The 5 Guiding Principles of Quest Forward Learning make for a strong foundation for any classroom, whether in a Quest Forward school or elsewhere:
1. Learning Requires Action
2. Learning Improves with Practice
3. We Learn Better Together
4. Learning Happens Everywhere, and Always
5. Learning Drives Personal Growth
Active, collaborative, personal learning that extends past the walls of a school and into the real world in which a student lives will always be more effective than the alternatives (i.e. remember that class where you took pages and pages of notes but later couldn’t remember any of it?).
But agreeing that these guiding principles of learning are important is one thing and implementing them in your classroom is another. How do you incorporate them into, say, an English lesson? Is it even possible to incorporate all of these principles into one project, and keep it practical?
A project called Voices Change the World from our Communications and Media course is a great example of how it’s possible. While this example is from an English course, you’ll find that you can apply these principles across all core subjects and topics. (Send us an email to let us know what other examples you’d like to see.)
Voices Change the World
Course: Communications and Media (English)
In this final project, students practice the skills and acquire the knowledge they needed to be effective storytellers. They consider how to use their own voices to argue for change in the world through the creation and telling of a story. This is a powerful experience for students, and they come away from it with valuable introspection and perspective on the world. Students also examine oral elements and the way that orality works to persuade and create influence. Developing these skills allows students to understand a diverse range of texts, from stories they hear to inauguration speeches to viral podcasts.
Use Personal Investment to Deepen Engagement
Whether or not students realize it, they are a treasure trove of stories. They know stories from their past, stories they create in their heads while they daydream, and stories they’ve encountered when reading the news or scrolling through social media. Students brainstorm possible stories they could tell and then decide which of these stories needs to be heard. We apply the guiding principle Learning Requires Action when we ask students to draw on their own experiences and act immediately, in such a way that is relevant to their own lives. Therefore, students are more likely to be personally invested in the subject and skill development process of this quest.
Gain Perspective through Collaboration
After initial brainstorming, students share their brainstorming and interact and collaborate in a meaningful way in a variety of contexts and configurations. These activities support the Quest Forward principle We Learn Better Together in that students turn and talk with a partner, and participate in a “group think” to vett the idea they settled upon while brainstorming. Collaborating with others is an important step in the creation process because it allows students to gain new and varying perspectives on their idea for their story and how it might impact others. After this collaboration, students put their story idea to the test!
Practice A Skills-First Mindset
Learning Improves with Practice as students develop their stories. We use a series of activities to offer students a chance to revisit techniques they encountered and evaluated in the writing of others in previous projects, and then practice these techniques as they use them in their own writing. Then, students revise their work and evaluate the techniques they used by considering whether or not they are impactful. A skills-first mindset is evident in this higher-level writing, as students must understand, apply, and evaluate the techniques in the composition of their own original work. These activities reveal how the Quest Forward curriculum and methodology are designed to foster learning that leads to the development of skills.
Create Relevance to Daily Life and Personal Experiences
After students compose their stories, students determine how to format and share their original work. Students involve their families and communities when sharing their work, applying the Quest Forward guiding principles of Learning Requires Action and Learning Happens Everywhere, and Always. Students decide on their audience first and then choose from a list of creative options for how to share their story with their particular audience in mind. Some examples include:
- A listening gallery walk: Create or use a visual image for your story and record yourself talking about the image to tell the story. Then, code the image with a QR code that will allow others to access your digital file, so they can hear the story (like in a museum!).
- A photo narrative: Compile a collection of photos and create a narrative voice-over for the photos.
- A podcast
Providing options for the audience and giving students ownership over their medium and avenue for sharing increases relevance to students’ daily lives and personal experiences, thus creating a more authentic product.
“Voices Change the World takes students to a different level of writing, adding in the audio component. Most students have listened to audiobooks or podcasts of some nature and are often bored by them… When students are able to write a story, read it out loud, and then analyze the recording, they develop a new appreciation for making language interesting. In the editing process, they add more descriptive detail to better paint their intended picture; additionally, students purposefully build in dramatic pauses, even sound effects, to better tell the story audibly.”
– Jennifer Dalbey, Mentor, Quest Forward Academy Omaha
Make Time for Reflection
Finally, students are asked to reflect on the impact of their stories. Reflection is essential for supporting the Quest Forward guiding principle that Learning Drives Personal Growth. Students check in with their mentors and have a conversation to reflect on their story and the experience of creating and sharing it. Mentors ask open-ended guiding questions, showing the value of failure, feedback, and iteration. This allows students to both self-assess their own work and also think critically about their own perspectives and attitudes about the final project.
Voices Chance the World is just one example of how Quest Forward Learning uses the five guiding principles to foster deep exploration, critical thinking, and problem solving.
To learn more about Quest Forward Learning, its curriculum, and how it could be applied at your school, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.