Six Essential Habits

In our work here at Opportunity Education, we believe that young people need six essential habits to thrive in life, career, and school. In fact, we’re building Quest Forward Learning around these habits, to help students make them part of their daily lives. We call them “habits,” because they require thoughtful and daily practice to develop and maintain, just like eating mindfully, taking breaks during the work day to refresh, or any other habit.

The 6 Essential Habits are:

  1. Express Curiosity: Ask questions about the world and seek answers and new experiences. Explore, experiment, and embrace uncertainties.
  2. Manage Yourself: Understand when you need help and ask for help. Set goals and evaluate your progress. Manage your pace, reflect on your thinking, and be confident in your abilities.
  3. Solve Problems: Identify problems and their causes, seek information about problems and existing solutions, and create and test new solutions and ways to address problems.
  4. Communicate and Collaborate: Articulate your ideas and opinions effectively and respectfully. Listen and understand the perspectives of others. Share your expertise, help others, and collaborate to accomplish shared goals. Give, receive, synthesize, and incorporate feedback.
  5. Learn from Setbacks: Persist through challenges and identify strategies for improving. Develop a growth mindset – the belief that you always have more to learn and are capable of changing and improving for the rest of your life.
  6. Live an Integrated Life: Draw on experiences from one area of your life to help you in another. Tell your friends and family about what you do in school, showcase your work, and collaborate with local and global communities. Bring what excites you in your life into your work at school.

Where do these habits come from and how did we pick these six? These Essential Habits emerged from a review of existing skills frameworks from other schools and organizations, and through creating our own “theory of action.”

Example of a Habit Review question. This question is one a student answers for the Learn from Setbacks habit.

We are currently adding features to the Quest! app to help students regularly reflect and get feedback on these habits. The first feature to support this is called the student “Habit Review.” Twice per school year students reflect on all habits and how often they demonstrate specific behaviors associated with each habit. For each response, they write an explanation, drawing on examples and evidence. Mentors will also assess students on these habits. Students can review their habit growth any time they want, rate their skill level and record notes on the evidence they see for their rating. Students and their mentors discuss the development of their habits regularly and set specific goals to support active, on-going practice of one or two habits at a time.

A screenshot from the Quest app, displaying the 6 Essential Habits in hexagons, in a honeycomb arrangement.
A student’s view of the Habit Review. Students can select any habit to reflect on. This student has completed the review for Be Curious, Solve Problems, and Live an Integrated Life.

Many quests already offer opportunities to practice habits. For example, there are quests where students learn about design and engineering processes and solve problems using these tools and process (Solve Problems). There are other quests that require students to practice articulating their ideas and opinions respectfully and thoughtfully (Communicate & Collaborate).

In the future, we plan to build additional features into the Quest! App to scaffold giving and receiving peer feedback (Communicate & Collaborate), to encourage students to share their artifacts through public portfolios (Live an Integrated Life), and to provide tools for setting and managing goals within Quest Forward (Manage Yourself), just to name a few possibilities.

Our work to support students in developing these habits has just begun, but we know that these six essential habits will be guideposts and measures of student success for years to come.

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