4 Types of Quests: Discovery, Practice, Design, & Reflection

This blog was co-written by: Director of Research & Evaluation, Jolene Zywica, PhD, and Chief Learning Officer, Raymond Ravaglia

Three and a half years ago when we started Quest Forward Learning, and were first determining what “quests” would be,  we had just one type of quest in mind. Quests were to be focused on exploration, discovery, and personally relevant experiences (Read more about how quests were created). As Quest Forward Learning has grown to serve many different kinds of learning experiences, programs and organizations, and as we have built many different types of quests in the process, we’ve found the need to expand upon that original conception. While exploration and discovery-based learning remain a core part of Quest Forward Learning, there are times when students need more scaffolding and practice. For this reason, there are now four different types of quests with each supporting a specific aspect of student learning.

  1. Discovery Quests – quests that expose students to, and require use of, new ideas and phenomena, skills and concepts, and explore their relevance. The original “quest.”
  2. Practice Quests – quests where students practice a specific skill or procedure repeatedly.
  3. Design Quests – quests that scaffold the design of an artifact and/or require students to synthesize, get feedback, revise, test, or polish their work and ideas.
  4. Reflection Quests – quests that help students make connections across quests and levels, encouraging reflection and synthesis of ideas and conceptual themes.

The combination of these different quests creates a much more complete experience for students. The new quests also provide activities with varying length, structure, purpose, and outcomes, making Quest Forward Learning as a whole more engaging and interesting for students.

Discovery Quests

The purpose of discovery quests is to provide students with an experience in which they actively experience a phenomenon in a way that fosters the development of skills. Students investigate open-ended questions and problems and are able to pursue areas of greater interest more deeply than areas of lesser interest. These quests help students discover a specific concept or idea, tool, technique, strategy, method, or case study that will help students develop and apply skills and knowledge. Discovery quests are typically, three to six activities in length.

Example Quests: Bike vs Bolt, 30-Mile Meal, and Sounds Good. Most quests created so far are discovery quests. In Sounds Good, students start with the question, “What is sound and how do we perceive it?” They explore the properties of sound by conducting an experiment using tuning forks and recording different sounds to capture characteristics of sound.

Practice Quests

Practice quests provide extra, you guessed it, practice! These quests are typically just 1-2 activities in length and they focus on repetitively practicing one skill. Practices quests should help students accomplish a relevant goal or solve an authentic or interesting problem in a discovery or design quest.  Anyone who has ever learned an instrument, played a sport, or just tried to get better at a particular skill will be familiar with this sort of quest.

Example Quests: Graphing Quadratics (practice a math skill), Comma Splice Part 1 (practice grammar), and I Hate Making My Bed, a quest from the “Be Curious” micro-course. In I Hate Making My Bed, and other practice quests in this course, students practice being curious by following three steps: asking questions, being resourceful, and taking risks.

Design Quests

Design quests are all about creating. They help to scaffold the creation, design, and feedback processes and application of related skills and knowledge. Design quests are often milestones for a course project. The entire quest is focused on application of skills and knowledge through designing and making. Some of these quests provide opportunities to synthesize and pull together previous work (small or medium artifacts) into a more comprehensive and polished final product (large artifact) and to prepare students to present or publish their work. Often these are used to showcase work and receive feedback at the end of projects and courses. Design quests range from 2-6 activities.

Example Quests: Design Your Instrument (Math), The Panpipe Challenge (Science), Built It, and They Will Come (Science).  The quest, Design Your Instrument, is part of the Music course. During this quest, students decide what kind of musical instrument they’re going to build, identify the equations they’ll use to create the instrument, and they create a sketch of their instrument.

Reflection Quests

The purpose of reflection quests is to reflect on processes, skills, themes, and learning across multiple quests or levels. In these quests, students synthesize information and draw new conclusions. Some reflection quests promote mentor facilitated, group discussions around key themes and essential takeaways for a level or course.  Like practice quests, reflection quests are short – typically one to two activities.

Example Quests: Leveling Up, a quest from the “Be Curious” micro-course. In the final level of this micro-course, students reflect on what it means to “Be Curious”, the different ways they practiced curiosity, and how to live a more curious life.

Quest designers have just begun to create these new quest types, so you’ll start to see some of them in the courses being designed for the 2018-2019 school year in the U.S. and the 2019 school year in Tanzania.  

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