August 30, 2018

5 Factors to Consider When Planning a Quest-Based Course

As with anything new, mentors should be thorough and thoughtful when introducing Quest Forward Learning into their students’ lives. Mentor facilitation and detailed planning will set students up for success throughout the entire course and beyond.

As a mentor, there are many different factors to consider when planning your quest-based course. How will you plan for individual levels? Individual quests? How will you scaffold content in the context of authentic learning experiences? In what ways can you show students that their learning drives growth, while also celebrating competence?

Use these questions to reflect on how you will use quests in your classroom and to develop a deliberate plan, while still leaving room for flexibility, that will set you and your students up for success.

1. Commitment and Purpose

When introducing quests, it is important to understand exactly what your intentions are for using them. Answering the broader questions of Why and How will not only alleviate any uncertainty you have about trying something new, but also create transparency for your students. Follow up questions may include:

  • How many courses and how often per day and per week will you be teaching using quests?
  • Will quests replace your day-to-day curriculum or supplement it?
  • Do you have enough devices, login information, and internet access?

Helping students create value in themselves, their community, and the world is possible, but it can often require changing the status quo and stepping out of your comfort zone. Commitment to a personalized learning environment and a hands-off mentoring approach (Read more about hands-off mentoring here) requires collaboration within the entire program or schoolwide, and should be reflected in the words and actions of each mentor. When introducing quests to students, begin your planning by evaluating how quests are similar to or different from the type of learning students are accustomed to. After establishing this foundation, you can expand your planning to consider how quests will benefit individual students, classes, mentors, and even the community.

2. Roles and Terminology

An essential role in Quest Forward Learning is the role of a mentor. Mentors have the unique opportunity to build deeper relationships with students, advocate for their interests and needs, and help them cultivate skills and habits. Mentors frequently refer to the Quest Forward Vision for Mentors and the Quest Forward Principles to highlight student strengths and to help establish goals for themselves and their students.  It is valuable to brainstorm and discuss with students the shift in classroom roles Quest Forward Learning will bring and how that affects their learning experience. Use their expectations and misconceptions to drive this collaboration effort and prepare them for their new responsibilities, including pacing themselves and driving their completion of quests.

Students will encounter new terminology while using quests, and it is important for them to hear the terms ahead of time. One helpful way to introduce these new terms is to walk through the methodology and technology. Your introduction may include: Essential habits, relevant skills, outward mindset, How to login, Dashboard, Courses, level, quests, activities, resources, check-ins, artifacts, and notebook. For more terminology, see our Glossary of Terms here.

3. Structure and Expectations

Even though Quest Forward Learning lends itself to student exploration and self-paced learning, it is valuable to establish guidelines and expectations regarding behaviors, check-ins, and partner and group work. Structure and deadlines are important for keeping students on track during the academic year. Mentors should find an organizational approach that is comfortable for them and their students. Some examples of providing structure may include:

  • Students need to finish the first quest in level 1 by Friday (as a class, individually, or in groups, however you decide), and the next quest in the level by the following Friday.
  • Students need to finish the minimum requirements for this level by the end of September.
  • Students work at their own pace, but this specific artifact is due for everyone on January 26, when we will have a showcase.

As with any classroom or learning environment, mentors should develop expectations for how students should behave individually, within small groups, and as a class.  It is important to anticipate areas of concern and cater your guidelines to the students, as you, the mentor, know them best. Follow up questions may include:

  • How will students ask for help or assistance, and when will you be available to work with individual and small groups of students?
  • How often and in what format will you handle check-ins?
  • What should students do when they are “waiting for feedback?”
  • What will you do if a technology issue arises?

These established classroom agreements for using Quest Forward Learning should incorporate your beliefs and your students’ beliefs about learning and what makes a great learning environment. For easy reference, create a classroom visual or individual copies where students can physically see the agreements regularly. For more ideas, read this: Classroom Agreements.

4. Assessment and Evaluation

While qualitative narratives for student learning are informative, it is important to also gather quantitative data to highlight student growth and development. Before introducing a level to students, you should identify opportunities for formative and summative assessments. By distinguishing the objective of each assessment and/or evaluation, the outcomes can inform mentors of content, mentoring strategies, types of learning activities/tasks, and appropriate next steps. Additionally, students gain a solid framework to guide their studies and help them set goals moving forward. Some assessment and evaluation questions to consider are:

  • What driving question, skill, or habit does it address? How will it be measured?
  • Should students be evaluated with a formal rubric or through informal observation notes?
  • Will they be evaluated by only their mentor or also by peers?

For more on understanding and assessing the Essential Habits, see our Help Center.

For more on assessing subject skills, see our most recent assessment tools.

5. Physical Space

Quest Forward mentors create a safe learning environment for students, not only by coaching and supporting them, but also providing them with a functional learning space. These quest-based learning spaces are often defined by focusing on student-centered learning, active engagement, and collaboration. Several key concepts to keep in mind when designing this space are flexibility, functionality, and classroom culture. Learn more in our Help Center about how to incorporate all of this into your learning space.

When you begin to plan and develop your classroom culture, keep in mind that your approach and your timeline for incorporating Quest Forward Learning in your classroom may change frequently as you first start using quests. Whether you are using a weekly lesson plan, a monthly calendar, a spreadsheet, or another method, you should continue to modify your approach to best meet the needs of your students.

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