“What’s significant about Halcyon is that focusing on student wellbeing is central to who we are. It doesn’t come as an afterthought, or an add-on - with a few extra support services tagged on to an academic curriculum and university preparation facilities- it has been a fundamental and core priority for our school from the beginning.”
Asil Al-Shammari, our University and Careers Counselling Director, adds the following: “This - our Cognitive Coaching Programme - is what equips students to be confident and successful as they consider Higher Education options.”
Early university preparation: exploring passions, strengths, and interests
From the very beginning of our Cognitive Coaching programme, starting in Grade 6, our students have the opportunity to plan a successful week at school, and reflect on what might not have gone so well the week before. To do this, students naturally identify their strengths and weaknesses: how they can use their social abilities, for example, to perform better in group work, or how they could improve their organisational skills to succeed academically.
During such conversations, students are encouraged to think about what kind of work they enjoy, and what they might want to do more of. This sparking of passions is channeled into Halcyon’s Personal Learning programme: from Grade 6, a student can develop their research, planning, and evaluation skills by completing a Passion Project on a subject of their choice. Previous passion projects have centred around animation, recipes, and even the practice of law.
“Starting Cognitive Coaching from early on puts students in the driving seat and moves them away from making choices based on typical narratives that push young learners to think about what they ‘should’ want,” explains Asil. “This makes them far more likely to succeed at whatever they choose to do.”
A supportive and uplifting environment
“There’s a sense that everyone in Grade 12 can be equally successful - it never feels like a competition between university applicants,” shares Asil.
Our University and Careers Counselling Director explains that this is a result of the student-driven nature of university consideration at Halcyon, buttressed by the Cognitive Coaching programme that supports students throughout their entire school journey. Students feel self-assured that they have made the choices that are suitable for their passions, strengths, and goals - and each individual supports one another in the university application process.
Confidence in academics
Asil agrees that there is certainly a positive feedback loop that results from students self-assuredness.
“Because students feel that they are pursuing academic excellence for themselves, rather than for others, there’s less of a sense of pressure when it comes to exam season. Students feel they can focus entirely on their own preparation rather than focusing on the expectations of their peers - a phenomenon which can sometimes have a counterproductive impact on success.”
Courage to change paths - before and after university
At Halcyon, the Cognitive Coaching programme encourages students to become stronger at self-reflection and evaluation. Without these key skills, some young people - as well as adults - may feel unequipped to re-evaluate their choices.
“Instead of continuing with a path they feel unhappy with, our students are much more likely to change their career goals to something that inspires them more. It is this courage that allows them to choose options at university level in which they can thrive,” explains Asil.
Thinking ahead: careers beyond university
“Because every teacher is trained in Cognitive Coaching, students receive opportunities for self-reflection and planning in the classroom as well as from their mentors,” adds Asil.
Building such capacity across the staff body enables Halcyon to have endless scope for encouraging students to think about their future: in lessons as well as in coaching conversations.
Supporting New Students: Navigating Change and Academic Challenge
Academics at Halcyon
Student Life at Halcyon
IB Student Profile: Lola, Grade 12, on the Diploma Programme
Cognitive Coaching: our Director explains our unique programme to TES
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