Good Habits Are Essential: How Quest Forward Learning Changes Classroom Behavior

The introduction of the Six Essential Habits of Quest Forward Learning has created positive changes in providing supportive discipline to students in Tanzania. Previously, the primary form of discipline used by teachers was corporal punishment. According to 1979’s National Corporal Punishment Regulations, “The number of  strokes should be reduced from six to four and stated that only the heads of schools are allowed to administer the punishment, with penalties for teachers who flout these regulations.” Not surprisingly, evidence gathered from schools has shown that corporal punishment has not significantly improved or deterred negative student behaviors. Besides the physical harm it inflicts, students suffer from mental and emotional setbacks that did little to deter them from negative behaviors.

The Six Essential Habits (Be Curious, Manage Yourself, Learn from Setbacks, Communicate and Collaborate, Solve Problems, and Live an Integrated Life) have instilled a new mindset in both mentors and their students. Now mentors have a positive way to deter negative student behavior and reinforce positive behavior. The habits instilled in each mentor as they work with students in this new way provide focused opportunities for support, encouragement, and feedback to individual students.

Mentors are using the Essential Habits to put more emphasis on positive reinforcement and support, which is a huge step forward. In Quest Forward schools, mentors implement the Essential Habits so that students practice and use them consistently in daily activities. Mentors realize that punishing students does not inspire them to behave well or to become good citizens, but instead establishes negative patterns of both and, ultimately, is an obstacle to engaged learning.

Previously, if a student did not perform well on an exam, they received a caning from the teacher. This did not reinforce the need for the student to better understand the material, or for the teacher to help the student engage with their coursework. The student was left with a poor grade, anger, or shame. The Essential Habits have helped prevent this sad outcome, by focusing on the student-mentor relationship. Mentors and students work together to set goals for student performance and place extra emphasis on skills or strategies to overcome setbacks as appropriate for each student. The mentor has a stake in the student’s success, and as a team communicates with a student throughout the process of a course, however challenging it may become at times. Even if a student experiences failures or makes mistakes, the mentor is there to help and create a plan to move past obstacles. By instilling the practice of “solving the problem,” students will learn how to attempt solutions even without a mentor present.

Quest Forward Learning students share course material and ideas. Through “communicating and collaborating,” students build confidence, gain listening skills, ask questions to clarify others’ ideas, and encourage their fellow students. Also, it helps that students get to know each other in the classroom. Mtakuja student Hilder Furahin Nassary says, “Quest Forward Learning is very different. We cooperate with one another and we don’t always depend on the mentor’s presence to study. A mentor may be absent, but we will learn as a class by asking questions and giving ourselves some activities for more understanding of what we learned.”

The best thing that a mentor can impart to a student is to help them “manage themselves.” If students know what they are supposed to do, both in and outside of school, they will be able to understand and to engage with school because they understand its purpose. Additionally, mentors make sure students understand how to manage themselves, from creating their personal time table to ensuring that they focus on certain activities that they are doing and know how to set their priorities. The Essential Habits have formed the basis of new and positive behaviors, which when reinforced by mentors who care about the skills and habits the student is practicing, can reward students with confidence, success, and a spirit of respectful collaboration.