared for the future.  

‘We - at ACS - want to be progressive, bold and dynamic. Our educational strategy for the upcoming five years is to look at where education should go and then put a map together to help get us there’, Robert stated. 

Speaking more on the strategy, Robert emphasized its roots within the idea of ‘education collective efficacy’. The psychological concept refers to the correlation between educators’ confidence and positive affirmation with students’ ability to perform better.  When educators are able to adopt a positive mindset, it trickles into students’ confidence in being able to achieve anything. This is part of ACS’s educational strategy to encourage all students to get everyone on board.  

He also stressed the importance of understanding the latest neuroscience research in understanding childhood development and adopting the best teaching practices.  

“We’ve looked into some of the effects of bias as an innate function of the brain, to curb biases from impacting the actions and decisions we make towards students. In this respect, we’ve launched a series of staff training and development that will teach us more about bias”, Robert added.  

Sharing some of the latest research he has been acquainted with, Robert Cody stressed the importance of inspiring children. “When you are inspired, you move. Sitting in class receiving information doesn’t help you grow and learn what you want to be. That is why, at ACS, we focus on the three factors for student success: knowledge, skills, and attitude”. 

Continuing on the learning concepts adopted by ACS, he said that the school inspires and helps students learn by keeping them motivated and inspiring them to come up with ideas on their own.  

Some of the ways ACS achieves this is by incorporating the latest methods and practices on how the brain works. Motivation is a leading factor in the way students learn, becoming empowered  in their educational journey. ACS, therefore, stresses the importance of adopting a ‘SCARF’ model of motivation within its faculty and community. David Rock, expert on the relationship between neuroscience and social interactions, claimed that the best way to facilitate student motivation, is to look into the factors of SCARF: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness.  

When students feel a lack of autonomy in the classroom, it reflects in their learning and performance.  The International Baccalaureate (IB) program and the US’s Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum followed by the school are designed to tap into students’ motivation by allowing them to take their academics into their own hands. One of the ways ACS Doha’s curricula achieve this aim, is by nurturing a mindset of growth and potential through its grading and evaluations. By eliminating the traditional methods of measuring student performance such as averaging grades, the school prioritizes student growth and improvement.    

It is worth noting that ACS Doha is moving to its new campus in August 2020. The new campus will embody the school’s longstanding values and its consistent educational vision and constantly renewing global education standards. 

‘Creativity is a critical skill for the next generation, and the new building is designed to help boost creativity through its various learning zones. Buildings in the new campus are set up differently from the traditional pattern. The design and aesthetic of the building is inspired by the souqs and Arab architecture, resulting in a design that complements the weather. The alleyways allow for breeze and shade, even in the hot weather’, said Robert. 

The Western Association for Schools and Colleges (WASC), a world renowned accrediting body that recognizes student oriented and trustworthy schools, during its  latest evaluation stated that ACS is one of the few schools adopting pillars of the growth mindset. The growth mindset allows students to take risk and to use each outcome, both positive and negative, as a learning experience to grow from. As a result, the growth mindset reinforces the idea that effort, perseverance and practice alone can change ability and hone skills.  ACS Doha has long adopted this approach, through the support offered from ACS’s UK campuses to ACS Doha, reassuring parents of the school group’s commitment to adopting the best policies in education.  

“We call it allied leadership, we have the support of schools that been around for 50+ years and have a long history of academic success. We feel - as part of that family - we can access this leadership and learn from their expertise; we are not reinventing things, we are innovating”, Robert stressed.   

With over 70 nationalities, and students from a diverse backgrounds, ACS deals with differences by looking at each child individually, “when talking about these initiatives we make adjustments depending on each child’s culture and background and aspirations, but we still maintain the same core fundamental beliefs of effective learning, caring contributor, and confident individual”, giving equal weight to all.