Secondary education today suffers from two basic challenges:

  1. First, it views students as passive recipients of information provided by instructors, and requires students to take tests to prove that they have received and processed the information.

    The typical response: “I’m bored.”

  2. Second, much of the typical curriculum offered to students lacks relevance for students’ lives.

    The typical response: “Why do I need to learn this?”

These challenges have obvious, often devastating effects.

A majority of high school students in the United States are disengaged from their learning, and participate because they have to, not because they see learning as an essential ingredient for success. To them, school is often a tax imposed on their time, rather than an investment in their futures.

Young adults also enter the workforce unprepared to create value in the way that employers require, as they are trained to receive information, instead of solving problems and innovating.


The Need is Clear

In the coming decades, technology-driven automation and artificial intelligence will radically change the way people work, and will require new mindsets and skills.

Secondary education must prepare young adults to become
life-long learners.

Young adults increasingly need to be able to work with rapidly shifting requirements, focused on solving problems, and capable of reinventing themselves and learning new skills.

Some educational methods, such as inquiry-based learning and project-based learning, demonstrate the power of activating students, enabling their agency, and focusing them on competences instead of information. But most of these approaches are difficult to implement at scale, are overly dependent on teacher quality. As a result, comprehensive solutions that schools can use are rare.

Our Response: Quest Forward Learning

Quest Forward Learning is a direct response to the current challenges in education, addressing the need of high school students to develop the mindset, habits and skills they will need to thrive and succeed in a rapidly changing world.

Building on research from Learning Science, Psychology, and other disciplines, we designed a comprehensive learning framework for use by schools in their academic and skills development work.

Quest Forward Learning combines:

  • an active learning methodology,
  • a skills-forward curriculum,
  • a learning management platform, and
  • comprehensive professional development and logistical support for teachers and schools.

The program is now active in 23 schools in the United States and in Tanzania, and growing rapidly. The early results are remarkable: engaged students who own their education assertively, and who show both strong academic outcomes and impressive growth scores.

Quest Forward Learning is a comprehensive solution for schools to offer their students active, skills-forward learning in core academic subjects, supported by teachers working as mentors, and an enabling technology platform with apps for students, mentors, and school leaders.

Guiding Principles

The program is built on five Guiding Principles, which emerge from our research work and inform all aspects of the program and its components:

  1. Learning Requires Action

    Most people learn best by doing. Sitting passively in a desk for hours per day does not aid growth, creative thinking, and deep thinking. Active students, who are partners in the daily work of learning with their mentors, grow and learn at a faster rate, and more deeply.

  2. Learning Improves with Practice

    Athletes, musicians, chefs, craftspeople and many others know that mastery comes from repeated practice of a skill. In school, most students engage a topic for a few days at best, and then move on. Repeated, sustained practice of core skills builds a life-long foundation, not just fact recall for the next test.

  3. We Learn Better Together

    Humans are social beings, and studies show that children can learn very effectively from each other, or when working together. Learning that involves peers — in understanding, feedback, and joint projects — is more enjoyable, and teaches essential success skills in the process.

  4. Learning Happens Everywhere, and Always

    Young people learn all the time, not only in school. Recognizing this, and enabling continuous learning in all life contexts, leads to improved growth and learning outcomes.

  5. Learning Drives Personal Growth

    Effective learning is transformational, enabling the student to better understand their world, to find a place in it, and to create value wherever they go as an integrated, capable individual.

Essential Habits

Success in education and career require a solid character foundation, and the ability to manage one’s own learning. Quest Forward Learning includes 6 Essential Habits that, when practiced regularly, enable life-long learning, resilience in the face of setbacks, better communication, and more.

Practicing habits in school powered by Quest Forward Learning takes place through week-long habit challenges, sustained month-long practice of a single habit, and the ability to review and track habit growth over time.

  • https://www.opportunityeducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/BeCurious.svg

    Be Curious

    Ask questions about the world and seek answers and new experiences. Explore, experiment, and embrace uncertainties.

  • https://www.opportunityeducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/ManageYourself.svg

    Manage Yourself

    Understand when you need help and ask for help. Set goals and evaluate your progress. Manage your pace, reflect on your thinking, and be confident in your abilities.

  • https://www.opportunityeducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/LearnfromSetbacks.svg

    Learn from Setbacks

    Persist through challenges and identify strategies for improving. Develop a growth mindset — the belief that you always have more to learn and are capable of changing and improving.

  • https://www.opportunityeducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/CommunicateCollaborate.svg

    Communicate and Collaborate

    Articulate your ideas and opinions effectively and respectfully. Listen and understand perspectives of others. Develop an open mindset, share your expertise, help others, and collaborate to accomplish shared goals. Give, receive, synthesize, and incorporate feedback.

  • https://www.opportunityeducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/SolveProblems.svg

    Solve Problems

    Identify problems and their causes, seek information about problems and existing solutions, and create and test new solutions and ways to address problems.

  • https://www.opportunityeducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/LiveIntegratedLife.svg

    Live an Integrated Life

    Draw on resources from one area of your life to help you in another. Tell your friends and family about what you do in school, showcase your work, and collaborate with local and global communities.

We believe that teachers play an essential role in the development of young adults.

But rather than focusing on their subjects, our teachers focus on their students and help them achieve success. Acting as mentors, teachers who use Quest Forward Learning provide guidance, feedback, and context to students, rather than serving as the principal source for subject-specific content. Mentors lead their students through the Quest Forward Curriculum, in classroom sessions and outside of class, keeping each student on an appropriate pace, evaluating their work, and providing feedback.

Mentors also assess student work regularly — their classroom engagement, the work products they create to demonstrate competence in a given skill, their skills growth, and their habit development.

Mentor Sarah Earnest in the lab at Quest Forward Academy Omaha

Our Quest Forward Curriculum covers grades 9-11 in the United States (12th grade coming in 2020), and Forms 1-3 in Tanzania (Form 4 coming in 2020). The curriculum covers core academic subjects, and aligns with relevant local standards.

A diagram of the interdisciplinary high school curriculum at Quest Forward Academies.
The interdisciplinary high school curriculum at Quest Forward Academies in the US.

Courses are built from individual quests, which are organized into levels that structure each course’s scope and sequence as needed. Each course is designed using a skills framework that identifies the specific skills a student should learn, practice, and master through their course work. Each quest is linked to specific skills, and skills form the basis for assessment of competence.

The curriculum is designed by experienced instructional designers, teachers, and practitioners working in their subject specialty and in the country for which they are designing the materials.

Example Skills Framework: Science

Skills Framework Access for Students

Each quest is linked to specific skills the student will practice when working through the quest. Linked skills are always visible to students and mentors in the Quest! app.

A screenshot of a quest activity in the Quest! app, displaying the skills associated with the quest in a panel on the right.

The Quest Forward Platform enables students to progress at their appropriate pace, and mentors to mentor individual students — and groups of students — with detailed insights into each student’s progress. The Platform also enables school leaders to oversee the work of their students and mentors with detailed analytics, allowing for early intervention and increasing the likelihood of success. Lastly, the Platform enables the OE Curriculum teams to design quests and courses worldwide that are optimized for enabling Quest Forward Learning.

The platform consists of 4 applications:

Quest! Web

Quest! is used by students and mentors with chromebooks, laptop, or desktop computers, or Apple iPads, with a continuous Internet connection. Provides access to the curriculum, note taking, student/mentor communication, and assessment capabilities.

Quest! Tablet

Quest! Tablet is used by students and mentors with Android tablets or phones, with the option of offline use. It provides access to the curriculum, note taking, student/mentor communication, and assessment capabilities.

QuestCommunity

QuestCommunity is used by school leaders to manage student information and access detailed insight into each course’s student progression and mentor activity.

QuestMaker

QuestMaker is used by curriculum designers to create quests, manage skills frameworks, and peer-review and revise quests worldwide.

Mentors, school leaders, and curriculum designers collaborate in person at the Great Mentor Meeting every year.

Changing educational practices is a challenge, even in the most dedicated schools.

To support schools in their adoption of Quest Forward Learning, Opportunity Education provides both logistical implementation support, as well as ongoing mentor professional development and coaching activities. This support typically begins 9 months before students engage with Quest Forward Learning, and continues throughout the school year.

Quest! Web app, displayed in a browser, showing a level called
QuestCommunity
A quest designer edits a quest activity called

Running a School with Quest Forward Learning

Quest Forward Learning is designed as a holistic solution for operating innovative schools. In addition to the educational framework of Quest Forward Learning, Opportunity Education also provides guidance for daily, weekly, and annual schedules, staffing models, handbooks, and other resources required to operate an innovative school productively and cost-effectively.

Schools that implement Quest Forward Learning at the highest fidelity are designed as Quest Forward Academies, which opens additional support options and enables schools to take on a leading role in the global Quest Forward Schools Network. Learn more about the Quest Forward Academies.

Why Join?

Quest Forward Learning is available to schools ready to shift their learning to active student engagement, personalization, and a competence-driven approach. Learn more about the benefits of the Quest Forward Schools Network, and consider joining today!

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