On April 22, 2017, the Qatar Foundation (QF) hosted its fourth annual Teaching and Learning Forum at the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC). The event attracted over 1000 teachers, policymakers and education leaders, who participated in a day rich with inspiring plenaries, dynamic workshops and productive networking opportunities.

Organised by the Education Development Institute, the event featured the innovative work of influential international education professionals and experts, who conducted strategic workshops aimed at informing and inspiring best practices in education, as well as highlighting the way forward, as teachers plan and work to prepare students for jobs that will take place in the next 40-50 years.

In acknowledging the importance of the conference, Buthaina Al Nuaimi, President of PUE, QF, said: “In just four years, EDI’s Teaching and Learning Forum has become one of the premiere annual teaching conferences not only in Qatar, but throughout the region. This important forum constitutes an integral part of QF’s drive to ensure innovation and knowledge sharing remain central to building creative educational strategies and to helping our teachers prepare today’s young men and women with the skills, knowledge, and tools they need to face the challenges of tomorrow.”

The impressive roster of international education experts included Dr Mae Jemison, a former astronaut, who was the first African American woman to travel in space, and NASA’s first science specialist, performing experiments in material science, life science and human adaptation to weightlessness.

The conference commenced with an empowering keynote speech delivered by Dr Jemison, in which she reminded attendees that teachers are the most important resource in education. She also shared her passion for science and encouraged teachers to explore different methodologies of teaching that will allow for experiential learning.

She concluded her insightful presentation by charging those present to ensure that they use each second of the 86,400 that is present in a day productively in order to make a positive impact on the world.

Following the keynote speech, attendees filtered into designated workshops where they engaged in intimate sessions that included presentations from more than 40 schools and organizations from across the region, including teachers from QF and other local schools, bringing together a diverse range of experiences and innovation led practice.

Featured guest speaker, highly accomplished educator and education leader at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Dr Deborah Jewell Sherman led a thoroughly engaging and stimulating session on leadership, which resulted in her receiving a standing ovation from enthused attendees. Her witty and sapient anecdotes kept attendees alert and inspired as she delved into the “What” “Why” and “How” of transformative leadership.

Other notable guest speakers included Mrs Katherine Merseth, who is the head of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Dr Mahmoud Al Batal, a leading author and voice in Arabic language education; and Mr Tom Schimmer, an independent education consultant from Vancouver, Canada, who is an internationally recognised expert in the areas of assessment, grading, RTI, and educational leadership.

Dr Mahmoud Al Batal’s presentation provided Arabic educators with vital strategies on how they can improve the teaching of Arabic by exploring a number of innovative strategies and activities that could improve student engagement and interest (cultural and intellectual) in the subject.

A noteworthy topic that has been of great focus in education over the past few years has been that of inclusive practices in teaching and learning. Guest speaker, Tom Schimmer tackled this topic by highlighting the importance of inclusive practices in schools. He stressed that identifying learning intentions, balancing formative and summative assessments, and providing effective feedback that lead to further engagement, are key. Tom encouraged participants to provide students with differentiated opportunities, which will give them choice and flexibility, ultimately leading to them being more invested in their own learning.

The event closed with an energising presentation by Mrs Merseth, who emphasised that “Deeper Learning” is the next important step that teachers need to employ while preparing students for the future workforce. She admonished teachers to allow students, especially girls, to ask questions, and explore the answers to questions that are usually dismissed as ‘disruptive’ in the classroom.

Sheikha Noof Ahmed Al-Thani, Executive Director of EDI, PUE, commented: “The Teaching and Learning Forum strives to lay down the foundations for a culture of excellence, by exchanging expertise, ideas and best practices, and encouraging teachers to enhance their professional skills continuously. The success of this year’s edition will certainly contribute to the amelioration of the standard of education in Qatar, producing graduates and global citizens who will ultimately lead Qatar to become a more sustainable and diverse economy.”

This year’s forum, sponsored by ExxonMobil in Qatar, was designed to inspire and motivate teachers to reach for the highest level of student engagement and achievement.

Alistair Routledge, President and General Manager for ExxonMobil Qatar expressed delight on being involved in this year’s event on behalf of the company.

“We are delighted to be involved in Education Development Institute’s Teaching and Learning Forum 2017 once again as its main sponsor. This important event is in line with our broader efforts to help improve the quality of education in Qatar’s schools by providing teachers with the tools and skills needed to inspire students to excel, especially in STEM subjects. We believe that quality education ultimately helps citizens work together to create strong, sustainable institutions and societies,” he shared.

Through the Teaching and Learning Forum, EDI, is supporting QF’s mission to promote a culture of lifelong learning in Qatar and to further advance its commitment to education in helping shape the future of the nation.

Undoubtedly, the success of this year’s Teaching and Learning Forum proves that teachers, education leaders and education policy makers are keen on maintaining a high standard of excellence and innovation in education in Qatar and the region. Participants left the forum equipped with new ideas, strategies and methodologies that they can implement into their teaching practice going forward.