2018: A Year of Learning
Another year has gone by, and what a year it was! 2018 was a turning point for Opportunity Education. We moved from a place of experimentation to seeing real impact both in the US and in Tanzania.
Milestones reached in 2018:
- 16 organizations participated in Quest Forward Learning.
- 965 students were enrolled in Quest Forward courses.
- 106 people mentored students in Quest Forward courses.
- 41,410 quests were completed by students.
- 6,000 habits were reviewed by mentors and students.
- 4,672 student skills checks and 1,774 mentor skills checks were completed.
Throughout the year, we carried out evaluation work to learn about mentors’ and students’ experiences and gathered feedback with the goal of improving Quest Forward Learning globally. We interviewed 58 students and 30 mentors, and observed in classrooms every week. We collected information through surveys and from our apps.
Here are 5 of the biggest Accomplishments from 2018:
Accomplishment #1: OE staff are greatly appreciated by mentors and students.
Administrators, mentors, and students at almost every organization mentioned how much they appreciate our team—our work, quick responses, and willingness to help and improve. This results in people feeling excited about Quest Forward Learning and being willing to work with us to tackle all manner of challenges.
Accomplishment #2: Many mentors believe in and feel empowered by Quest Forward Learning, and are making it their own.
Mentors are fully invested in Quest Forward Learning, even when the power or internet goes out and they can’t access quests. They find ways to keep the Quest Forward methodology alive through active and social learning. Some mentors develop additional activities to support students as they progress through quests.
At two schools in particular, mentors developed their own processes and tools to enhance aspects of Quest Forward Learning and its implementation. For example, at Quest Forward Academy Omaha, mentors created daily planners to help students set, track, and achieve individual goals as they each worked at their own pace.
Accomplishment #3: Many Tanzanian mentors and students recognize shifts in “mindset.”
We hear the word “mindset” a lot in Tanzania. Many mentors have shifted their mindsets and recognized others’ similar shifts as they’ve become more familiar with and invested in Quest Forward Learning. The biggest shift has frequently been the change from teacher/lecturer to mentor/guide. Two crucial characteristics that have facilitated this shift in mindset are: flexibility and an open mind.
Accomplishment #4: Some Tanzanian mentors feel that Quest Forward Learning makes their jobs easier.
While not many people said this (okay, just two!), the fact that anyone feels this way is a big deal. The quests and prepared resources and materials have helped make their jobs easier. The shift from teacher to mentor has also made the transition easier, because mentors no longer feel the pressure of needing to have all the answers or to be the central source of information. Students now own some of this responsibility.
Accomplishment #5: Many students and mentors are happy, feel supported, and describe ways they have been profoundly impacted by Quest Forward Learning.
What follows are examples that capture the ways in which mentors and students have been positively influenced by their experiences with Quest Forward Learning:
- More Personal Choices: “This school allows me to choose how I learn, not be told how I am supposed to learn.” (Academy student)
- Improved Confidence: “When I came here I didn’t have confidence to speak to anyone because I didn’t know English at all but now due to this program me, my friends and teachers; I can talk, share and discuss… it has built for me confidence.” (Mtakuja student)
- “I have become more confident. I used to not really consider myself smart, so I didn’t try nearly as hard, but now I want to know the answer because I’m interested in the work.” (Academy student)
- Engaged and Active Thinking: “Our minds are very different from them. We think and do more compared to other forms.” (Bishop Moshi student)
- New Perspectives: “…we have learners whose lives have been changed,” (Thinking by Design TZ mentor)
- Academic Growth: “When I was first introduced to quests…I thought I didn’t need school anymore. It moved me on so quickly. It pushed me forward.” (Upward Bound student)
2018 was year we should all be proud of: Survey data shows that 77% of Tanzania students feel their peers are very or extremely confident that they are all getting the skills and habits they need to succeed in life; 74% of mentors say this as well. Survey data also shows that 83% express a lot or a great deal of enjoyment completing quests, while 90% of mentors express enjoyment in being a mentor!
Thanks to all of you who contributed to and participated in Quest Forward Learning in 2018. It has been an incredible year, and we’ve all learned so much. Here’s to another year of learning and growing!
Jolene Zywica, PhD
Dr. Zywica is Opportunity Education's Senior Director of Learning Strategy. She ensures that the resources, tools, and experiences designed for teachers and students effectively support teaching and learning. Prior to joining the team in 2014, Jolene dabbled in teaching both high school and college students, was a high school literacy coach for 5 years, and has spent over 18 years designing and studying the impact of learning programs aimed at engaging students through active learning and technology.