More In-Depth Work Means Better Learning Performance

One of the unique features of Quest Forward Learning is our approach to assessment of a student’ learning performance. Rather than having a small number of high stakes exams drive everything, we instead have a large number of low stakes data points drawn from everyday student activity such as engagement in class and project work.

This approach is what we call “high frequency, low fidelity.” It embraces a view that, to really know what is going on with students, you need to regularly observe how they are working and how they are learning. 

For example, when students come to class, in addition to taking attendance at the start of class, teachers also take engagement at the end of class, recording how active and prepared students were that session. Or with a student’s work product, teachers evaluate not only whether it demonstrates the intended learning, but they also evaluate the timeliness, effort, and support that went into the product.   

Teachers evaluate students’ timeliness, effort, and engagement in addition to the work they produce in order to get a fuller picture of a student’s learning performance.

As we examined student performance data over the past year we observed an important relationship between the work that students do in creating projects (“artifacts”) at the ends of quests and their learning, both as regards course content and, more importantly, as regards the underlying skills.  

In general, the more work students do, whether completing quests or in creating artifacts, the higher their learning performance. Likewise, the more work that students do, the higher their performance in demonstrating skills. 

This is not surprising. After all, learning is not like medicine. Exposure to a skill or concept is not sufficient to bring about learning. Practicing the skill or concept in an intentional manner through the activities of a quest and culminating in the creation of an artifact is what should bring about learning.

What is also interesting is that the scope or complexity of the artifacts students create correlates with how well they are learning:

  1. Large (more complex and involved) artifacts lead to higher learning performance than medium and small (less complex and requiring less time). The more work students do creating large artifacts, the greater the impact that it has on their learning performance.  
  2. Large artifacts lead to higher skill assessments than medium and small. The more quests with large artifacts a student does, the higher their average skill assessments will be. 
  3. Large artifacts correlate with higher engagement. The more quests that students complete with large artifacts, the higher their engagement was in class, as reported by their mentors.

Each of these findings provides evidence that the Quest Forward curriculum is helping students to develop their skills and deepen their knowledge. Moreover, the more complex projects—those that draw upon the unique features of our curriculum and that require students to take initiative, solve problems, and work hard—lead to greater learning and greater engagement than more simple assignments.  

More complex and involved artifacts lead to higher performance, engagement, and skills growth.

These findings will help to guide the evolution of the curriculum and instructional practice. Journeys are being designed to make greater use of larger projects and a greater emphasis on project work, propelling student growth even further. 

Read more about Opportunity Education’s research here.

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